Sony VAIO VGC-RT1SU review

£1956
Price when reviewed

All-in-one PCs always seem to be hamstrung by compromises. For all their effortless style – most of them do look stunning on a desk, after all – their reliance on mainly mobile parts means that performance is more akin to a laptop with a large screen, rather than a compact unit that can mix it with the best desktop systems.

The latest Sony VAIO – the hulking VGC-RT1SU – sets out to change all of this, with the highlights a desktop quad-core processor (Intel’s 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q9400), a Blu-ray drive and massive 25.5in screen. The latter is of particular interest: it’s the largest screen we’ve seen on an all-in-one by several inches, and comes complete with a huge native resolution of 1,900 x 1,200, comfortably enough for movie playback at a full 1080p.

This combination achieved impressive results in our 2D benchmarks, and a score at 1.6 is quicker than any other all-in-one we’ve seen. Other recent contenders, including the HP TouchSmart IQ500 (web ID: 222441), Dell XPS One (web ID: 181470) and Apple iMac (see p88) haven’t been able to surpass 1.21. It’s an impressive result and it’s quiet, making it ideal for a machine that’s being targeted as much at professional users as Blu-ray buffs.

The complement of RAM doesn’t hurt here, with a healthy 4GB, while Nvidia’s GeForce 9600M GT graphics chip – Sony’s only concession to mobile computing – still manages a just about playable 22fps in our medium-quality Crysis benchmark, and 78fps in the low-quality test. Modern games, then, aren’t beyond the Sony’s reach. Meanwhile, a pair of 500GB Western Digital Caviar hard disks provide 919GB of formatted storage capacity, and the Blu-ray drive is one of the more versatile we’ve seen, capable of writing to single and dual-layer discs as well as reading them.

The star of the show is the screen: it’s a superb panel. As well as its large size and high resolution our tests revealed crisp detail and generally good colour reproduction. There was a slight blue hue to some colours, however it wasn’t too distracting and lent movies a somewhat grittier, realistic tone.

The 25.5in panel is encased within one of the most imposing all-in-one cases that we’ve seen. It’s a far cry from the svelte red chassis of the Dell XPS One or glass surround of Sony VAIO LT2S (web ID: 183744). Instead, the sturdy black exterior looks more like a chunky TV than a PC, measuring a mighty 94mm thick and 661mm wide.

The right-hand side of the huge chassis harbours plenty of ports and helpful features: aside from the Blu-ray drive, there’s a button to turn the screen off, a WLAN switch and a couple of USB ports, as well as a volume control. The left-hand side is just as well-appointed, with headphone and microphone jacks, another USB port, eSATA, mini-FireWire and a couple of card readers – one for smaller media, such as SD and MS, and a larger one for CompactFlash. There’s a further two USB ports, an S/PDIF output, a Gigabit Ethernet socket and HDMI in and out sockets on the rear.

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And the included peripherals offer more versatility than the usual Logitech or Microsoft fare. While the mouse is a basic, slightly angular model, the wireless keyboard is more impressive – a small trackpad and pair of mouse buttons to the right of the keys allow it to be used on the sofa.

But before you get your wallet out, this all bears a hefty price tag: £1,701 exc VAT to be precise. It’s considerably more expensive than any of its rivals, with the Dell XPS One costing £850 and the most expensive 24in iMac costing £1,182. Even the TouchSmart IQ500, complete with touchscreen loveliness, costs only £936. And for all its high-brow specification, it also misses out one key feature – a TV tuner. It’s a bizarre omission in such a clearly multimedia-focused machine.

Warranty

Warranty1 year(s) collect and return

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity1,000
RAM capacity4.00GB
Screen size25.5in

Processor

CPU familyIntel Core 2 Quad
CPU nominal frequency2.66GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketLGA 775

Motherboard

Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory typeDDR2

Graphics card

Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingHigh
Graphics chipsetNvidia Geforce 9600M GT
Graphics card RAM512MB
DVI-I outputs0
HDMI outputs1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cardsN/A

Hard disk

Capacity500GB
Hard disk usable capacity500GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity500GB
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity500
Hard disk 2 spindle speed7,200RPM
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A

Drives

Optical drivePioneer
Optical disc technologyBlu-ray writer
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A

Monitor

Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,200
Resolution1920 x 1200
DVI inputs0
HDMI inputs1
VGA inputs0
DisplayPort inputs0

Additional Peripherals

Speaker typeStereo

Case

Case formatAll-in-one
Dimensions661 x 164 x 499mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in baysN/A

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)5
FireWire ports1
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
Modemno

Front ports

Front panel USB ports5
Front panel FireWire ports1
Front panel eSATA ports1
Front panel memory card readeryes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardSony

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows Vista

Noise and power

Idle power consumption139W
Peak power consumption193W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score1.60
Office application benchmark score1.45
2D graphics application benchmark score1.79
Encoding application benchmark score1.30
Multitasking application benchmark score1.87
3D performance (crysis) low settings8fps
3D performance settingHigh

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