The front-panel door is useful in that it helps preserve the TP1's minimalist aesthetic. A back-panel plastic port cover, cleverly attached by magnets, also helps keep the rear side tidy by wrangling the cables. Sony also considered that you would primarily be driving the TP1 from your couch. The system doesn't include a traditional mouse; instead you get a Vista remote control and a small-scale wireless keyboard that both match the TP1's white case. The keyboard works well enough, but the laptop-style touch pad built into the front edge lacks responsiveness, and neither Sony nor Vista include any software for tweaking its sensitivity.
As for other tweaking, like every other piece of hardware, we're sure it's possible to get inside the TP1, but Sony clearly intends for the enclosure to stay on. No visible screws, latches, or other mechanisms make themselves apparent to give you internal access. For most of you, that means you're stuck with the built-in graphics chip and the standard-definition DVD player.
We're also sad to see that Sony apparently missed our recent blog post about loading new PCs with trial software. Between the desktop icons and the programs in the Start menu, Sony includes nine links that try to sell you some service or software, including the poorly named VAIO Security Center, the only purpose of which is to sell you various products. Not all of the added software is as questionable. We remains fans of Sony's Living Browser and its Living Media (a Web browser overlay and a program for sharing media files between PCs, respectively), which have attempted to adapt the interface for use with the included remote control.
Finally, where Dell, Gateway, and HP have made impressive strides in their pre-installed support software, Sony doesn't seem to have given this area much thought. The only nod toward simplified on-board support is a mini-application that gathers a bunch of shortcuts to various component configurations programs, in a way that's a bit less intimidating than Window's default Control Panel menu. Otherwise, Sony's support offerings for this system reflect the industry averages. You get one year of parts-and-labor coverage, Monday through Saturday phone support, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., PT, and a smattering of model-specific resources available online.
Find out more about how we test desktops.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6420; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
HP Pavilion Media Center TV m8120n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 3GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 7350 LE graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives
Sony VAIO TP1 Living Room PC
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel 945GM integrated graphics chip; 300GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Velocity Micro ProMagix E2035
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive