So it’s all very competent inside the case. Outside Sony keeps things suitably stylish with a wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is particularly interesting. It features a folding wrist rest that also contains a laptop style touchpad complete with mouse buttons, so you can move the mouse pointer round the screen from a distance. This can be turned off if desired with a switch located underneath the pad. The wrist rest can also be used to cover over the keyboard for neat storage and you can still use the touch pad at the same time. Finally, there’s a button for placing the machine into standby, going totally silent when it does so. The same button also speedily wakes the machine up. The typing action felt a little strange at first, with a hard feel and not enough travel in the keys. Also, occasionally, the keys wouldn’t respond for a few seconds even though the battery indicator was at full. The mouse is rather an odd shape, but echoes that unique Sony design philosophy. It’s comfortable enough though.
In typical Sony fashion the system is swamped with free software. Microsoft Works is included, but not Office, but there are several quality Adobe photo applications. Norton Security Centre is installed, which includes both Firewall and Anti-Virus appplications. Personally I find the former to be irritatingly intrusive.
There’s also a plethora of Sony Vaio software installed and this can all be updated by going to a Vaio update web site – like a little Sony version of Microsoft’s Web Update. It‘s a reassuring feature, though some of the updates were almost 100MB is size and others once downloaded have to be installed manually.
The most important application though is Vaio Zone, which is essentially the Sony version of Microsoft’s Media Center interface. It looks very Sony and to be honest, based on my experience with Sony’s SonicStage I was expecting it to be god-awful. In facts, it’s rather good. It has an easy to use interface that’s controllable via the well constructed remote control with smooth transitions accompanied by sounds that match the side you’re navigating too. Music, video and pictures are all handled consummately and it was a genuine pleasure to use.
Aside from the unique look of the system, the PCWA-A320 (catchy, huh) wireless access point and the VGP-MR100E (again catchy), Network Media Receiver are the unique features of the system. When I first unboxed the system I was a bit taken aback all the various bits and how they all should connect up and I’m used to such things. For the style conscious, but non-technical consumer I envision going for this machine, I would imagine it would all get left in the box until they got someone to set it up for them.