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Sony VAIO XL2 Digital Living System - Pentium D 920 2.8 GHz

Sony VAIO XL2 Digital Living System - Pentium D 920 2.8 GHz

Sony's most ambitious foray into the world of living-room computers is the VAIO Digital Living System series. Designed as a two-part, rack-style media hub, with a dual-core VAIO PC and a matching 200-disc DVD changer, the original 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, inadequate RAM and hard drive space, and a wonky disc changer. Sony has corrected some of the problems, with a more powerful CPU and more RAM, but the troublesome multidisc changer remains the same.

Upside: Sony has revamped many of the components in the XL1 and dubbed the new system the XL2. It retails for $2,700 (up from $2,300 for the XL1), and 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.

Downside: While the promise of being able to load up 200 CDs and rip them overnight is appealing, in practice, Sony's original XL1 was never up to the task. The increased RAM in the XL2 should help matters, but the basic DVD-changer hardware remains the same.

Outlook: Since the Sony VAIO XL2's first showing at CES 2006, Sony has always seemed more interested in promoting the next model in the line, the XL3, which adds a Blu-ray drive and is due out this summer. Since then, lackluster customer response to the Digital Living System series has put the product line in doubt, and a Sony rep told us at a recent press event that the XL3 was no longer a sure thing.

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