Hands On with Sony’s Tap 20 Touchscreen Windows 8 Mobile Computer
Until recently, usable touchscreen computers have been more marketing spin than reality. That isn’t to say these gesticulating influenced machines haven’t existed. In fact, quite the opposite. They’ve simply lacked an operating system, aside from iOS and Android, that have been well suited for prodding and poking. Enter the now venerable and much-anticipated Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft’s latest. It officially launched on October 26th, and with it came a tidal wave of products that are still trickling their way to store shelves.
One of those such products is Sony’s VAIO Tap 20. The ULV Ivy Bridge based machine could easily be mistaken for an AIO, otherwise know as an all-in-one. And rightfully so as it is effectively just that. However, Sony has eschewed the traditional computer setup by dropping in a removable and fully rechargeable battery into the guts of this 20-inch capacitive touch, family friendly device.
The Tap 20 comes loaded with a full version of Windows 8 – those seeking the ARM based (read: watered down) Windows RT need not apply. Included in the price tag is a wireless mouse and full-sized keyboard with a dedicated Windows buttons to suit those with a penchant for iOS devices. That in mind, there is no haptic feedback to be found int the Tap 20 – trust me, this is a good thing.
Thanks to a built-in stand with 90-degrees of mobility, the Tap 20 can stand up right or be laid complete flat, mimicking an experience analogous to that of Microsoft’s original Surface. That said, I’m not sure if you can place NFC enabled products directly onto the Tap 20′s screen, but you can most certainly align them with the NFC logo found on the rear of the 20-inch computer to initiate a connection – I did not test this.
The 20-inch IPS based display caps at a 1600×900, so you’ll need to look else where to show off your full HD content. Though, Sony told me that it is powered by their Mobile Bravia Engine, which is said to sharpen the picture, and enhance contrast on the fly – our units were situated in sunlight, so it’s hard to attest to such achievements, but nor can I detest such claims. Situated along the edge of the Tap 20 are a variety of inputs including two 3.0 USB ports, a 3.5mm headphones jack, mic input, and a memory card reader.
There are a few physical buttons for controlling volume, power, etc, but none will be utilized more than the Windows Home button located just below the bottom portion of the screen. Needless to say it’s a very Apple approach, and one that I’m glad to report works extremely well. Swipe functions are intuitive, and while kinetic scrolling is sorely missed, it took me mere minutes to pick up some of the core touch gestures, which are standard in all Windows 8 machines, touch or not.
Sony shacked up with a few software developers to deliver a unique experience, such as ArtRage, though I was more interested in trying to piece together the picture puzzles, which mind is an excellent example of the Tap 20′s 10-point multi-touch screen – two hands we’re no problem. In fact, the entire touch experience is very fluid, enough to convince even an Apple devout user, such as myself, that Sony (and Microsoft) have finally made good on their word to develop a platform suitable for touch interactivity.
Tipping the scales at almost 12lbs and measuring 19.85″ x 1.78″ x 12.29″, the Tap 20 is designed to be used within the confines of your home. The battery is said to be good for up to 3 hours, though the rep remarked that you at least could watch a feature-length movie – trilogies will have to be relegated to hurricane off-season.
All together I’m thoroughly impressed with the Tap 20. There is really no other way to put it. I’m an Apple guy, have been my whole life, yet I stood there wishing they would offer me one to take home. I could easily see myself setting it up in my kitchen, controlling my home’s Sonos, responding to emails, and all together impressing friends, techie or not.
Sony’s VAIO Tap 20 is already on sale. Pricing starts at $880, and includes your choice of a black or white finish (the white looked very nice in person), an Intel Core i5 processor, 750GB hard drive (there will be an SSD option), 4GB of storage, and a 1.3MP camera. Drop $200 more and you’ll score a 1TB HDD, Intel Core i7 chip, and double the RAM.