Laptops used to be the redheaded stepchildren of the computer industry, forced to wait for hand-me-down technology that appeared months earlier on their desktop brethren. Oh, how times have changed. The Sony VAIO AR190G, announced today and due out in June, is the first computer we've laid hands on--laptop or desktop PC--to feature an optical drive that can not only read Blu-ray Disc (BD) media, but write and rewrite on it--as opposed to the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650, announced earlier this month, which can read HD-DVD media but not write on it.
Being marketed as a portable, end-to-end HD studio, the VAIO AR190G offers a pretty compelling set of A/V features to back up the claim: in addition to the BD drive, a 17-inch wide-screen display (WUXGA), an HDMI output, and a FireWire connection, you get a 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo processor, a midrange Nvidia GeForce Go 7600GT GPU with 256MB of VRAM, a 200GB hard drive, and a TV tuner.
At $3,500, the VAIO AR190G is intended primarily for the long-suffering professional video editors and producers whose HD files have been marooned on laptop hard drives or trapped on DVD-ROMs, which are not supported by Blu-ray set-top players. With the VAIO AR190G, you can now import a video directly from an HD camera (via FireWire), edit the content on an excellent 17-inch 1080p display, and burn it to a Blu-ray disc or play it on an HDTV or monitor (via the HDMI connection)--never settling for less-than-HD-quality compression, media, or playback.
Of course, as with most new technologies, you will have to suffer a number of indignities with the VAIO AR190G. Aside from the high price point of the laptop itself, there's the painful price of media: approximately $20 for a 25GB BD-R or $25 for a 25GB BD-RW, both of which burn at a syrupy 1X. (Fortunately, a 50GB BD-R will soon be available for $48 and a 50GB BD-RE for $55--ouch.) Note that Sony will also sell less expensive VAIO AR models, without the BD drive, starting at $1,749.
After spending a few days with the VAIO AR190G, we have a few preliminary observations:
Here's a complete rundown of the specs: