Sony’s 20-inch slate struck me as unusual and unwieldy at first, but its practicalities for family life quickly won me over.
The Vaio Tap 20 was unveiled last summer at IFA 2012, along with a slew of new products from Sony. With this and the Vaio Duo 11 hybrid tablet, Sony is clearly trying to provide for different needs across the broader base of the tablet market rather than compete directly with the ever-popular iPad.
Look and feel
Looking at Sony’s Vaio Tap 20 it is, essentially, a giant tablet computer. The 20-inch touchscreen dominates the design and the device can be laid flat if needed, for storage purposes or for multi-player table-top games.
When upright, the sturdy adjustable stand doesn’t allow for any bounce-back when using the touchscreen at any angle – something I’ve previously been irked by in relation to Sony’s touchscreen laptops.
However, something that Sony has yet to master is a display that isn’t annoyingly reflective and any kind of bright lighting will render your screen mirror-like. It’s unfortunate that this issue hasn’t been addressed with the Tap 20, as one of the perks of its design should be portability, but you won’t have an optimal viewing experience in all lighting situations.
A lot of the time, amping up the display’s brightness will calm down the reflectiveness slightly, but I’d be wary this would drain the 5,000mAh battery faster than its standard two hours 45 minutes’ duration. Of course, you can plug the Tap 20 in, but this again goes against the idea of being able to move this computer from room to room easily.
And I say room to room because, of course, the giant tablet is not for the mobile worker. Measuring just over 50cm long, about 31cm wide and under 5cm thick, the 5kg Tap 20 is ‘portable’ in terms of a family computer, so you can bring it to the kitchen to read recipes when cooking, to the living room when watching Netflix, or to the kids’ bedroom when they want to get creative or play games.
Considering many households are turning to more portable computing devices like laptops and tablets, this is certainly the way to go for a family computer, addressing this need without compromising on display size.
To be a family computer, though, the Tap 20 needs to be an all-rounder: suitable for work and play. Thanks to the wireless keyboard and mouse packaged with the device, productivity isn’t an issue. Simply set up at a desk with these peripherals and it’s like having a traditional all-in-one desktop in front of you.
The full-size keyboard is both comfortable to use and compact for storing away. The similarly compact oval-shaped mouse is a little trickier, with a very sensitive tracker that could take some adjustment.
Switching between Windows 8’s live tile interface and the traditional desktop, I found myself employing a two-handed operation, with one hand on the mouse and the other operating from touchscreen from time to time. This way of interacting with the Tap 20 felt both productive and natural. In fact, I got along great with the Windows 8 interface until it came to the point of closing apps. I just couldn’t nail this gesture, leaving me with a streaky smudge down the middle of the screen from too many failed attempts to count.
- 20-inch LED backlit IPS touch 1,600 x 900 display
- Third-generation Intel Core i3 dual-core processor (1.8GHz)
- Windows 8 64-bit
- 500GB HDD
- 4GB RAM
- Intel HD Graphics 4000
- 5,000 mAh battery
- Intel HD Audio with Dolby Home Theatre technology v4
- 1.3MP HD webcam powered by Exmor for PC
- Gigabit Ethernet, SD memory card slot, headphone jack, two USB 3.0 ports and microphone jack
Speaking of Windows 8, this means you get apps like People Hub pre-loaded. This handy app houses all your social media connections, feeds and notifications in one place for at-a-glance updates. There’s room for further integration, though. For instance, if I click an Instagram link shared on Twitter, I’d love if that opened in-app rather than jumping to Internet Explorer 10 (which, I must say, happens fast enough not to be a bother). Or if you want to send a direct message, this opens up the Messaging app instead of integrating this function into People Hub.
Family-focused apps like Family Paint provide a bit of fun and creativity for kids (and adults!) and there’s also a family organiser that lets you leave notes, reminders and recorded messages for other users.
Gaming apps on the Tap 20 are immense fun, thanks to its big-screen experience (Jetpack Joyride is a full-screen joy), but Netflix was a disappointment due to its low resolution. The 20-inch LED backlit IPS touch display sports a resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels and looks great when watching HD videos from Vimeo, but switch on the 1.3MP HD webcam and you have a picture that’s less than lacklustre.
Toying around with the Vaio Tap 20 leads me to believe this could be the ideal solution for a household that needs a computer to serve all needs.
At times – particularly when booting up – apps and programmes can be slow to start, but overall performance was steady and as sturdy as the kickstand propping this baby up. For its sheer versatility and ease of use, the Tap 20 gets a thumbs up in my book.
Sony’s Vaio Tap 20 is available now from €1,018.99 on Sony.ie and other good online electronic stores in Ireland.