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First Sony Vaio with Built-In Blu-ray

Posted by Parth Barot on July 4, 2006

The AR sports a fast Intel Core Duo processor, 1 gigabyte of memory and 200-GB hard drive. At 8.4 pounds and with perhaps 90 minutes of battery life, the machine is more of a “desktop replacement” than one you’d schlep on the road.

Take the gorgeous, black $3,500 Sony Vaio VGN-AR190G notebook. It has a vibrant 17-inch widescreen display, built-in camera and easily accessible DVD controls above the keyboard. It’s the first laptop with a built-in recordable Blu-ray drive.

But the computer is outrageously expensive. And it is saddled with stubborn technical snags around disc burning and playback. (A midlevel AR-series model without Blu-ray and with less memory, a smaller hard drive and different cosmetics goes for $2,200.)

Blu-ray is one of two superhyped, next-generation DVD technologies now hitting center stage. The other format is HD DVD. Each can deliver splendid high-definition cinema on discs that look identical to regular CDs and DVDs.

The Vaio comes with a TV tuner and Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 software so it can record TV programs — though not in high-definition. What you can do in high-def with the Vaio:

Shoot video on a high-def camcorder, then burn that footage onto blank Blu-ray discs.

Play Blu-ray movies in the highest high-def format, what techies refer to as full “1080p” (progressive) resolution. Sony supplies one 1080p disc from its own studio, House of Flying Daggers, with purchase of the laptop.

Use it to watch video on a big screen by connecting it to an HDTV with the supplied HDMI cable.

To test Vaio’s high-def-burning capabilities, I shot stunning backyard family videos with Sony’s fine HDR-HC3 camcorder. The camcorder’s resolution is 1080i (interlaced), slightly lower on the digital food chain. (Interlaced and progressive refer to how lines of tiny pixels or picture elements are displayed on the screen.)

I transferred footage to the laptop via what Sony calls an i.Link cable (and others call FireWire or 1394). Finally, I burned it all onto a blank Blu-ray disc.

Apart from shooting 15 minutes of video, none of it was a pleasure. Issues:

Equipment. I had to buy a compatible i.Link cable. Considering that the combined price of the laptop and $1,500 “consumer” camcorder is around $5,000, you’d think Sony could have thrown in a $30 cable with the camcorder.

Sony supplied me with a blank Blu-ray disc, but you’d have to buy your own. A 25-gigabyte BD-RE Sony Blu-ray disc costs $25. It’s a “rewritable” disc that can be recorded over and over. “Write-once” 25-GB BD-R discs that can’t be re-recorded cost $20. “Double-layer” discs that double the capacity to 50 GB go for $48 and $60.

Full Story @ Sci-Tech-Today


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