Sony media PC makes its mark

Sony's new combination PC and television is pricey, but promises ultimately to connect to other home entertainment devices, according to ZDNet UK Labs

With its new VAIO PCV-RXG408 Sony has created a successful version of the "media PC" -- a computer that doubles as a personal video recorder (PVR) -- but some buyers may find the price tag a bit high, according to an evaluation by ZDNet UK's reviewers.

The machine, which retails for about £1,600 inc. VAT -- not including a monitor -- is Sony's addition to a concept that is already being touted by the likes of HP and Microsoft. Like HP's Media Center PC, ZDNet UK's reviewers found that the PCV-RXG408 is neither quite a top-of-the-line PC nor perfect at processing media, although it is adequate for both. (HP's Media Center PC, and other PCs running on the Media Center edition of Windows XP, are not yet available in the UK.)

Central to Sony's strategy is its Gigapocket software, which not only controls its PVR hardware but creates a framework that will ultimately allow the PC to interact with, say, a networked television set. Sony president and chief operating officer Kunitake Ando hinted as much in a recent speech at the Consumer Electronics Show, in which he predicted that the television would be the centre of the home computing and entertainment network.

The PC can record video from a variety of sources, including an analogue television tuner card, S-Video and composite inputs, and stores files in the MPEG format. It is easy to use, but has some limitations, such as the lack of a direct mechanism for archiving programmes to DVD -- although this can be done with some extra effort.

The review found that there were some other obvious features lacking from Gigapocket, such as digital TV reception, electronic programme guide integration and a handheld client, which perhaps would have required different parts of Sony to talk to one another.

However, the system's ease of use and a plethora of connectivity options makes it worth a look for those in the market for a PC-television combination, according to the review.

The full review can be found here.

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