The Sony VAIO PCV-V200G's main draw is its shape and size and its ability to display and record TV. College students, apartment dwellers, and style-conscious enthusiasts who want a sleek piece of computing machinery on show will be drawn to the V200G's pretty lines and economical footprint. And because the VAIO PCV-V200G is an all-in-one system--combining monitor and machine in one box--very few cables dangle off its back. But the attraction stops there. First of all, the $1,699.99 V200G is expensive, especially alongside competing systems such as the Gateway Profile 5, which offers more powerful specs but no TV. The V200G turns in weak performance, and there are neither before-you-buy configuration options nor upgrade possibilities down the road. Unless the V200G's appearance bowls you over, we suggest you keep looking--you're bound to get more for your money from competitors. More often than not, attempts to merge TV and PC into one device fall short. Adding TV to an all-in-one PC--one that combines monitor and machine in one box--is an ever more difficult undertaking, as illustrated by the Sony VAIO PCV-V200G's shortcomings. As a PC, it's overpriced--you can buy a similarly equipped system for less--and its TV functionality goes only so far, with a 15-inch screen and a remote that doesn't work with your cable box.
The V200G looks darn nice, though, we'll say that for it. Clad in shiny black plastic with a brushed-metal screen bezel, it strikes a sophisticated, modern profile. It packs its guts--processor, memory, hard drive, optical drive, and all of its ports--inside the curved housing behind the flat-panel display. The system weighs only about 17 pounds, allowing it to swivel effortlessly on its stand and tilt easily up and down. A nifty black speaker grille runs lengthwise beneath the bezel.
The ports lined up vertically behind the screen include two USB 2.0, FireWire, Ethernet, and audio and video ports, while a PC Card expansion slot and Memory Stick flash-card reader adorn the right side, next to the DVD-recordable drive. A cordless keyboard and mouse keep the entire package wire-free. With only a power cord dangling from the back, you won't have to contend with a mess of wires as you normally would with a PC.
Sony ships the VAIO with a very capable remote control to give you access to TV and video functions from afar. But you probably won't be watching the V200G's 15-inch screen from the living-room couch, so you might find the remote spending much of its time in a desk drawer. If you appreciate the look of the Sony VAIO PCV-V200G, you'd better like what's inside as well, because you can't customize the system at the time of purchase. It features a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of 333MHz memory, a 120GB hard drive, and a DVD-RW/CD-RW combo drive, none of which you'll be able to upgrade later, either. All of the above are respectable midrange components, but the outdated SIS 651 chipset, which features a comparatively poky 533MHz frontside bus, holds back the system performance. To make things worse, the V200G doesn't have room for a dedicated graphics card, relying instead on the SIS 651's meager allotment of 32MB of graphics memory. As with any all-in-one system, you'll pay a premium--at least a couple hundred dollars--for the compact design.
Going against the grain of Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center, the V200G uses Windows XP Home and Sony's own digital-video-recording software, Giga Pocket, which features an intuitive user-interface that puts video, TV, and audio functions at your fingertips. While you can control Giga Pocket by remote, it's much easier to use the remote in concert with the system's wireless mouse. Watching live TV, jumping between TV and applications, and setting up recording sessions are a piece of cake this way. Using Giga Pocket, we recorded a half-hour TV show, exported it to MPEG-2 format, and burned it to DVD in minutes without needing to consult a tutorial or help files.
Unfortunately, the V200G doesn't ship with an IR blaster adapter, which would make it possible to control a digital-cable or satellite-TV set-top box with the system's included remote. As a result, scheduled TV recordings are possible only if you have an analog cable plugged directly into the back of the PC. You can buy your own IR blaster from a third-party vendor, but Sony doesn't sell any.
Sony has staked its claim in the software department, and there's no debating the fact that the V200G's multimedia package is awesome. Giga Pocket serves as a central interface for audio- and video-manipulation suites, and Sony's own Click to DVD and PictureGear Studio apps handle DVD-burning and photo-editing chores, respectively. Music fans have Sony's SonicStage, and Sony also includes Microsoft Works 7.0, Quicken 2004, and Photoshop Elements. Application performance
For a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 system, the Sony VAIO PCV-V200G performs about one processor class slower than it should, with SysMark 2004 scores more in line with those of a 2.6GHz P4 or Athlon XP 2600+ system. Displaying and recording TV proved no problem, but the demands of heavy multitasking and serious digital-video work will require a more powerful system. If you're on a budget and if a sleek design isn't high on your priority list, you can easily find better bang-for-the-buck performance elsewhere.
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics and gaming performance
Any system that uses integrated graphics is not built with 3D gaming or any but the most basic graphics tasks in mind. And that goes double for the Sony VAIO PCV-V200G, which uses an integrated and outdated graphics subsystem--compliments of the SIS 651 chipset--with a measly 32MB of graphics memory. Its lowly frame rate on our low-end Unreal Tournament 2003 test should dissuade any gamer or graphics maven from purchasing this machine.
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled. At this color depth and this resolution, Unreal is much less demanding than 3DMark03 and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows XP Home; 1.92GHz AMD Athlon XP 2600+; Via KT600 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Maxtor 6Y080P0 80GB 7,200rpm
Dell Dimension 2400
Windows XP Home; 2.66GHz Intel P4; Intel 8645G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated Intel 845G 64MB (shared memory); Seagate ST3120026A 120GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+; Nvidia Nforce-2 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated GeForce4 MX 64MB; WDC WD1600BB-00FTA0 160GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel P4; SIS 651 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated SIS 651 32MB (shared memory); Seagate ST3120022A 120GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Via K8T800 chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Radeon 7000 64MB; Samsung SP1203N 120GB 7,200rpm Because Sony sells most of its systems in stores, the company usually offers only nonupgradable one-year warranties. But this seems to be changing: if you purchase a full-fledged desktop system direct from Sony's Web site, you now have the option of upgrading to a maximum three-year warranty.
This option is not available on the Web for Sony's all-in-one systems, including the VAIO PCV-V200G, but you can call the company directly and upgrade your warranty that way. You have the option of extending the coverage to two years ($150) or three years ($230), and both of these upgrades include onsite service, whereas the standard one-year warranty does not. Sony includes 24/7, toll-free phone support for the life of the warranty, whether you upgrade or not.
Sony preloads its systems with a full electronic version of its user guide, but sadly the company does not include any printed documentation whatsoever. If your system goes down and stays down, you'll be stuck without any guidance beyond an 800 number.