Even once I’d hooked it all up I ran into problems. I could get the Receiver to see the PC over a wired connection but not wireless. As it turned out, the reason was because I had altered the default setting for content from streaming Standard MPEG2 to High Quality MPEG2. When you do this the software states that there could be a problem with streaming smoothly but it doesn’t tell you that by setting it to high quality makes connection over wireless impossible.
The fundamental problem is that the Network Media Receiver can only understand an MPEG2 stream. It converted some simple low bit-rate AVIs but I had no luck with DivX or Xvid files. If you’re content just to stream video content you’ve recorded from the TV tuner or MP3’s you’ll be fine, but otherwise but if you wish to stream DivX files downloaded from the Internet or more legally those encoded yourself then the Network Receiver won’t be much use to you. In addition the interface isn’t too hot. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is being touted for its ability to act as a MCE 2005 extender with the same rich interface of an MCE 2005 system. On the Sony Network Media Receiver, the interface is pretty dull and basic while the remote control proved to be slow and unresponsive.
Overall then, the Sony Vaio VGC-RA304 is complex to set-up and frustratingly limited in scope. With the home media center concept, Sony certainly has the right idea but the execution needs to be better for it to really work. The PC looks fantastic and is nicely designed, but it’s not enough to make the RA304 an attractive solution, especially at the asking price.