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Sony VAIO AR190G: The Blu-ray Laptop
Sony’s New Laptop Takes the HD Format War Portable

By Daniel Canale-Parola

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Unless you live under a rock, or are a hardcore luddite, you are already well-aware that there’s a format war going on between Toshiba-backed HD-DVD and Sony’s Blu-ray disc technology. A new battlefront has opened in that conflict as Sony is following on the heels of the just released Toshiba Qosmio G36-AV650G, which features an HD-DVD drive, with the VAIO AR190G; the first laptop to feature a Blu-ray disc DVD drive.

Both machines have HDMI outputs which means they’ll happily double as high-definition DVD players for your HDMI equipped HDTV. You can also choose to view high-def movies right on both units’ stunning 17” WUXGA (1,920 x 1,200) screens; just remember to bring a power cord as neither machine claims impressive battery life – “up to 2.5 hours” for the Toshiba, and only 1.5-2 hours for the Sony. Early adopters who have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of high-def laptops (if such a beast exists) will have to decide which unit best meets their needs.

Business users or consumer videophiles looking for both a new laptop AND a way to sneak a high definition DVD player past a reluctant partner might be content with the slightly less expensive Toshiba Qosmio G36-AV650G (it retails for $2,999 or $500 less than the Sony). HD-DVD movies are available right now and the total title count is likely to top 200 before the end of the year – as of this writing Blu-ray titles are still in pre-order status. The Toshiba (like the Sony) ships with Windows Media Player allowing it to function as a TiVO-like time-shifting DVR as well as a high def DVD player.

When it comes to professional use, however, Sony’s new entry, the VAIO AR190G, has the clear edge over the Toshiba as it both reads from and writes to high definition Blu-ray discs (soon to hold up to 50 gigs per disc – that’s A LOT of photos, audio or video per disc). The HD-DVD drive in Toshiba’s machine, by contrast, is read-only. The Sony read/write capabilities mean you can, for example, capture video from an HDV camcorder, edit it to your hearts content and burn it to a Blu-ray disc without compression ever entering the picture. Any professional application involving large files will benefit from having a terabyte’s worth of data storage only 20 DVDs away.

The Sony also comes with a decent group of pre-installed software (some highlights: Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 4.0, Adobe® Premiere Elements 2.0, Roxio® DigitalMedia SE, SonicStage Mastering Studio - Audio Mastering and DVgate Plus - Digital Video).
Buyers of either unit are taking a bit of a gamble when it comes to high-definition movie watching. While both formats will be around for the foreseeable future, one will eventually begin to dominate the consumer video market. When that happens, some studios will probably drop their dual format support and exclusively support the leading technology. Of course, by that time, it’ll probably be time to upgrade notebooks again.

The Sony VG VAIO AR190G

The Toshiba Qosmio G36-AV650G

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