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Sony VAIO VGC-V3M - Media PC - Sony VAIO VGC-V3M
The limited performance of the graphics chipset means that you won't be playing any recent games, but the rest of the hardware spec is very respectable. Driving the VAIO is an Intel Pentium 4 CPU clocked at 3.2GHz, supported by 512MB of memory. There's plenty of storage on offer with a 250GB hard disk spinning at 7,200rpm. Of course if you want to offload data from the PC you can make use of the integrated DVD writer. This will burn DVD+/-R media at 8x, DVD+/-RW media at 4x and DVD+R DL discs at 2.4x. The optical drive is a notebook model, once again hinting at the notebook basis of the machine.
Being a media PC there's also an integrated TV tuner. The tuner proved to be pretty good quality and even managed to grab a picture in the notoriously bad reception area of the TrustedReviews office. That said, it's a little disappointing that it's only an analogue tuner rather than a digital one.
The VAIO VGC-V3M is stacked full of connectivity options. On the right hand side you'll find a MemoryStick slot, along with a flap hiding the PC Card slot. There's another flap hiding two USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, headphone and mic sockets and the connect button for the wireless keyboard and mouse. You'll also find the DVD writer mounted here.
All the rest of the connection options are on the bottom of the chassis. This is good in as much as it keeps the cables out of the way and the whole chassis looking neat. Unfortunately the cowling covering the rear of the machine makes it very difficult to access the ports. Even plugging the TV aerial in was a chore that involved me laying the whole machine on its back. However, after further investigation I realised that Sony's design ethos had won through once more - I found that the whole rear cowling could slide upwards, making it simple to reach the ports, I just wish I'd discovered this before struggling to insert the aerial cable.
There are two groups of ports on offer at the base of the machine - on the right hand side there's the aerial socket, S-Video in, composite video in, analogue audio in, two USB 2.0 ports, a four pin FireWire port and an Ethernet port. On the left is a line-in port, an optical digital input and a modem socket.
Complementing the main system is a wireless keyboard complete with integrated touchpad. The keyboard does have a rather flat feel to it, much like a notebook. That said, there's a decent amount of travel in the keys and the break is also solid. I managed to achieve a reasonably fast typing rate off the bat, while having the touchpad on hand is pretty handy if you're short on desk space. When not in use the keyboard can be covered over, and when in use, the cover folds in half to create a wrist rest. If you're not happy with using a touchpad, Sony also throws in a wireless optical mouse - it's shaped like an egg and takes a little getting used to, but it's not the worst rodent I've ever used by any means. You can also turn the touchpad off if you're worried about tapping it by mistake.