Sony VAIO VGC-RM1N review
When it comes to applications that will really make use of your system’s available processing power, there’s little to compete with video editing. Not only will it utilise all available processing cores when rendering, but it will also gobble up your RAM during the editing process, besides needing a profusion of hard disk space for both – particularly for high-definition footage.
As the progenitors of the HD Blu-ray format, all this is exactly what Sony had in mind when designing the RM1N. While simply stuffing a chassis with high-end components and hard disks might solve the processing problems, there’s more to dealing with a professional workflow than shoehorning in top-end components. Naturally, those components are in there – the quad-core Intel Q6600 processor, with each core running at 2.4GHz, plus 2GB of RAM – but it’s the design touches that make the RM1N stand out.
The first thing you’ll notice is the dual-chassis design. The motherboard, CPU and hard disks live in the larger of the two boxes. The second houses a pair of optical drives – a Blu-ray writer and a DVD-RAM drive – four USB ports, plus a mini-FireWire port and a 5-in-1 memory card reader all hidden behind a flap. The advantages are obvious: the system box lives under the desk, while the access unit sits quietly next to your monitor. The two units (which aren’t hot-pluggable) are connected via a 2m cable carrying both data and power.
There are two 500GB hard drives in a striped RAID array. The front four drive bays are accessible from the front panel, with pre-routed SATA data and power cables – not quite hot-swappable in convenience, but close to it.
And it isn’t just internal storage that’s impressive. The main unit has four USB ports on the front, plus mini-FireWire, and a further four USB ports and full-sized FireWire port on the back for connecting external hard disks or video equipment. You also get optical S/PDIF. Oddly, with no eSATA, you can’t install high-performance external drives, which will present a problem if you try to make simultaneous backups to multiple USB disks.
The motherboard is based around Intel’s P965 chipset. The inclusion of an Nvidia GeForce 8600 is potentially overkill for a system that could conceivably go its whole life without seeing a game, unless you rely heavily on GPU-accelerated video effects. Still, it scored a respectable 19fps average in our Call of Duty 2 benchmark at its highest settings. Call of Juarez proved tougher, producing just below 10fps.
But it’s in the detail that this machine’s real abilities come to light. The standalone USB jog dial is a useful inclusion, allowing you to shuffle through video without needing to drag the mouse. The bundled software is also a cut above the rest, with Adobe Premiere Pro 2 (web ID: 83687) the star of the show. A high-definition project under Adobe Premiere was as smooth to work with on the RM1N as it was on PC Pro’s dual-core video-editing system, but the extra power told when it came to the final render. Our dual-core system rendered the final file in just over 15 minutes, while the RM1N nearly halved the time, finishing in just over seven minutes.
The RM1N is fast, superbly featured, and has enough storage headroom to be your processing PC of choice for years to come. But, at two-and-a-half grand, it’s expensive, and if quad-core and plenty of RAM are your criteria, the Nova ST3 from Cube247 (web ID: 120487) barely costs £1,000 and has twice the RAM plus a 22in TFT. Or, there’s the Evesham Solar Quattro G8 (web ID: 110656), which has a Core 2 Quad Extreme QX6700 CPU, the same amount of RAM, an even better graphics card, plus a 22in TFT with a twin digital TV tuner for a comparable amount of cash.