Sony VAIO L21 review

Of all the manufacturers to attempt touchscreen all-in-ones, few can match the consistent success enjoyed by Sony. We’ve been impressed by previous VAIO L Series offerings and 
now it’s moving to the next level: the L21 is the first all-in-one we’ve seen with a Sandy Bridge processor.

The first thing you notice is the 24in Full HD touchscreen. It’s accurate and responsive, and the LED backlight provides vivid colours and razor-sharp detail without backlight bleed.

It also has some innovative control features. Tapping to the left and right of the central Sony logo below the screen switches between photos, songs or videos; trailing a finger up and down the right-hand bezel zooms in and out of pictures. A tap anywhere on the left hand side opens Microsoft’s onscreen keyboard, and prodding the bottom-left and top-right corners switches to the desktop and closes the current program.

That’s not the most interesting improvement, though. Sony’s real party piece is gesture control. Using the L21’s 1.3mp webcam, a horizontal wave of the hand navigates songs, photos or movies, while a downward gesture controls pause and play. You can see it in action in the video below.

It’s great fun – just ask the crowd that gathered in the office, demanding we test it with our heads and a plastic banana (both worked). But it’s also limited: the gestures don’t work outside of Sony’s VAIO software, and only the two mentioned gestures are available.

The touch controls are of much more use than the gestures, but the rest of Sony’s software is pretty slick. It’s no longer based on the XrossMediaBar that underpins the PlayStation 3. Instead, it uses tabs to manage music, movie and photo collections, with a Now Playing area that augments your selected media with suggestions pulled from both local and web-based content.

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