Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center

Written by Benny Har-Even

October 19, 2006 | 14:03

Tags: #htpc #mce #media-center

Companies: #blu-ray #sony #vaio

Connections

Round the back there's a healthy amount of connectivity including HDMI. What you won't find are SCART or DVI ports. There's an HDMI cable provided and an HDMI to DVI adaptor, though the DVI port you connect to will have to be HDCP compliant to watch Blu-ray content.

Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center Connections Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center Connections
I actually used the Sony to finally answer a question that I've been wondering about for a while. What happens what you try and watch an HDCP encrypted movie on a display without HDCP? I hooked up a bog standard 17in, 1,280 x 1,024 display and tried to play a movie. The supplied InterVideo WinDVD BD software started to play and then stopped - and that was that. So there you go - the disc won't even play.

Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center Connections Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center Connections
Also round the back you'll find two six-pin FireWire ports and two USB 2.0 ports as well as composite, S-Video and component video outputs. There's a coaxial digital audio output and both optical digital in and out.

Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi are provided. Cleverly, the aerial for the Wi-Fi is located at the end of a long cable enabling you to place it in the optimum position to get the best connection. There are also two infrared blaster ports on the rear, so you could control external set-top boxes.

I was very surprised to discover that there's only a single TV Tuner supplied. It's DVB-T and unlike the Acer Idea 500 Media Center I recently reviewed, it managed to find a good number of channels first time off but it means you can only watch the channel being recorded – very frustrating. That said, anyone considering a machine like this with the high price premium of the Blu-ray drive probably has a Sky HD box at home.

Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center Connections Sony Vaio Blu-ray Media Center Connections
The keyboard integrates a trackpad on the right hand side, which makes it possible to get round Windows from a distance. That said, as a left hander I found it difficult to use, as for me it was on the wrong side (it was fine for everyone else though - Ed.). The keyboard is powered by four AA batteries, which is quite a lot but there's an LCD which indicates the power remaining so you shouldn't be caught short.

There's also a power switch for the keyboard so you can conserve the batteries when you're not using the system. The keys are quite firm and the typing action was solid. There are shortcut buttons for email, browser, and launching Media Center and volume controls too. The wireless keyboard and the remote control don't need line of sight to operate, which is good and the receiver is built-in to the chassis - so there's no need to use an awkward external USB dongle.
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