Sony VAIO XL3 review: Sony VAIO XL3

No mouse, but that's OK
We also like that Sony put some thought into the holistic experience of using this PC in your living room. For one, Sony doesn't include a mouse in the box. Instead you get a touch pad-equipped wireless keyboard, as well as a thoughtfully designed PC remote control. Unlike other PC remotes, the XL3's has dedicated buttons for closing and switching between applications. We're less enamored of the keyboard, which seemed to consistently require us to refresh its wireless connection when we brought the XL3 out of hibernation mode. It also needs more media control keys.

In addition to the control hardware, Sony also has an interesting software component in the XL3. The VAIO Living Browser is a custom Web browser designed to make it easy to navigate a Web page using the remote control's menu navigation buttons. It works similarly to using your keyboard's cursor arrows and the tab button to move around to various links and words on a Web page. In our experience, the cursor moved more erratically than we wanted it to, but we give Sony credit for at least trying out a technique for making it easier to navigate PC-centric software without a mouse.

Supporting a true home theater PC is more complicated than a traditional computer as you have many more connectivity issues to consider. Thankfully, Sony provides a handy collection of guides in the box that helps you map out what goes to what. It also includes a brief sheet that explains what you need to do to get CableCard working. You can read more about our experiences with PC-based CableCard. We'd expect our experiences with the Velocity Micro PC in our post to carry over to the XL3 as well, since they all use the same ATI OCCUR CableCard tuners. Thankfully, from what we understand, a much-needed firmware update is on the way soon, which we're hoping will smooth the process. In addition to the helpful literature, Sony covers the XL3 with a year of parts and labor coverage, bolstered by phone support available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., PDT, Monday through Saturday, a wide-enough window, we suppose. There's also a fair amount of model-specific support info available on Sony's Web site.



Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Shuttle XPC P2 2700g
829 
446 
Sony VAIO XL3 Digital Living System
644 
354 

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  

F.E.A.R. performance (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Sony VAIO XL3 Digital Living System
21.7 

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 overclocked to 2.63GHz; 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 640MB GeForce 8800 GTS (overclocked); 150GB Western Digital 10,000 rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drive; 500GB Western Digital 7,200 rpm hard drive

HP Pavilion Media Center m7780n TV PC
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6400; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Shuttle XPC P2 2700g
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX; 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA

Sony VAIO XL3 Digital Living System
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6400; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 250GB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drives

Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; Intel 82975X BadAxe II chipset; 640MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS; (2) 400GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives (RAID 0)

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Sony VAIO XL3

Part Number: VGX-XL3

MSRP: $3,299.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GTL
  • OS Provided Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Color black
  • Monitor Type None.