Blu-ray is well and truly here. We've seen the, , and, as of tomorrow, an offering from LG. Never mind all that standalone Blu-ray guff though, Sony's just sent us its latest Blu-ray-equipped Media Center PC, the VGX-XL202, and a couple of DVD movies to play on it.
First impressions: it's big, intimidating and screams power. Either that or it's screaming, "I'll crush your hi-fi cabinet under my weight, you early-adopting tech whore". We're loving the brushed metal flip-down panel that takes up two thirds of the front, plus the slot-loading Blu-ray drive and accompanying logo -- it's perfect if you like to make a statement with your AV kit.
But forget the looks -- let's talk about how it performed. We didn't waste much time chucking in a Blu-ray copy of the Academy Award nominated Corpse Bride -- a slick animated movie set in a 19th century European village. The thing looked amazing -- colours were vibrant, the characters really seemed to pop out of the screen and it really was easy to tell we weren't watching a DVD.
Next up was Bruce Willis' Tears of the Sun, which looked even more stunning. The movie runs at 1080p or 'Full HD', meaning the resolution was high enough to show a shedload of detail. We had no trouble making out every whisker on old Bruce's face.
Most notable from both films was the amount of contrast -- dark things were hella dark and bright things hella bright -- just like real life. In fact it was almost better than real life. Our only gripe was the fact we couldn't play Blu-ray films through Windows Media Center -- we had to use Intervideo WinDVD BD instead.
As for the Vaio VGX-XL202 itself, Sony has chucked in a Core 2 Duo T7400 CPU running at 2.13GHz, 1GB of RAM, a mid-range Nvidia GeForce 7400 GTL graphics card and a pair of 250GB hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration. It has Wi-Fi, a good selection of connectors -- including component, composite, HDMI and S-Video -- but there's a distinct lack of the D-Sub or DVI connectors you find on most PCs.
The unit will set you back a cool £1,799, which is only £800 more than the standalone Samsung BD-P1000. £800 for a PC of this spec, plus Blu-ray playback capability, is excellent value if you ask us.
Watch for a review soon. -RR
Update: We now have a full review of thelive in our Reviews channel.