Vaio VGC-LV1S VS 24″ iMac

I’ll always be a PC user at heart, despite my almost total migration to Macs, that’s why the temptation of the Vaio LV has kicked in and usurped my plans to wall mount a 24″ iMac in the bedroom in lieu of a SlingCatcher and 26 or 32″ LCD television.

My trip to the Microsoft Christmas Showcase has brought Vista, it’s superb Media Center and Vaio computers to the front of my mind. Microsoft were busy pushing their Media Center imbued Vista, demonstrating it on the delightful, round and quirky little Vaio HTPCs which are cute, but don’t quite cut it for me.

The Vaio VGC-LV1S, on the other hand, is a different story. It has a bigger brother in the form of the Vaio RT series, but it’s far too chunky, ugly and lacking in crucial features that the LV series boasts for my liking.

The trouble with Macs is that Apple make good laptops, and good absurdly-high-end-desktop-computers but the iMac and Mac mini, whilst beautiful OSX machines, are incredibly compromised and either difficult or impossible to upgrade.

As is typical of the PC vs Mac battle the Vaio LV series is packed with far more features than I could ever hope for in a November revision of the iMac, if there even is one, with the most notable being the HDMI input. Yes you read that correctly: HDMI input. The Vaio VCG-LV1S has an HDMI input which can be used to connect a PS3 or (I presume) an Xbox 360 or other HDMI endowed device to the Vaios gorgeous 1920×1200 24″ screen. Obviously, unless your sitting at desktop distances from only 24 inches of screen an HDMI input allowing such a high resolution is largely overkill but the thought of expandability is too much to resist.

Coming up second place, or perhaps a tied first, in the list of killer features is a Blu-Ray drive. Sony are pushing Blu-Ray into all of their products but Apple have gone down on record as calling it a “Bag of hurt” in response to their dislike of the complicated licensing issues. I own a PS3 and, therefore, a handful of Blu-Ray disks that I would very much like to be able to play in the bedroom without lugging the aforementioned console upstairs or purchasing a second one (Believe me, if the PS3 ran SlingPlayer I would have a second one in my bedroom yesterday). The presence of a Blu-Ray drive, slot loading no less, is therefore a huge plus over the iMac.

On the down side the Vaio VCG-LV1S runs the operating system abortion that is Vista. Vista has a couple of things going for it, however, the most important of which is a streamlined and efficient Media Center that blows away that in Windows XP. With two Xbox 360s just begging for this shiny new Media Center experience to be streamed to them how can I avoid such temptation?

As much as I love OSX, I can’t help but think that embracing and benefiting from both Vista and Leopard is the way to go.

In the Vaios favour, again, is a bevy of media card slots, a much-more-standard HDMI output, 5 USB ports, a decent Media Center remote control, a keyboard with a touch-pad AND a mouse, albeit a rather ugly one.

Only time will tell what a possible November refresh of the iMac will hold in store for Apples desktop all-in-one beauty, but unless they’re packing a serious processor upgrade, 1TB of hard disk space as standard, 4gb of RAM and a 9000 series graphics card then the Vaio VGC-LV1S is looking like a clear winner. Oh and a Blu-Ray drive… come on Apple, you pioneer standards that nobody wants or needs until 5 years from now so why not do the same with Blu-Ray? PC games are going to have to start being distributed on a larger disk format soon, and consumer internet access speeds will never keep up with the growing size and definition of multimedia content.

Some other benefits of the Vaio VGC-LV1S over the iMac:

  • 4GB of RAM as standard. Although the 32bit Vista installed will not actually use this… d’oh!
  • 100mm Vesa mountable as standard.
  • Empty hard-drive bay for an additional 3.5″ SATA disk. Lovely! That’ll have us up to 1TB in a jiffy!
  • Integrated DVB-T/Analogue Hybrid Tuner
  • HDMI input! HDMI input! I’ll say it one more time: HDMI input! In some respects this is a hilarious feature that may result in me using Windows Media Center on an Xbox 360 that’s hooked up to the Vaio display and streaming media from the computer built into that display… redundant… yup! The other benefit of this is XNA. Yes, I’ve been known to tinker with the development kit for the Xbox 360 from time to time and having the Vaio VGC-LV1S alongside an Xbox 360 as a development studio would be slightly ironic and very convenient… or at least it would be if I didn’t have to switch back to the computer for debugging, d’oh. If only the HDMI input did picture-in-picture.
  • 3/4 ExpressCard slot… somewhat random. For one it should be the bigger flavour of ExpressCard with all that bezel real-estate to gobble up, and two… what on earth is anyone going to use it for!? Oh well, can’t complain!

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