Sony VAIO L13 review

Sony’s L Series has sat atop our A List for several months, and for good reason. But before you even consider its performance, its looks or its long list of features, the most attractive feature for many will be the sheer simplicity of it all: plug in a power cable, press the power button and it’s ready to go. Now in its third generation with the L13, it wants to continue its domination of the A List.

Before you even get to the point of plugging it in, though, you’re likely to find yourself impressed for several reasons. First, there’s the sheer weight of the thing. At 12.5kg, the L Series feels outstandingly solid and well built – it screams quality from the off. And once you’ve recovered from all that heavy lifting, those devilishly handsome good looks are difficult to ignore. It isn’t an ostentatious design, but the combination of gloss black and silver looks every inch the classy, high-end all-in-one PC.

That keen sense of style is, thankfully, backed up with some serious substance. The Sony’s 24in touchscreen display doesn’t just mark it out as one of the larger models around, but also as one of the finest money can buy. Its Full HD resolution stretches across the supremely glossy panel, and while brightly lit rooms will work havoc with the highly reflective finish, image quality is stunning. Colours pop off the screen with amazing clarity, and whether you’re surfing the web or watching a Blu-ray movie, the vibrant, bright, high-contrast images the Sony produces have to be seen to be believed.

You might be reluctant to put smudgy finger marks all over that glorious display, but the optical touchscreen technology at work is impressive. It’s supremely responsive to single and multitouch gestures and, best of all, the panel’s glossy finish doesn’t have the slightly sticky feel some touchscreens do, allowing for smooth, comfortable operation.

The VAIO L13 swiftly makes a case for itself as a consummate entertainer. A dual digital TV tuner is included alongside the generous provision of a Blu-ray writer, and the combination of a superb screen and an excellent pair of integrated speakers make for the ideal Media Center experience.

Sony VAIO L Series (L13)

The speakers reach impressive volume levels, imbuing music and movie soundtracks with warmth, clarity and plenty of punch. And even if they’re not good enough for audiophiles, the optical output at the back is ready to connect to external receivers, DACs and the like.

Peer around the back of the Sony and you’ll also find both HDMI and composite video inputs for external devices. In tandem with the clearly labelled remote control and the wireless keyboard and mouse, this is one PC that’s as at home in the corner of a lounge or bedroom as it is on a desk.

The L13 might be the third generation L Series, but the hardware hasn’t changed much. The 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 remains centre-stage, but now has 8GB of memory alongside a 7,200rpm 1TB HDD. Performance is a touch higher than previous generations, with the Sony managing 1.43 in our benchmarks.

Gaming is one area where the Sony used to falter, but the new Nvidia GeForce GT330M chipset improves matters drastically. Set to 1,280 x 1,024 Crysis now skips along at a playable average of 28fps at Medium detail. Only once we reached 1,600 x 1,200 and High detail did the Sony slump back to a more slovenly average of 12fps.

There is a price to pay for the extra gaming performance, however, and we found the VAIO L13’s fans spinning up far more regularly than previous models. While watching a Blu-ray movie we found the combined noise of the cooling fans and optical drive to be noticeable during the quiet scenes.

It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely very, very expensive, but in many ways the Sony VAIO L13 justifies its asking price. Those with their hearts set on a silent living-room PC will come away disappointed, but given the quality of that display and the generous specification behind it, we’re inclined to recommend it all the same.

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