Desktop computers are commodity devices, in case you didn't get the memo. Vizio does nothing to dispel this impression: in fact, the company seems to embrace it. Like TVs, you get what you pay for.
The Vizio all-in-ones that debuted last year look like TVs, come with dual HDMI inputs, and have their own IR remotes. Late last year the desktops added touch screens. On the eve of newer Intel processors coming out, we looked at the latest iteration of the Vizio 27-inch, the CA27T-B1, a PC in a somewhat crowded landscape.
Here's what you get: for $1,549, there's a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (third-gen), 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive, and a bright, big 1,920x1,080-pixel 27-inch touch display.
That price falls in the middle of the pack for all-in-ones: it's definitely less expensive than a 27-inch iMac, for instance, but this Vizio lacks a higher-resolution display and any dedicated Nvidia/AMD graphics. It's very similarly priced to our favorite Dell XPS One 27. The closest configuration ($1,599) of the One has a slower Core i5 CPU and only 6GB of RAM, but a higher-res display and a faster hard drive.
|Vizio CA27T-B1||Asus Transformer AIO||Vizio CA24T-B0||Apple iMac 27-inch||Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon|
|Display size/resolution||27-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||18.4-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||24-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||27-inch 2,560 x 1,440||27-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen|
|PC CPU||Intel Core i7 3630QM||3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3350P||2.3GHz AMD AM10 4600M||3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770||1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U|
|PC memory||8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 730M||AMD Radeon HD 7660G||2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT620M|
|Storage||1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive||1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive||1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive||128GB Apple SSD+ 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive||1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive|
|Optical drive||None||Dual-layer DVD burner||None||None||None|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||OSX Mountain Lion 10.8.2||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
Of all the current Vizios on sale (24 and 27 inches), however, this model is our top pick: it feels like a better buy than the 24-inch Vizio models, which aren't much less expensive at $1,279 and $1,439 (the former with a slower AMD processor, the latter with the same Core i7 CPU).
However, Vizio's latest 27-inch is significantly more expensive than last year's more budget-targeted models. Granted, now you get a better processor and some higher-end features like faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Just keep in mind: Intel's newest fourth-gen processors are here, so it might be worth waiting a bit and seeing if updated models appear soon. Don't say we didn't tell you.
If you care about making your PC a TV, the extra HDMI inputs, clean design, and included remote will be appreciated, and can help this double as a dorm-room or den set to connect a cable box or game console to. But be forewarned: the construction quality feels cheaper than average (largely thanks to a screen that wobbles a bit when touched), and there's a big, annoying subwoofer box that doubles as a power brick, which does enhance sound but has to find a place to sit on your desk.
Again, just remember that updated processors are bound to start appearing in PCs sooner than later.
Design: Hello, 2012
Don't expect a revolution here. This Vizio doesn't bend into a pretzel or have a detachable screen. It won't blow your mind. This is a PC from the new old world: a screen bonded to a flat base. It feels like a monitor, or a TV. It's a clean, attractive design, and looks better from a distance.
Ports ring the base, offering up a bunch of useful options: USB 3.0, 2 HDMI inputs, eSATA. The feel of this Vizio, much like last year's debut model, is clean efficiency. But a lot's changed in just a year; the landscape has become even more affordable, and many companies are dabbling in more experimental tabletop PCs or at the very least all-in-ones with more limber screen flexibility. Some tabletop-convertible all-in-ones like the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27 are pretty much in the same price range ($1,699), offering another direction at not much more cost.
The Vizio design now comes off as a tiny bit old-fashioned for the Windows world of 2013, but nevertheless functional...unless you plan on touching the screen a lot. But, at least you're getting a fair deal under the hood: the specs of this top-end Vizio desktop match up favorably against equivalent competition.
The screen sits in a way that produces a fair bit of wobble. I would have loved a more rigid, ungiving feel...but if you use the included wireless touch pad and keyboard, you won't notice.
The 1,920x1,080-pixel display does look crisp and bright, at least, and it's better-looking to my eyes than the 24-inch Vizio CA24T-A0's display. Sure, it's not as ultra-high-res as many PCs in this territory, but most apps and especially videos look very good. Higher-detail text and photos will suffer, as will any attempts to expand screen real estate.