Sony VAIO VGX-TP3 review

Price when reviewed

The Sony is one of the most distinctive systems in this Labs. Shaped like a high-tech hatbox, it stands out from the rest of the boxy crowd, and the finish – glossy black plastic – looks great.

That’s not entirely surprising, as this is intended to be a media centre PC. It’s little surprise that, as well as a standard VGA output, there’s an HDMI port and an aerial input for a TV tuner.

That tuner is an AverMedia dual-DVB-T card, so it’s perfectly capable of watching and recording two Freeview channels at once.

The VAIO’s Blu-ray drive ensures that HDMI port is put to good use. It’s the only disk drive on test that isn’t a standard DVD writer, and lends the VAIO an unmatched high definition sheen.

The impressive line-up of components doesn’t stop there. You also get a 500GB hard disk – the joint largest on test, alongside the Shuttle – which is enough to store all but the largest of media collections, and plenty of recorded TV. High definition viewing is helped by the only discrete graphics chip this month – a GeForce 8400M GT that, while not able to play games, is suited to a media centre system.

The rest of the specification is sensible rather than outstanding. An Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile T8100 processor is outstripped by several other machines – the VeryPC and Transtec, for instance – but still returns a respectable 2D benchmark figure of 1.01.

Wireless internet is also included and can be switched on and off using an external button. However, it lacks the draft-n compatibility of the Transtec and Novatech machines, as it only supports 802.11abg networks.

Another issue is upgrade potential: aside from the Mac mini, this is the only machine you can’t open without a screwdriver, so augmenting the RAM or adding a hard disk is nigh-on impossible.

Otherwise, this is a highly capable media centre with buckets of style. It includes a Blu-ray drive at a very reasonable price and its decent line-up of components offer excellent performance.

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