Sony VAIO VGC-LT1S review

£1399
Price when reviewed

The all-in-one form factor is one many companies have flirted with in the past, but few, with the notable exception of Apple, have returned to with much gusto. Sony’s VGC-LA1 (web ID: 95996) impressed us so much that it won a Recommended award, though, and the VGC-LT1S builds on this solid foundation.

The most obvious change is the 22in screen (a 3in improvement), with a 1,680 x 1,050 resolution that’s great for both work and entertainment. The screen will still look a touch lost in larger rooms, but it’s a perfectly adequate TV replacement if you’re sitting within 8ft, and looks great when watching darker scenes in films thanks to Sony’s X-black glossy screen. The LT1S even comes with a slot-loading Blu-ray drive located neatly behind the glass bezel.

Another piece of good news comes with the addition of a second TV tuner integrated into the chassis (you only require a single aerial to feed both). This rectifies a complaint made about the LA1’s media credentials, meaning it can now record one TV programme in Vista Media Center while you’re watching another. The LT1S isn’t such great news if your entertainment needs stretch to cutting-edge 3D gaming, though, as the GeForce Go 8400M GT won’t cope with much more than last year’s games at low resolutions, and there’s no realistic chance of upgrading it. Still, it’s good to have any gaming potential at all.

There are no complaints when switching to more prosaic jobs. The keyboard and mouse are both wireless, and the RF receiver is neatly built into the VAIO itself. Both are comfortable to use, even when you’re not at a desk, and the keyboard features a plastic cover to hide the keys. This folds up to create a wristrest and reveal the standard keyboard and trackpad. It all feels well made, adding to the VAIO’s air of class. There’s also a standard Media Center remote. Just remember to stock up on batteries, because you’ll need four AA cells for the keyboard, two for the mouse and a further two for the remote control.

The attractive glass bezel that surrounds the screen features a fantastic power indicator light that appears to hang in the bezel. It’s so well put together you could easily mistake the LT1S for a standalone living room TV – not something you can say about many PCs. The speakers are the equal of, if not better than, most TVs’ speakers, too.

There’s also a 1.3-megapixel webcam built in above the screen. Picture quality is good, and it features a handy switch that lets you angle the lens vertically, saving you moving the whole screen. Reflecting Sony’s recent embrace of SD cards, there’s a reader on the left-hand side of the machine, which is also a MagicGate-compatible Sony Memory Stick slot. There are also PC Card and ExpressCard/34 expansion slots.

Five USB ports provide reasonable upgrade potential for peripherals, and one might well be an external hard disk: the 320GB internal disk sounds a lot, but will soon be consumed by music collections and video – especially if you start recording TV series. We can’t complain about the rest of the specs, though, with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo and 2GB of RAM assuring Vista speeds along.

But the LT1S isn’t unique in being a fast, stylish all-in-one. Its biggest threat is the latest-generation iMac (125304), which costs £978 exc VAT but manages to trump Sony with a larger 24in TFT. It doesn’t have the TV tuners, though, making it immediately less attractive as a media centre, and, of course, the price doesn’t include Windows. If your budget won’t stretch this far, there’s also Rock’s Meivo (web ID: 110696), which is several hundred pounds cheaper. But this isn’t graced with the same level of polish.

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