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Sony VAIO PCV-RS630G review: Sony VAIO PCV-RS630G

The Good Includes an extensive hardware bundle, from a writable DVD drive to a TV tuner and a remote control; capable software bundle for TV, music, and digital-imaging tasks; attractive design.

The Bad Older chipset means slower memory and potential future upgrade problems; more powerful systems are available for less; no unified media software.

The Bottom Line Six months ago, we would've found the Sony VAIO PCV-RS630G compelling, but with newer tech already on the market, this media-centric PC is behind the times.

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7.0 Overall


Outdated and overpriced, Sony's new $1,950, midrange VAIO PCV-RS630G costs $200 more than a similarly configured HP Media Center m1050y. The difference? The HP comes with the streamlined Windows Media Center operating system and the new Intel 915 Express chipset. The VAIO PCV-RS630G, on the other hand, relies on Sony's somewhat disjointed media software and Intel's old 865 chipset, which makes our recommendation straightforward: pick another PC or wait till Sony catches up.

This is not to say that the VAIO PCV-RS630G's hardware is badly designed. Indeed, enough ports dot the box to let you connect or read data from a wide variety of home A/V devices. A five-in-one media-card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, an iLink (a.k.a. FireWire) port, and inputs for S-Video, composite video, and audio reside behind a front-panel door. And you'll find duplicates of the front-panel ports on the rear of the VAIO PCV-RS630G, along with stereo audio jacks, an optical S/PDIF audio input, the TV tuner card's inputs, an additional USB 2.0 port, and the usual assortment of legacy jacks. There's also plenty of optical-media flexibility, with an 8X multiformat DVD-RW drive and a 16X DVD-ROM drive, giving you the ability to play and produce CDs and DVDs. You should keep in mind that because the VAIO PCV-RS630G is a fixed configuration, there's no option to add a dual-layer DVD drive or make other upgrades. You can roll your own custom RS600, though.

An Intel Pentium 4 3.0EGHz processor with 512MB of PC3200 400MHz DDR RAM and a whopping 250GB Ultra ATA/100 hard drive provide enough horsepower to support all of the Sony VAIO PCV-RS630G's features, although you might want to double the memory if you intend to do a lot of digital-video editing. The 128MB ATI Radeon 9200 graphics card should be up to most video-related jobs, and it also provides enough 3D power to play most older games, although advanced titles, such as Doom 3, might give you some trouble. You should also consider that the VAIO PCV-RS630G is built on Intel's old 865 chipset, not the new 915 Express circuitry, which means, among other things, you won't find any PCI Express (PCIe) slots. Most casual users won't care about that now, but PCIe is slated to replace both the AGP slot for graphics cards and the plain-old PCI interface for other expansion cards, so you could be out of luck in a year or so when you find that you don't have the proper slot for a potential upgrade. The 915 Express chipset also supports faster DDR2 memory, which you'll find in the HP's newest Media Center PC, but you won't find here.

Accompanying the functional but unremarkable keyboard, mouse, and speakers, the Sony-branded remote control looks like a typical TV remote but with some extra buttons tied into the different media software applications, such as Sony GigaPocket for watching and recording TV and Sony Click to DVD for burning media files. And although the software suite does its job very well, it would be much easier to use if the various functions all worked from within the same application, à la Windows Media Center. Similar to the system it's bundled with, the 17-inch Sony SDM-HS73P LCD has a decent enough picture, but there are better monitors out there for less.

The VAIO PCV-RS630G fared well on our benchmark testing compared to similarly configured systems, mostly because it had the fastest processor of the group. While it won't break any records, this PC is at least capable of doing what it's supposed to, and it should handle most mainstream tasks.

Should you run into trouble, Sony provides decent support. A one year parts-and labor-warranty protects the hardware, with included 24/7 telephone support, although the software is covered for only 90 days. Sony devotes a section of its Web site to VAIO computers, with excellent troubleshooting information and a downloadable files section, although no files were available for this model at press time.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell Dimension 4700
Windows XP Home; 3.0EGHz Intel P4; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared) integrated Intel 915G; 160GB Maxtor 6Y160M0 7,200rpm Serial ATA

HP Pavilion a650e
Windows XP Professional; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3700+ (Socket 754); Nvidia Nforce-3 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon 9800; 250GB WDC WD2500BB-22FTA0 7,200rpm

IBM A50 ThinkCentre
Windows XP Professional; 3.0GHz Intel P4; Intel 865G; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 64MB (shared) integrated Intel 865G; 40GB WDC WD400BB-23FJA0 7,200rpm

iBuyPower Back to School PC
Windows XP Home; 3.0EGHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5200; 80GB Maxtor 6Y080L0 7,200rpm Serial ATA

Windows XP Home; 3.2EGHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon 9200; 250GB WDC WD2500BB-98FTA0 7,200rpm

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