The new Sony VAIO J11 all-in-one PC shares its basic design with the Sony VAIO L11. That’s no bad thing as it’s our current A-List favourite, and this model looks and feels every bit as smart.
Priced to clear
Although both models boast optical multitouch screens at Full HD resolution, the J11’s 21.5in panel makes less of a statement than the L11’s 24in display. And the J11 can’t rival the L11 as a front-room entertainment centre since the TV tuner, remote control and video input ports have all vanished. Unusually for Sony, there’s no Blu-ray drive either.
However, this pruning has a salutary effect on the price, which is almost $1000 lower than the L11. That, plus the more desk-friendly size, makes it a tempting option for a luxurious personal desktop.
And in that context it’s a decent performer. An Intel Core i3-520M CPU, partnered with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, drove the J11 to a solid 2D benchmark score of 1.34. With a 500GB hard disk that’s ample for office and internet tasks, and fine even for photo or video editing.
At the same time, it’s a remarkably power-efficient system. The entire system drew just 52W when idle, and turning down the display brightness to minimum cut consumption to an amazing 25W – less than many home server appliances, let alone complete PCs.
Great in the bedoom
Perhaps even more important, the J11 is a pleasure to use. The glossy screen, bold colours and deep contrast ensure images jump out, while Sony’s multi-lamp system helps achieve even brightness across the display. Sound is good too: far louder and richer than you’d expect from a machine with no visible speakers. You could enjoy a Hollywood blockbuster on the J11, or even use it as a back-room music centre if you don’t demand audiophile quality. External speakers or headphones can be attached via a 3.5mm socket.
The keyboard and mouse connect via a pair of spindly wires, striking an incongruous note of cheapness, but they’re both ergonomic and responsive. The keyboard in particular is very solid, and has some useful shortcut keys including a volume control and a sleep button.
Above the screen, you’ll also find Sony’s “assist” button, which launches a help application, as well as a button to turn the display off and on with one click. That’s a nice feature, especially if you want to use the J11 as a jukebox, but we’re not sure about the wisdom of placing it right next to the power button.
Elsewhere you’ll find five USB ports, plus FireWire, Ethernet and an SD and Memory Stick card reader. Add Bluetooth and 802.11n wireless, and there’s very little the J11 can’t do.
Gaming is a let-down
The system’s one weakness is graphics. The Nvidia GeForce 310M can play movies without breaking a sweat, but it won’t handle modern 3D games, managing just 13fps in our medium-detail Crysis benchmark. Only by stepping down to low settings did we get a playable 47fps.
Interestingly, PlayStation 3 owners can use Sony’s bundled software to connect to the console over a home network and view stored photos and videos on the J11’s screen – a nice bit of platform integration.
We’re still unpersuaded of the value of a touchscreen in Windows, though, and Sony’s only nods in that direction are the kid-friendly YouPaint finger-painting program (admittedly, rather fun) and the standard Microsoft Touch Pack. It’s nice to be able to prod the icons in Media Center, but it’s hardly a big deal, and fingerprints are unpleasantly conspicuous on the glossy screen.
Still, if you don’t need sophisticated 3D graphics, the J11 is a desirable desktop, powerful enough for typical computing duties, compact enough to sit anywhere in your home, and stylish enough to keep on display. It lacks the do-everything grandeur of the L11 – but it capably fills a niche.