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Sony VAIO VGX-XL2 Digital Living System GOOD or BAD?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I will be starting construction of a HT in the spring and am currently starting to purchase components for this project. I have a completely empty basement and format to start with, and the idea I have is to build the HT with a PC room on the back that will have a huge window facing the HT for the big screen gaming when the oppurtunity arises. I was thinking of building my own HTPC from scratch as I love builing PC's and currently have a 5 PC's in the house all networked together for gaming with my kids and friends and a HTPC would just compliment the whole system keeping it all networked and user friendly. I have currently ran across a system that really caught my eye and have been licking my chops looking at it ever since. But I was hoping someone out there might have it already or have seen/used it and could give me some good user side of the fence advice on it. It is called ---->

Sony® VAIO® VGX-XL2 Digital Living System VGX-XL2

Is this a sufficient enough system for a HTPC?
Is the vid card good enough in your thoughts for a HTPC?
What are your overall thoughts or ideas of this system?

Obviously I would upgrade the ram to 2GB, but it is the vid card that currently worries me. I would like to see a much better vid card in this system but I do not know if it is that easy to upgrade as the back of the PC looks to be pretty specific with the connections, is 128mb really enough???

I have a SONY 403DVD camcorder and record alot of home movies and this system caught my eye for the changer and the usability. It would make compiling and burning home movies a breeze and would also be nice for cataloging all the movies in one spot never having to touch them again

So does anyone have any thoughts on this system - would you or wouldn't you drop the coin on this?
post #2 of 20
I work for sony and personally own the media changer but have it connected to a custom built mce htpc. The VGX-XL2 and the 6600gt vid card it comes with are more than powerful enough for a good htpc. The only thing that bothers me is the price. $2000 is too much for this. You can build one with better specs for under $1500. But name brand and aesthetics are more important than some people than others.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yes, I am definitley in agreement that $2000 is way to steep for a HTPC system and that building one yourself is much cheaper and alot more fun and gratifying.

Just curious as to how the changer works though. In your opion - is it well worth the money? How well is it built, will it last a long time (as long as it is taken care of and not abused)? What do you use the changer for - Burning dvd's , cd's or just storage or regular dvd movies? How many of these can be daisy chained together? What kind of software comes with it and is it easy and user friendly?

I currently have about 400 regular DVD movies and think that this would be a great option to get them away from the handling side of the fence and sticky fingers. It would be really nice to just be able to go into a program and pick what you want and it plays.

Is there any other type of CD/DVD changers like this out there that can be hooked up to a HTPC and how in your opion do they rank against the sony one??
post #4 of 20
Originally Posted by coolstorm92 View Post

I work for sony and personally own the media changer but have it connected to a custom built mce htpc. The VGX-XL2 and the 6600gt vid card it comes with are more than powerful enough for a good htpc. The only thing that bothers me is the price. $2000 is too much for this. You can build one with better specs for under $1500. But name brand and aesthetics are more important than some people than others.

I'm interested in a Dual Tuner Card for this system. Anyone know a) What card would be good b) If this system can be upgraded?
post #5 of 20
If it's the same case design as the XL1 (and I would assume it is) then yes it can be upgraded. There is a single PCI slot available so you could add an additional tuner to the system.

If you are looking for an analog tuner I'd recommend the Nvidia dual Tuner with one caveat, last I checked it was still up in the air if it would work with Vista.
post #6 of 20

I wouldn't get this system because of a non-standard motherboard. I would be planning ahead for Windows Vista (not MCE 2005), and configuring a Core2Duo system.

Pentium D 920 & Nvidia 6600GT? That's an older platform, and you might regret getting this Vaio system 6 months to a year down the road.

- Steve O.
post #7 of 20
Just an FYI... if you buy the system now you qualify for the (almost) free upgrade to windows Vista from Sony. It's plenty fast enough to run Vista and it will do a very good job with DVD's, SDTV and OTA HDTV but there are some things coming out with Vista that may be worth waiting for.

The biggest is Cablecard... if you want to be able to natively tune and record digital cable on a machine you may want to wait and get a machine with a cablecard tuner. Hopefully these will be here in a month. This is not something you will be able to upgrade this machine too after the fact.

Another one is Blueray/HD-DVD (not specifically tied to Vista), while you could get an Xbox HD DVD drive now and add it on it may be better to wait a while and see what happens to that market. The 6600GT is actually a pretty good choice for a video card for an HTPC with very good support for SD and HD playback, the one exception to this is for playback of high bitrate HD-DVD and Blueray content. This system may not be up to the task.

Also, the Pentium D isn't my first choice for a compact form factor PC like this. Sony has done a really good job on the design of this case by pulling the heat from the CPU directly out of the case, but if you put this machine in an enclosed/semi-enclosed AV cabinet I think the machine is going to have a short, hot life.
post #8 of 20
One thing I willl mention. A custom HTPC like the XL2 has some custom driver software in it. You are wholly dependant upon the vendor - Sony in this case - to support and update these drivers. Sony is on the opposite side of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) issues than most HTPC users, who tend to favor consumer rights.

Just so you know, the AACS and 5C systems (used for copy protection on HD disks and HD broadcasts respectively) were created by Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Matsushita (Panasonic), Warner Brothers, IBM, Toshiba, and Sony.

