Sony has done the maths here (or the “math” if you happen to be American – and who can blame you for that? Alu-min-ium): media PCs should be stylish, fast and wireless.
So just like the RZ504, the RA304 (I don’t know how you evolve from “RZ” to “RA” or 504 to 304, but I’m not the Satan worshipping Sony product brander who comes up with all these sexy codes) is a high end, high featured, high priced media centre.
At its beating heart is a 3.6GHz P4, along with 500GB of hard drive space (via two RAID arranged 250GB, SATA 7,200rpm HDDs), 1GB DDR-400 RAM and yet only an nVidia 6600 graphics card (albeit one with 256MB RAM) and a dual layer DVD rewriter.
Being a media centre PC (or Home Server as Sony likes to call it) these details are really just the beginnings of the system. What makes it truly media centric are the bolt on accessories: a Network Media Receiver which lets users stream AV content, TV Tuner, remote control, built in wireless and more inputs and outputs than you can shake a large stick at (think caber sized stick).
You want to know them all? OK – you asked for it (technophobes look away now): 1 x VGA, 1 x DVI-Digital, 1 x S-video output, 2 x PS/2, 7 x USB2.0, 1 x parallel, 1 x SPDIF, 1 x audio line-in, 1 x headphone output, 1 x microphone input. 1x S-video input, 1 x TV antenna input, 1 x FireWire (6 PIN), 1 x FireWire (4 PIN), 1 x Ethernet 10/1000, 1 x RJ-45, 1 x RJ-11, 1 x composite video input (RCA), 1 x component video output (RCA) and card reader (Memory Stick, CompactFlash, SD and xD Picture Card).
So this is where most of you will have skipped to (wise choice). At this point I have a couple of caveats. There’s no monitor (yeah, I hate it when manufacturers include one in the photo too) and – like the RZ504 – there is some doubt whether the Media Receiver can yet stream DVDs and DivX. Well check this out for you and report back in.
As you would expect the RA304 doesn’t come cheaply (nothing from Sony ever does) and you’ll have to shell out £1,699 smackers including that pesky VAT if you want to make everything else you own look ugly. The decision, as they say, is over to you.
The RA304 can indeed stream a DVD, mpeg or CD, which is a very pleasant surprise :)