Sony Vaio VGN-A217M review

Sony continues to forge a path without Windows Media Center

Our Verdict

This is a five star desktop replacement in all respects, but a three star mobile computer

For

  • Good game play and HDTV replay

    Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity

    Robust build

Against

  • Bulky

    Expensive

    Not fully high-def display

    Reflective screen

Although the company has shied away from using Windows Media Center software, Sony is making some of the strongest contributions to bringing entertainment technology to mobile computing.

But, while at one end of the scale this is a company making some of the smallest laptops ever made, on the other hand the demands of power-hungry consumers are forcing Sony to up the specs, and the size, of its most powerful machines.

And that's the dilemma of this, the latest Vaio A-series machine. It's as well specified and as powerful as some of the best desktops in Dixons. This and a 17-inch widescreen display inevitably results in one hell of a bulky beast. It's a sneeze short of a staggering 4kg in weight. But we like it. You'll want to book your annual holiday tomorrow just so you can show off that luscious X-black screen to passing travellers in the airport. And TV and DVD player manufacturers should also take note of the fetching remote control.

The design of the Vaio itself is also oddly elegant in its plainness, and it's superbly well bolted together too. The 1.6GHz Pentium M 725 processor and ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 (64MB) graphics processor give as much raw growl as you'd need.

Despite the 64MB graphics processor and 512MB RAM (we recommended the 2GB upgrade), it's actually a decent games platform. And, even though the screen resolution is just 1,440 x 900 pixels, HDTV content looks fabulous, although the glossy screen creates too many reflections.

If you like to accessorise your PC then you'll be happy to know there's plenty of scope to add peripherals to this computer. Add the Sony Port Regulator - fancy name for docking station - and behold your new found connectivity: two S-Video, one DVI, component video, four USB ports, printer port, and more.

Back in the 'negatives' column, the battery life affords you about two hours of wireless computing; if you're just using Word you'll get a little more. OK, many laptops do worse (see page 40) but we've come to expect a minimum of three hours from today's technology.

The Vaio A217M is stunning in every sense, including the price. Pound for pound, though, you get a lot of flesh for your Rupees. But unless you work out at the gym the Vaio isn't recommended for regular portable use. As desktop replacements go, however, this is among the most tantalising yet.