With laptops under threat from a wave of stunning new tablets, and desktops more or less flattened by laptops, we tend to approach all-in-one PCs with our brows deeply furrowed. Sony's L series machines will have to deliver something special if we're to be separated from our cash.
We've gone hands-on with the L series machines, and we're all set to pump your eyes full of our first impressions. We expect the machines in the L series to cost between around £1,200 and £1,400.
On the face of it
The L series machines certainly look imposing. With a 24-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel touchscreen, and a chunky black bezel, they're quite monolithic. Black glossy plastic coats the front and back. They feel well-built and also very heavy -- we don't think you'll be moving yours too much once you've got in set in place.
The stand has an interesting design, with silver, curved prongs keeping the machine upright. We very much doubt that the PC will rock over backwards and shatter into a thousand pieces, like so many broken dreams.
The L series PCs run the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium, which you can navigate either via the supplied keyboard and mouse, or by using the touchscreen. We've never been totally sold on using Windows 7 with touchscreens -- the operating system isn't really built for that, and so we often have trouble hitting the smaller icons, our paws prodding pitifully at the screen like dismayed bears poking at a deserted beehive.
Still, the massive display means these machines will probably be among the more comfortable and usable touchscreen Windows PCs. Sony's also packed in some other neat features that should make its computers more fun to use.
The thick bezel surrounding the screen is entirely touch-sensitive. It's about an inch wide all the way around, and tapping the various sides and corners will affect what's happening on the screen.
For instance, tapping the bezel to the left of the screen will launch the on-screen keyboard, which is handy for tapping out URLs. The virtual keys are pleasingly big and chunky, so it's easy to hit the right spot and type quickly and accurately. Tapping the bottom-left part of the bezel shows you all the windows you have open, so you can quickly swap between them.
Swiping along the bottom left or right of the bezel, either side of the Sony logo, which dims or illuminates when you tap it, serves to navigate backwards or forwards when you're browsing the Web. You can close a window by tapping the top-right corner of the bezel, and fire up the Sony Media Gallery software by prodding at the top-left. Zooming out and in is handled by dragging a finger up or down on the right-hand side of the display.
Why no scrolling?
Each press or swipe produces a rippling effect on-screen so you know your touch has registered. Our only gripe with the system is that it would be far more useful to have the right-hand side of the screen programmed to scroll up or down a page, rather than zooming in or out.
Scrolling is something we do five times a minute, and grabbing the slim Windows scroll bar on the touchscreen can be a tricky affair. Tapping the bottom right of the display will let you set the touch functions, so hopefully you'll be able to rectify this situation manually.
Inside the new L series machines, there's some pretty mammoth tech. Depending on the particular model, you'll get either an Intel Core i7 or Core i5 processor, both of which should prove powerful. The processor is complemented by an Nvidia GPU. There's a Blu-ray option too, and Bluetooth 3.0 is supported for nippy wireless transfer.
It's been a while since we've seen a stylish all-in-one that's made us want to slap down our cash, so our fingers are crossed that the Sony Vaio L series machines turn out to be powerful and useful too. Hopefully, they'll be a worthy rival to the Apple iMac. Stay tuned for a full review soon.
Edited by Charles Kloet