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Sony's Media Center sequel

Sony's Media Center sequel

Sony's most ambitious foray into the world of living-room computers was the VAIO XL1 Digital Living System. Designed as a two-part, rack-style media hub with a dual-core VAIO PC and a matching 200-disc DVD changer, the XL1 was a great idea for movie and music buffs with large catalogs of media, but it fell victim to some design flaws, including an underpowered CPU and inadequate RAM and hard drive space.

The uses for a system like this are obvious for home-theater setups. You could load up 200 CDs and set them to rip overnight, giving you an instant MP3 collection. Or 200 DVDs could go into the changer, and you could use the Windows Media Center interface to navigate through them using a Media Center remote.

Sony has revamped many of the components and dubbed the new system the XL2. The CPU is now an Intel Pentium D 920, while the RAM has doubled from 512MB to 1GB. Two 160GB hard drives in a RAID 0 setup give you more space for recording TV programs and ripping CDs.

Like the XL1, the XL2 is intended for home-theater use, and its primary display connection is HDMI. You won't find S-Video or DVI connections, although you can use an HDMI-to-DVI adapter to connect to a standard LCD monitor.

While the XL2's updated specs fix many of the issues we had with the ambitious but underperforming XL1, during its CES press conference, Sony hinted at the next model in the series, the XL3, which could include a high-capacity Blu-ray drive later in 2006.