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June 20, 2006

Sony’s Blu-ray VAIO notebook reviewed

Business Week online’s Arik Hesseldahl does the honors in Sony’s Pretty, Pricey Picture:

The Good Gorgeous video. Blu-Ray burner. Huge hard drive
The Bad High price. Feeble battery
The Bottom Line Great for those willing to pay through the nose

First let’s get to the Blu-Ray disc. The video quality is gorgeous. Sony (SNE) furnished a copy of a Blu-Ray disc with the movie Hitch, and while I can’t say much about the content of the film, the video looked great, with lots of detail within the shot. The movie has several overhead shots of New York City that looked almost cinematic, even on the 17-inch notebook screen. The machine boasts a glossy, glare-resistant screen, the kind that are quickly becoming more common.

But let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t the kind of notebook you’re going to want to take everywhere with you, and certainly not one for watching movies on an airplane or anywhere else you don’t have a power outlet. With the disc playing I watched the battery run down from fully charged to less than 20% full in about 30 minutes, at which point the screen displayed one of the strangest shutdown routines I’ve ever seen: a patchwork of wavy multicolored lines.

Ouch! But then it seems to be directed more at the desktop replacement market and at $3500, you might want to keep it chained to desk anyhow. Of course when you’re talking high definition DVD, there has to be one more caveat:

Blu-Ray disc content is just now beginning to hit the market. (The computer ships with House of Flying Daggers in the box.) If you really, really want to shoot and edit HD video and have a critical need to burn it to Blu-Ray, you might be willing to pay the premium. But as yet, that’s not a good enough reason for me to lay out that much to be an early Blu-Ray adopter. I suspect that will be the judgment of most people as well.

There’s also the risk that you might end up backing the wrong horse in the brewing battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Unless you really think Blu-Ray is where it’s at, and indeed many companies do, I suggest staying on the sidelines until the winner is clear.

Oddly, Hesseldahl never mentions the model number, but it seems to obviously be the Sony VAIO AR190G which was also reviewed by Justin Jaffe at CNET:

At $3,500, the VAIO AR190G is intended primarily for the long-suffering professional video editors and producers whose HD files have been marooned on laptop hard drives or trapped on DVD-ROMs, which are not supported by Blu-ray set-top players. With the VAIO AR190G, you can now import a video directly from an HD camera (via FireWire), edit the content on an excellent 17-inch 1080p display, and burn it to a Blu-ray disc or play it on an HDTV or monitor (via the HDMI connection)–never settling for less-than-HD-quality compression, media, or playback.

Of course, as with most new technologies, you will have to suffer a number of indignities with the VAIO AR190G. Aside from the high price point of the laptop itself, there’s the painful price of media: approximately $20 for a 25GB BD-R or $25 for a 25GB BD-RW, both of which burn at a syrupy 1X. (Fortunately, a 50GB BD-R will soon be available for $48 and a 50GB BD-RE for $55–ouch.)

If you’re a professional video editor, it’s all a deductible business expense anyway, I guess, but I think the advice for most consumers is to wait on this technology a while.

Posted at 6:58 pm. Filed under Blu-ray, Companies, HD DVD, Laptop, Notebook, Sony, Storage

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One Response to “Sony’s Blu-ray VAIO notebook reviewed”

  1. Toshiba to sell HD DVD player at a loss -- Cool Tech Reviews Says:

    [...] Last week was a big week for the Blu-ray high definition DVD ([1], [2]) but there was some interesting news about the competing HD DVD format – ‘Teardown’ finds Toshiba taking a loss on HD DVD player: Toshiba Corp. is taking a substantial loss on sales of its new HD DVD player in hopes of buying a head start in the battle for the next generation of DVD technology, according to a “teardown” analysis conducted by market research firm iSuppli Corp. [...]

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