capsule review

Sony VAIO VGN-A190

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sony VAIO A190 Notebook

Sony VAIO VGN-A190
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Sony's VAIO VGN-A190 is an interesting twist on the entertainment laptop. Designed to be the video hub of your home network, it can stream video to other computers--at least, it can for people with a lot of time on their hands.

As a standard multimedia notebook, the VGN-A190 is a pleasure to use. At a hefty 10.5 pounds with power adapter, it comes with a 17-inch screen, an 80GB hard drive, stylishly recessed case sides, and an excellent keyboard. A fixed DVD±RW drive burns movies, music, and photos for family and friends; and a loud set of external stereo speakers produces soaring, robust sound that dials up the excitement of watching DVDs or TV.

The VGN-A190 also lets you watch live TV. But for that you'll need the bundled docking station, which contains the TV tuner and coaxial input. That means carting around almost 4 pounds of extra equipment. On the bright side, you don't need the dock to watch programs you've recorded. Just lift off the notebook and go. The dock simplifies cable management and adds a slew of extra ports including S-Video, DVI for connecting a digital LCD, and four USB 2.0 ports (for a total of seven USB ports).

The VGN-A190 can also stream video to other computers once you install a remote application on them, but in our tests the video server was difficult to set up and crashed often. Making matters worse was the almost complete lack of documentation.

Some may not mind the amount of futzing it takes to make the VGN-A190 work as a video server over a network. For everyone else, the VGN-A190 is overkill. We recommend going with one of Toshiba's Windows Media Center-equipped Satellite notebooks. Since Toshiba's TV tuner is an internal module that you insert in a bay on the front of the notebook, you don't have to lug around a docking station. Plus, the Media Center software comes with a nice interface for watching and recording TV. Sony provides no such interface, and you must switch among multiple applications to use different TV functions.

In the performance category, the VGN-A190 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 81, ranking it among the top scorers for notebooks equipped with the 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M processor. Our tests also found that the VGN-A190 lasted 3 hours on one battery charge, an impressive result for a notebook this large.

The massive, feature-packed Sony VAIO VGN-A190 comes with enticing home entertainment features, but you may struggle to use some of them.

Sony VAIO VGN-A190


WorldBench 5 score of 81, 1.7-GHz Pentium M, 512MB of DDR333 SDRAM, Windows XP Home, 17-inch screen, 80GB hard drive, rewritable DVD drive, Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro media card slot, docking station, TV tuner, PC TV remote control, external speakers, built-in V.92 modem and 10/100 ethernet, 802.11g and Bluetooth wireless capability, touchpad pointing device, 10.5 pounds (including AC adapter). One-year parts and labor warranty; free 24-hour daily toll-free tech support.
$2800
888/315-7669
www.sony.com/vaio

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sony VAIO A190 Notebook

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