Sony goes slim with new Vaio PCs

Is it a TV or a PC? With the company's Vaio L line, just unveiled in Japan, it's anyone's guess.

Sony unveiled a new line of PCs in Japan on Wednesday that in a lot of ways are more like TVs than computers.

The Vaio L PCs are flat all-in-one desktop computers encased in a clear plastic board that are intended to function as entertainment centers. The design--in which the machine appears to be floating--has been used by the company before on some TVs. The L machines are similar to the Vaio W PCs that came to the U.S. in 2002.

Sony's Vaio L
Credit: Sony
Sony's Vaio L appears to float.

Sony's success in the PC business has been an up-and-down affair. After struggling with desktops, the company had an international breakthrough hit in the late '90s with the Vaio 505, a slim notebook in a gold metallic case. By 2002, Sony emerged as one of the fastest-growing PC makers in the world. Sales momentum, however, faltered. Some of the novel PC designs--such as the Vaio U, a handheld computer--have sold only in low quantities.

The idea behind the L line is to better integrate Sony's TV and stereo know-how into its PC line. Toshiba is pursuing a similar strategy with its Qosimo PCs, which also function as LCD TVs.

The showcase model of the new line, the VGC-LA, sports a 19-inch monitor with a 1680-by-1050 pixel resolution, a T2300 Intel Core Duo chip running at 1.66GHz, 512MB of memory, a 200GB hard drive, a built-in video camera, integrated video recording capabilities and a multiformat DVD recorder.

The L Vaios also come with a Felica e-money reader to make impulse purchasing that much easier.

Introductory versions of the Vaio L PCs will start at around $1,400. The PCs are expected to ship later this month in the Japanese market. It is unclear whether the L line will come to the U.S. Many Japanese models are tweaked for U.S. sales, but some never make it across the Pacific.

In all, Sony unfurled 41 new desktops and notebooks on Wednesday.

CNET's Michael Kanellos reported from San Francisco. CNET Japan's Hayashi Sakawa reported from Tokyo.

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