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Budget-TV maker Vizio enters personal computer game with Ultrabooks, laptops, and desktops

Consumer Reports News: June 15, 2012 04:38 PM

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Saying it wanted to take its experience with HD entertainment and aesthetically pleasing products to the computer industry, TV maker Vizio last night introduced a new line of laptops and desktops.

Among the new computers are the 14- and 15-inch Thin + Light laptops, a 15-inch laptop, and 24- and 27-inch all-in-one desktops. All use Intel's third-generation Core processors, and start at $900. They'll be available from retailers such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, Costco, and Target. Vizio is known for low prices on its TVs. Prices for the PC lineup is more a mixed bag, with the all-in-ones inexpensive compared to many others, especially considering that they're using the latest processors. As for the Ultrabooks, they're priced middle-of-the-pack for thin-and-light laptops.

We took a look at the systems during Vizio's launch event yesterday. The all-in-one looked slim and stylish, and the display is tiltable (though not as much as some we've seen, including those on HP and Lenovo all-in-ones). The hinge felt a bit wobbly when we tried tilting the screen, so we'll look more into that when we test the computer.

The keyboard was pleasant to type on, small enough that it didn't take up a lot of space but large enough to be comfortable. Vizio added a special key that calls up a number of content providers, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Rhapsody. But no software from any of these companies was installed on the computers. One of Vizio's goals, the company said, was to provide computers with no pre-installed "bloatware." (You'll also find this keyboard on the laptops.)

The power supply on the all-in-one has the subwoofer built into it, and the ports are built into the base, not the display. Those include four USB 3 ports. There are also a 1TB hard drive and 32GB solid-state drive for quick start-up. Instead of a mouse, the all-in-one includes a large trackpad.

The Thin + Light line was lightweight and pleasant to hold, with gentle curves and no sharp corners. They look very much like Apple's MacBook Air, including a sleep LED that "breathes," a visible cue where the indicator light brightens and dims continually to show that the computer is sleeping as opposed to fully on or off.

The laptops (including the non-Ultrabook) are constructed with aluminum unibodies. The screen is a bit flexible and can bend somewhat when pushed, but not as much as some others. The Ultrabooks were quite thin, though we didn't get a chance to measure them. The line-up starts with a 128GB solid-state drive and 4GB of memory.

The 15-inch laptop has a very large (for a laptop) 1TB drive. Both 15-inch laptops and the all-in-ones have 1920 x 1080 displays, while the 14-inch is 1600 x 900. Vizio says it emphasized viewing angle and color reproduction while designing the displays.

All the models are available now for pre-order. Vizio didn't say when they will ship. When they do, we'll test them for our laptop and desktop Ratings.

When you're ready to buy your next personal computer use our computer buying guide and check out our Ratings.

Donna L. Tapellini

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