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Sony VAIO PCV-RX203

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  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • DVD-RW drive
  • good performance
  • stylish design.

Cons

  • No monitor supplied as standard
  • little room for internal expansion.

Sony aims squarely at budding Spielbergs with the latest update to its desktop PC range. The PCV-RX203 is an update of the PCV-RX1, reviewed earlier this year. Apart from a change of processor and chipset, Sony has added a recordable DVD drive, which, combined with good connectivity, makes the RX-203 an excellent choice for multimedia content creation and editing duties.

Sony's larger, more powerful desktop now comes in a number of models. The PCV-RX203 is the highest specification -- and therefore most expensive -- model in a range that takes the case design of the PCV-RX1 and adds new innards. The attractive styling hasn't changed, nor has the good connectivity.

Beneath two drop-down flaps at the front of the unit are two USB ports, a four-pin IEEE 1394 port, a floppy drive and a Memory Stick slot. The DVD-RW and CD-ROM drives are neatly blended into the front panel as well. You get two more USB ports and a six-pin IEEE 1394 port at the back of the PC. There's a built-in 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet port and a PCI Lucent WinModem. The RX203 only has three PCI slots, but since there's so much built-in connectivity you're unlikely to need more than this over the system's lifetime.

The Pioneer DVR-104VA drive provides all the writeable and rewriteable media facilities -- if you don't count the Memory Stick slot -- and the other drive is simply a 40-speed CD-ROM drive. The Pioneer drive handles DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R and CD-RW media, so you should be able to write out your creations to whatever format you need. The 120GB Maxtor DiamondMax D540X hard drive ensures there's plenty of working space while you're editing movies.

The 2GHz Pentium 4 in the RX203 is a 0.13-micron 'Northwood' processor with 512KB of Level 2 cache. Sony has changed the motherboard in the PX203 from the Intel 850 chipset-based unit in the RX1, which supports RDRAM, to an 845-D chipset-based unit supporting double data-rate (DDR) SDRAM. The amount of RAM fitted has doubled to 512MB, giving another performance boost. Graphics are handled by nVidia's GeForce2 Ti chip with 64MB of video RAM. This is far from the leading edge of graphics technology, but is still a good performer. On a system like this, which is aimed at video editing in particular, it would have been good to see a graphics card supporting either TV out or twin monitors. However, you can always upgrade if you need this functionality. Bear in mind that the RX203 isn't supplied with a monitor as standard, and the £1,279 (ex. VAT) price quoted here doesn't include one.

Benchmark results are impressive, particularly with more demanding applications. The RX203 scored 34.1 on Content Creation Winstone 2002, one of the highest results we've seen so far. This confirms this RX203's suitability for use with multimedia applications. The Business Winstone 2001 score of 51.9 is very good too, but not the highest we've seen. The RX203's graphics performance is good, but not outstanding: a 3DMark 2001 score of 4,555 is nowhere near that achieved by the latest generation of graphics cards, but is still sufficient for most games.

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The accompanying software bundle is predictably multimedia-based. Sony normally includes a whole raft of audio and still picture editing applications, but the RX203's bundle also includes the full version of Adobe Premiere for video editing, and MPEG2 encoding/decoding software. DVDIt is a DVD authoring package, completing the movie creation line-up. There's also software to support the RX203's special hardware, such as quick-launch buttons on the keyboard and the Memory Stick slot.

The VAIO PCV-RX203 is a great system for video editing, including DVD production. It's also no slouch at more general business computing or gaming. The price is reasonable, the features are great -- and it's definitely not beige.

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