Sony VAIO Tap 21 is one of the very first Portable All-in-Ones, ushering in a new concept for PCs. This new class of “desktop” computers marries an all-in-one PC with a tablet. The result is a compact system with a large touchscreen display that isn’t tied down by cables and a power brick. So unlike traditional all-in-one desktops, which require a dedicated AC adapter and power source to operate, the VAIO Tap 21 has a built-in battery so that it can easily be transported from room to room.
The VAIO tap 21 sports a sleek minimalist design with a black bezel that makes it look like a giant tablet, and we like that a lot because that means that the system blends in just about anywhere in the home very nicely. The system also comes packing a 21.5″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen TRILUMINOS display. This display offers deep blacks, vivid punchy colors, excellent viewing angles, and it gets very bright. Also, a 21.5” display hits the sweet spot in terms of size as an all-in-one that can still be comfortably ported from room to room. Furthermore, because it has got a 21.5” display, unlike smaller tablets, it’s really large enough to be used for comfortably watching movies with others. Its built-in multi-position stand easily adjusts to lay the system flat like a tablet, or to use it propped up like a desktop. In addition, the Tap 21 also offers HDMI out for connecting the system to an HDTV.
The 3650mAh built -in battery on the Tap 21 is limited to 2.5-3 hours on a charge, but that is ok because this isn’t designed to be a PC that you travel with outside your home. It is however, designed to be a computer that the whole family can share and move around their home with easily. And weighing in at 8.60 lbs, it is indeed very easy to carry around. Leave it in the kitchen to look up recipes while mom’s cooking, then bring it into the kid’s room for homework time, and afterwards leave it in the living room so that the family can use it to play a board game together – the possibilities are endless thanks to the ability for the system to run on a built-in battery. So while the battery life isn’t amazing here, this is enough to make traditional desktops and all-in-ones shake in their boots. The PC is also able to stay asleep in sleep mode for several days before depleting its battery.
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The Tap 21 comes with a matching black wireless mouse and keyboard to compliment the system when in desktop mode. The mouse is unfortunately, not very ergonomic, but the keyboard is quite comfortable to use and it sports a modern set of laptop-like chicklet style keys.
When it comes to a webcam, the Tap 21 packs in a Sony Exmor R image sensor which lets you make video calls even in low light environments. This isn’t the best webcam out there, but it does indeed perform quite well in low light.
The Tap 21 also comes with plenty of great apps, including Movie Studio Platinum, ACID Music Studio, Sound Forge and Audio Studio software for creating movies, recording and mixing music, and ArtRage Studio software for those artistic creative types who like to dabble in drawing and painting.
The system also sports an ethernet port, USB 3.0 ports, and a memory card reader. There is also a unique dedicated Assist button on the Tap 21 that pulls up the VAIO Care software, which will help you identify problems, perform an maintenance tasks, and it can also connect you with Sony support if needed.
The speaker system on the Tap 21 are impressive too, as it’s extremely powerful with crisp audio and offers a nice balance of both treble and bass. The VAIO software also lets you quickly optimize the system’s sound settings for conference calls and music.
Our system came running on a 4th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive, so our test system is one of the higher-end configurations that is available for the VAIO Tap 21. For many, the Core i5 configuration offers plenty of performance, but for those looking for even more raw performance, the Core i7 configuration offers lots of power. As a matter of fact, this system can handle casual gaming quite well. System startup time is just 10 seconds to the login screen and another 7 seconds to the Start screen. The system also wakes up very fast from sleep mode, in just 2-3 seconds. As for benchmarks, the system earned a very good score of 3096 under PCMark 8’s Home Conventional test, and in 3DMark 11 it earned an Ice Storm score of 41301, a Cloud Gate score of 4466 and a Fire Strike score of 583. The system can also be configured with an SSD for even snappier performance.
The Sony VAIO Tap 21 is more than just a large tablet, it’s a vision of the future. But what we find particularly pleasing is that Sony has done an excellent job of bringing Intel’s portable all-in-one vision to life. To that effect, the system offers no compromise in terms of performance and features. It also offers the ultimate PC experience for families and serves as a great entertainment PC. Starting at $999, pricing is also pretty reasonable considering that this is truly a premium PC and that it’s packing quite the punch in terms of both performance and versatility.
Interested in finding out about other Portable all-in-one systems? Check out our Portable all-in-ones holiday gift guide.
The Good: Excellent performance, beautiful design and form-factor, built-in battery offers tons of versatility, fast wake up from sleep, webcam performs well in low-light, built-in NFC makes it even more future proof, offers a much more social PC experience than the traditional all-in-one, excellent vivid display, great audio, HDMI out for connecting to a TV, bundled with lots of entertainment and content creation centric apps, has memory card slot and ethernet port, sports unique dedicated Assist button
The Bad: HDMI output only – and No HDMI input – so you can’t use the system as a monitor, battery life could be better, no digitizer pen support