Sony's VAIO VGC-RA304 home media server

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To the casual observer, Sony’s VAIO VGC-RA304 might look like any ordinary home PC. However, underneath the unassuming façade lurks a much more original and interesting machine, which combines the power of a top-spec gaming machine with a home entertainment server capable of managing nearly every media device you set it loose on.

An Intel Pentium 4 processor complements the 16x PCI-Express Nvidia GeForce 6600 couple with 1GB of RAM; that should cover all but the most obsessive gamer’s need for a good long while. Plus dual RAID array hard drives provide the capacity for storing unnecessary amounts of digital media and back it up securely.

Included in the package is the VGP-MR100E Network Media Receiver, which connects the PC to your stereo and telly and even generates a VAIO Zone-style user interface on the screen to make file browsing and selection easier. What’s more, this device is HD Compatible so it can stream to an HD Ready TV; ideal if you’ve got something like the Sony HDR-FX1 HDV video camera to play with…

The media receiver uses the bundled Wireless LAN Access Point so there’ll be no messy cabling needed and media played on the PC can be controlled with the either the wireless mouse, keyboard or remote control, which highlights the possibility that Sony’s designers might actually be afraid of wires.

The media centre is future proofed using new DLNA-compliant server technology, which is a system aimed at supporting sharing of digital media through out the home. Hopefully it will also be able to stop cheeky neighbours borrowing movies off the Wi-Fi network too. The Sony RA304 desktop Vaio is available now for around £1,600 depending on the supplier.

shel

5 comments

  • I posted earlier and just twant to add that after nearly a year this PC has never missed a beep.

    Runs whisper quite, really fast.

    A great all round machine from sony 🙂

  • I bought one of these in June last year. The reasoning was that it was fast, quiet and stylish, and so would sit easily in the living area of the house. The media centre bits were really a bonus.

    As a stylish bit of technology it is superb; quiet, and until recently very reliable. As a media server it is a real aggravation.

    Setting up the wireless media network was very hit and miss. Although in fairness I eventually tracked the problem to a Linksys router. Replacing it with a Belkin, and resetting the wireless access point all seems to be well.

    The reliability took a nosedive just after I installed Microsoft XP Pro upgrade; some upgrade!! I kept getting IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL errors pointing to AFD.SYS. Now AFD.SYS is associated with TC/IP and so I ventured to investigate all aspects of the computers internet communication but to avail. To cut a long story short, I re-installed windows, but only appeared to make matters worse. The next time I got the fateful blue screen of death I send the error report to Microsoft. An automated response pointed to the nVidia graphics drivers. I uninstalled the old ones before proceeding with installing the new ones. So far (touch wood) all is well.
    I guess it was always too much to hope that a computer as complex as this would run without problems. At least I know why it’s called an entertainment centre!!

    My only gripe really is that the Sonic Stage software doesn’t allow me to configure my MP3 library under Artist/Album, preferring to split albums with various artists across the data base.

    Yes their may be idiosyncrasies which are part of Sony corporations design, but it’s that badge that means so much. There is genuine web support; Sony are a global company unlikely to go out of business unlike so many fly-by-night computer companies I could name; and you can try their products in the shops.

    Overall a thumbs up. I’d buy another Sony for sure.

  • I have been using the Sony for over 5 months and its a great machine.

    Its whisper quite and it looks great.

    Everything runs so fast on it and I have stuck another 1gb of ram in bringing the system to 2gig.

    Dvd drives are a little slow, but the raid HD make up for it.

    Overall a great machine all round.

  • Well, I bought one of these puppies in November. So far:
    The media card slots have stopped working
    The software updates from Sony have taken the DVD/CD rom drivers out of comission
    There’s a weird, undefinable USB error – devices that draw power and rely on the windows mass storage drivers come up as ‘malfunctioned’
    Uninstalling the Sony sonic studio software leads to constant OpenMG install errors when using ‘thumbnail’ browse mode. Oh, open MG is Sony’s proprietary DRM system, by the way. So neither Open nor Magic…
    I’ve had to recover the system drive once
    The raid array failed, so the computer wouldn’t start. At this point I had to wipe and reinstall everything – losing 300gb worth of data. Including 3 years worth of my personal photos.

    I could have been sold a pup – sometimes you do get a machine that’s just flaky. But…

    In any case, the sony software is extremely poor, and driver conflicts in your own proprietary software – well, that’s just careless. Particularly when the support line tells you to ‘uninstall everything and reinstall it one by one until you reproduce the error, then we’ll talk to our engineers’. Hmn, you know, after giving you a list of *every piece of software installed on my system* I’d like it if you spoke to your engineers to find out any known conflicts first…

    I’ve been a Sony devotee for years – laptops, stereos, tv… but this experience (and the recent rootkit scandal) has seriously dented my faith in the company’s products.

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