Sony – VGC-V2S review

Media centre PC built into large TFT screen
Photo of Sony – VGC-V2S
£1,799

The Sony VGC-V2S is one of a new breed of PC that looks like a large TFT display with a keyboard and mouse attached, but which has no actual PC tower because the PC hardware is built into the screen.

This isn’t a unique concept – Apple used it recently in its new iMac G5, for instance – but the result is a PC that looks like an LCD TV with a couple of peripherals plugged in, making it a tempting proposition for people who want the functions of a PC, but who hate the idea of having a beige tower in their lounge.

The hardware is a cross between PC and notebook, so there’s a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with 512MB of PC3200 DDR-SDRAM memory connected to an 865PE chipset, but the graphics chip is a mobile Nvidia GeForce FX Go5700 128MB solution. As a result the system performance is very good, but the graphics performance isn’t really hot enough to play the latest games, although it’s more than up to the task of playing movies and DVDs.

The rest of the hardware is very acceptable, with a 250GB hard disk, dual format DVD writer, 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless LAN (notebook technology once again), four USB 2.0 ports, two mini Firewire, one Type II PC Card slot, Memory Stick Pro slot, coaxial UHF TV, S-video and optical S/PDIF out.

If you’re watching movies you won’t want to use the tiny integrated speakers so the optical output is an ideal way to connect the Sony unit to your surround sound speakers. The pedestal of the VGC-V2S houses a conventional PC power supply.

The main object of attention, though, is the 20-inch Sony X-Black TFT screen. This has a relatively low 1,280 x 768 pixel resolution, but in practice it works very well as you can sit a couple of metres back from the screen and still read it very clearly. If the resolution was any higher the icons and text would be absolutely tiny.

If you’re fast with a calculator you’ll realise that 1,280 x 768 isn’t the usual 16:9 aspect ratio that we expect for movies, but instead is 15:9, which we understand is likely to be the ideal resolution for watching HDTV transmissions when they start in the next year or two.

Sony has loaded the VGC-V2S with Windows XP Home Edition SP2, Microsoft Works 7.0 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, but it also includes its own Vaio Media Integrated Server 3.1 and Vaio Media 3.1 software. You can use this software to stream media to other Sony notebooks wirelessly, with the VGC-V2S effectively sitting at the heart of your digital home.

The keyboard and mouse are wireless, so you can use them in the usual way on a desk or table, but the keyboard has a dual function that is rather unusual. If you flip the hinged wrist rest forward to cover the keyboard it activates a micro switch so the second set of controls take over, which you use just like a notebook touchpad and mouse buttons. You also get a conventional infra red remote control which makes life easier if you want to watch a movie from the comfort of your armchair.

Company: Sony

Contact: 08705 424424


Verdict
Sony has built an attractive PC with a large screen that looks nothing like a PC. In effect this is a Media Center PC that doesn't use Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, and it does a good job. The price is fair, but bear in mind that upgrades are effectively impossible and the graphics aren't good enough to play the best games.