Sony VAIO Tap 20 review: first look

Windows 8 has been the catalyst for a new breed of touch-friendly devices at IFA 2012, but unlike most we’ve seen, Sony’s VAIO Tap 20 isn’t one you’re likely to sling in a bag. Instead, this is Sony’s attempt to usher touch into the home with its vision of a family-friendly, table-top PC.

From afar, it’d be all too easy to mistake the Tap 20 for a slim, stylish all-in-one. A wireless keyboard and mouse are included as standard, a laptop-style power supply reaches out behind, and the bright, vibrant screen stretches a 1,600 x 900 pixel resolution across a 20in IPS panel.

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Reach out and prod the Tap 20, however, and it comes alive: the 10-point multitouch display lets you flick, prod and gesture your way through Windows 8, and the adjustable stand allows it to contort itself to suit a multitude of applications.

Move the keyboard and mouse to one side, and the dainty yet solid-feeling stand leans the screen back at an angle for more comfortable touch operation, or, alternatively, you can lay it completely flat for coffee-table use. With rubber feet gripping the desk, and a smooth hinge-action, it takes just a single finger to push the Tap 20 into its table-top orientation.

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Sony demonstrated its Family Paint application, which gives kids (and adults) the chance to simultaneously paint, draw and scribble on a virtual notepad, selecting from pencils, crayons or paintbrushes to create their doodles. With a range of collaborative software and multiplayer games promised upon release, the Tap 20 clearly wants to usurp the all-in-one PC, tablet and even the traditional boardgame, too.

And with that in mind, you can take the Tap 20 anywhere you like. Unplug the Tap 20, and it’s possible to carry the 5.2kg tablet around the home, making it easy to move it from the office to the lounge, or from the desk to the living room rug. Sony claims that the integrated battery will keep it going for around three hours — enough time to keep the kids occupied for a while.

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Wireless communication is well up on the Tap 20’s list of priorities, too, with Bluetooth 4 and dual-band 802.11n accompanied by the latest in Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Thanks to NFC, it’s possible to zip music, videos and photos across from one device to another by simply touching them to the display’s bezel.

And when it comes to audio, the integrated 2.1 speaker set partners with Sony’s ClearAudio+ DSP technology. Sony’s representatives were keen to show off the difference that ClearAudio+ made, with music transformed from a flat, lifeless drone into crisp, listenable tones.

DSC035691-462x173Delving into the specification details sees the Tap 20 harness Intel’s Core i5-3317U processor – one more often seen in the recent crop of Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks and convertible tablets – and Sony has attempted to keep costs down by opting for a traditional 5,400rpm 1TB HDD and 4GB of RAM.

Due to land in Dixons, John Lewis and Sony’s own stores by the end of October 2012, the Tap 20 will be retailing for around the £1,000 mark. With review units due to arrive rather sooner, keep your eyes peeled for the full review on PC Pro.

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