capsule review

Sony VAIO VGC-V520G TV-PC

At a Glance
  • Sony VAIO V520G Desktop

Sony VAIO VGC-V520G TV-PC
Photograph: Rick Rizner

If you were to mistake the Sony VAIO VGC-V520G TV-PC for a flat-panel TV, Sony wouldn't be offended. Designed to look like a television, this all-in-one PC is built around a WXGA flat-panel screen combined with a TV tuner. The TV-centric approach produces good-looking results. The screen is clear and bright, with strong, accurate colors and smooth motion in a DVD movie. You need to view this system from the same distance as you would a TV. The screen operates at a lower resolution than most 20-inch LCD computer monitors (wide-aspect 1280 by 768 instead of the usual 1600 by 1200 pixels), so if you position yourself the same distance away from it that you would from a standard computer monitor, displayed text and icons will look large and awkward.

Fortunately, you won't have to leave cables dangling across the living room when you use it at the correct distance. The system comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse and a remote control. The interesting keyboard includes a built-in touchpad on a fold-up panel at the front; you can close the panel if you don't need to use the keyboard, and the touchpad remains exposed so you can press any on-screen buttons. You can use the remote control to operate the included TV recording software or to access music or photos stored on the 250GB hard drive.

With a 3.2-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 1GB of DDR400 RAM, it's no surprise that the VGC-V520G is fast. In our WorldBench 5 tests, it achieved a score of 90--marking it as the fastest of the all-in-ones we tested. Game performance was strong as well. The integrated GeForce FX Go5700 graphics processor produced high frame rates at all of the tested resolutions. And there's no shortage of other features: This VAIO has a dual-layer 8X rewritable DVD drive, two ILink (Sony's name for FireWire) ports--one on the side and another on the rear--plus a PC Card slot, a MemoryStick reader, and four USB 2.0 ports around the case.

As is usual with all-in-ones, the VGC-V520G gives you no practical way to upgrade. The only user-accessible component is the memory; and since both memory slots were filled on our review model, upgrading would be difficult and expensive. You can't remove or upgrade the hard drive or the optical drive without completely removing the back of the case--a serious and warranty-voiding process. Though the screen can display HD video, the built-in tuner can't decode over-the-air HD transmissions, and there's no way to add an external HD tuner. The unit is expensive, too, at $2699, due partially to the 20-inch screen.

The Sony VAIO VGC-V520G TV-PC is a great (though expensive) choice for home users who want to combine a compact computer with a display for playing games and watching TV.

Richard Baguley

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At a Glance
  • Sony VAIO V520G Desktop

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