Sony VAIO VGC-RC110G
At a Glance
Sony VAIO VGC-RC110G
Best LCD for watching TV, and there is room for expansion. But the pair of Sony speakers were unimpressive.
Sony's VAIO VGC-RC110G Media Center PC works well for the casual or intermediate multimedia enthusiast interested in editing and organizing photos, video, or music, and then playing their creations on a TV, LCD, or sound system.
Manipulating digital content requires computing horsepower, and the VGC-RC110G, while not the fastest system we've seen, should easily meet the needs of video editing and DVD hobbyists. Equipped with a 3-GHz Pentium D 830 CPU, 1GB of DDR2-533 SDRAM, and an Asus EAX300LE graphics card using the ATI Radeon X300 chip set, the system earned a WorldBench 5 score of 87, comparable to the marks of other systems running on the same CPU. Serious game players may want to look elsewhere, however: Frame rates in our tests running Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament were lackluster. But casual game play on Return to Castle Wolfenstein at 1024 by 768 resolution with 32-bit color was smooth and enjoyable.
The system comes with some useful software titles that can save the multimedia newbie a bundle of money: Sony's DVgate, Click to DVD, and SonicStage are easy-to-use programs for editing digital video, creating DVDs, and organizing music files, respectively. Also included are Adobe's Photoshop Elements for image editing and Adobe Premiere Standard Edition for editing video and audio.
You can record TV shows with the VGC-RC110G's TV tuner and digital video recorder capability. But storing multimedia content can eat up a lot of disk space quickly, and we'd prefer more storage space than the 250GB provided by this PC's single Western Digital SATA hard drive. Fortunately, adding more hard drives is easy. Three more drives can fit in the hard-drive chassis, which rotates outward; to access it, you simply remove a side panel. Sony also includes a SATA connector for each extra drive--three cables run to the chassis from the motherboard's SATA connectors--making installing and removing extra drives simple.
Aside from the hard-drive chassis, upgrading hardware requires some disassembly, or at least some degree of manual dexterity. The two open RAM slots are squeezed between the enclosures for the hard-drive chassis and the CPU. Likewise, the space around the one free PCI slot and the one free x1 PCI Express slot is cramped and obstructed by cables. The system has no room for extra optical drives, but its included dual-layer DVD
The system has all the necessary Media Center PC connectors. A door on the front of the case covers jacks for headphones and a microphone, two USB ports, and connectors for composite video and S-Video. The same connectors are available on the back, along with a cable-TV connector--but not the FM-antenna input found on many TV cards--as well as an S/PDIF optical digital audio output and the usual 5.1-channel surround-audio jacks. The no-frills keyboard feels light but sturdy, has firm key action, and provides big, easy-to-find volume controls, but it lacks shortcut buttons. You'll likely want to hook up this VAIO to a sound system, as the two Sony speakers we received were unimpressive.
If you don't have a TV or a large display for multimedia creations, the Sony MFM-HT75W monitor that came with our system would make a great substitute. This 17-inch wide-screen LCD showed very clear images and reproduced vivid colors well, and small type looked sharper on this display than on any other we've seen recently. The $600 monitor comes with its own remote and TV tuner, which is redundant considering that the PC already includes both items, but on the plus side, you don't have to boot the system just to watch TV.
An impressive LCD and ample multimedia software make the VAIO VGC-RC110G a good choice for multimedia beginners, as long as you replace the lackluster speaker set.