Design and hardware-wise the Sony VAIO VGC-M18G is a stone's throw from the Sony VAIO VGO-LA38G, but there are a few significant differences. Although it aims to be a desktop PC, the VAIO LM18G hints at its notebook's roots, making for a stylish and functional PC with a unique form-factor named the "Panel PC".
Let's start by clearing up any confusion. The VAIO LM18G is not a notebook. It does not have a battery and must be plugged into a power source to remain on. It has a stand-alone wireless mouse and keyboard, and the 19in widescreen monitor is much larger than any notebook on the market.
With that in mind, it's important to note that it does use technology built for notebooks, with the exception of the 250GB (7200rpm) hard drive, which is a standard 3.5in desktop hard drive. The 2GHz Intel T7250 CPU is a mobile processor, the NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT is a mobile GPU and the 2GB of DDR2 RAM is notebook RAM. There's even Wi-Fi 802.11g, which isn't usually pre-installed on desktop systems. Why? It's purely because of the design.
Sony has taken a 19in screen (with a native resolution of 1440x900) and literally built the PC into the back of it; the whole thing leans back on a stand. From the front this PC looks like a screen and nothing more. The speakers line the edge of the LCD panel, and framing the whole lot is a clear bezel, which looks extra suave. Lights within this clear bezel indicate hard drive activity and the power state (on, off or standby), which looks very chic. There's even a backlit Sony label at the bottom. The main downfall of this design is it comes at a price that's far beyond what you'd pay for a standard desktop system with similar performance.
But style is not all this machine has on offer. There is all the PC connectivity you need, ranging from PC and Express card slots and media card readers to USB, FireWire, S-Video and optical audio ports. Above the screen you'll notice a 1.3-megapixel camera staring out at you, and a digital TV-tuner is pre-installed allowing you to use this device as a TV with access to high-definition channels. The two front speakers are backed up by a subwoofer which sounds great. They'll even reach fairly loud volume levels before distorting. Naturally there's a DVD-RW drive installed that will burn DVDs, but will also play DVD movies. And as a PC it's essentially a jukebox, which pretty much covers all of your basic entertainment needs.
The included keyboard has a built-in palm rest that converts into a dust cover, protecting the keyboard. There are a couple of shortcuts above the keys and some volume controls, but overall it's a fairly straightforward peripheral. One that we would have liked to see is a touchpad on the keyboard, allowing you to sit back a little from the screen and navigate around.
In our benchmarks we saw fairly normal results based on the hardware. Converting 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files took 88sec in iTunes. In Cdex it took 130sec to do the same job. In gaming tests we didn't get outstanding results, but weren't expecting a top performance from the mid-range graphics card. In 3DMark 2006 the VAIO LM18G scored 1921, which is barely enough to play newer games at low quality settings. In 3DMark 2001 SE the score was much more respectable at 17,083, indicating that older games will run smoothly.