The concept may look familiar, but Sony's execution of its own iMac makes for a high-performance desktop PC in a surprisingly small package. Like Apple's all-in-one, the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E has a glossy widescreen display as its frontispiece, with an optical drive on the right of the frame, and some readily accessible ports and slots on the left side.
At the rear of the screem-cum-computer are more ports, including three more USB, ethernet, FireWire and even a full-size Toslink digital optical socket. Like a picture frame, the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E's supporting back ‘leg' is on a hinge that allows a modicum of adjustment of screen angle. Height is somewhat low on the desk, though, and to put a stand below would undermine its minimalist standing.
The technical component choice is impressive enough, listing a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo processor with 3GB RAM, and an nVidia 9300M GS discrete graphics card. For storage, you get a 500GB hard disk, and a dual-layer DVD±RW drive to read and make DVDs. Unlike the swish slot-load mech of the iMac, though, the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E has a flimsier tray that pops out of the side.
Aside from the choice of operating system, the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E contrasts most conspicuously with the Apple iMac in its construction and build quality.
Where Apple has trodden the path of real satin aluminium, milled and folded with elegant results, Sony walks the way of painted plastic throughout. Viewed casually from afar, the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E/S.CEK looks clean enough, but get up close enough to touch and you'll see it's a plastic construct in ersatz alloy. And this extends to the cool flat-key keyboard and wired mouse, which do feel somewhat, well, plasticky.
We put the fast processor to the test and recorded an impressive 109 points in WorldBench 6, securing the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E/S.CEK's position as a speedy desktop well up to the modern challenges of image and video editing, for instance. And it's graphics processor, while scoring well short of the framerates of a true gamer's card, showed it could take on some 3D games providing detail settings were kept in moderation. In FEAR, we measured 19fps at the usual Max settings. A far more tolerable 42fps can be found by just reducing this game's graphics quality to High.
The Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E/S.CEK's gloss screen is clear and bright, and the forward-firing speakers below provide clear, articulate sound, far exceeding that of many standalone monitors. In use this Sony's mechanics stayed predominantly quiet, the internal fans just audible in normal use.
As an all-in-one PC to satisfy the user looking for both performance enough for productivity and a sub-four-figure price tag, the Sony VAIO VGC-JS2E/S.CEK delivers very well. It has a good array of components squeezed into its small chassis, stays quiet and presents good sound to boot for enjoying on-screen video. Set against its Mac muse, we can see corners have been cut in build quality – the entry-level 20in iMac is less than £50 more, and boasts a comparable spec with seamless build and more extended software options.