Therefore you will NOT get any help or support from Sony if it is your intent to use the XL2 as a Media Center to rip CDs, DVDs, and HD-DVDs or Blu-Ray disk media to a hard drive. In fact you may reliably assume the machine has been configured to prevent such usage by some clever people.

If your intended usage includes any of the above (perfectly legal HTPC uses under the "Fair Usage" doctrine for media you own), you would be better off with a generic HTPC.

post #9 of 20
There are some other threads around that explain and have work arounds for the DVD archiving issues.. The unit is using custom drivers but you can apply the standard packaged Nvidia drive updates.. I believe the limit is within the firmware of the card or limited by install package itself.

The limits as I understand them are:

Limit of 720p over component (1080i over HDMI ONLY)
Seems some of the options under the display driver are not available

I've read somewhere there is an app that can be used to decode the protected DVD on the fly resolving the component issue.. I'm running HDMI so I don't have the issue...


I have an issue still with the standby.. goes into standby sometimes and seems if the tv is off for a while the display does not return when it comes out of standby and I have to reboot and do a last know return to the OS.. I guess it gets confused detecting the TV (since it's a sony and is id in the display config) and try's to reconfig the display setting automatically).

Besides that.. I love the unit and the changers, the movie's look good but not as good as my kenwood 400+ changer.

I'm not to worries about the driver updates yet.. I kept hearing that you couldn't use the Nvidia drivers but it tried them and they install and work, I'm not sure all of the functionality is there but stnd tv looks good and HDTV looks great recordered..

Good luck...
post #10 of 20
I just picked up the xl2 from Amazon and I am pretty satisfied with it. I am not that knowledgeable about home theaters and computers, so my thoughts are as a general consumer (newbie). The aesthetic are wonderful, it compliments my PS3 and HBH-GV435 perfectly. It has a solid build and both units are on the heavy side. I wish that I could have customized it (I believe that when it debued on the Sony site you could pick processors and upgrade the ram?) I did upgrade the ram myself and may add another hd in the near future. I had bought a 30gb Ultra ATA/133 months ago and realize that this uses SATA, so I will either try a converter or use it as an external hd.
It runs almost silently except for the changer of course. In fact it is quieter than my PS3. I wasn't that concerned with HD-DVD or Blu-Ray because I have a PS3 and should be able to use a add on like the 360 HD-DVD unit if needed. My only concern is the graphic cards. Will that card be powerful enough to handle Vista, and if not can I upgrade it?
I can't comment on HDMI and picture quality because I haven't purchased a HDTV yet.
Due to my lack of computer knowledge and my wife's concerns of aesthetic, the xl2 was a perfect fit for my lifestyle. I just wish I had caught the TigerDirect deal for $999 on Dec 9th. I was waiting for a low price,and doing google searches everyday. Right after mine was shipped I noticed that they had it on sale for one day. Oh well you can't win them all.
post #11 of 20
That video card is way plenty for Vista.

Even Intel's last two generations of integrated graphics cards are enough for Vista's Areo interface (widely regarded as very entry level graphics chips).

The 6600GT is a solid mid-range video card and a very good choice for good SD and HD video quality especially when paired with the Nvidia purevideo decoder.
post #12 of 20
The VGX-XL2 is impressive for looks, but completely unimpressive as an MCE system
Its closed, proprietary, and obsolete, now that Vista is out. Older smithfield (Pentium-D) proc, proprietary 6600GT card (that will not take standard Vista drivers). Likewise on the audio.

And..the killer is, even when Vista drivers become available (sometime in late 1Q according to Sony) there will STILL be no cablecard support. Therefore its a non-starter.
post #13 of 20
Well, I don't agree with the prior assessment.

Yes it's got proprietary components but it was the first mass-market machine with an HDMI port on it (actually the XL1 was) and the 6600GT is a very good card for Video, both SD and HD so unless you are a high end gamer there's not much reason to upgrade. It has plenty of expandability for RAM and HD space and has very good cooling.

ANY media center system made to date will not be compatible with cablecard except for some REALLY high priced Niveus systems. So as media center systems go it's no worse than any other system you buy right now.
post #14 of 20
Anybody know if its possible to upgrade the graphics card? From the pictures on Newegg it looksl like a regular PCI-E card. Anybody have some internal images?
post #15 of 20
I have owned an XL1 for about a year and have since upgraded it to Vista Ultimate Edition, 2gb Ram and an ATI X1600 HDMI card. I also added an external USB HD tuner (GT) to it.

I usually build my PC's and this is the first off the shelf product I have purchased. I liked it because of the way it looks and the DVD changer. Spent way over what an awsome HTPC would have cost but I am happy with the end result.

Just a note, with the ATI video card, the power supply is at it's limit. I tried adding an additional drive and the graphics card started to display a faded picture. Also could never get RAID 5 to work, it was always having to rebuild the third drive. Tried external power, nine different drives, etc.
post #16 of 20
did you have to upgrade the video card to get aero working?
post #17 of 20
Well..as an update, now that Sony finally came out with all needed drivers...
Vista MC works pretty well. Video is a bit laggy, due to problems with Nvidia video drivers, but otherwise, it works pretty well, with full Aero support. Upgrading to 2GB is MANDATORY for sure..and a CPU upgrade would help as well.
post #18 of 20
Does anyone know if the Sony VAIO VGX-XL2 will display 1920X1080p resolution on a 1080p monitor?
post #19 of 20
Did you really have to spam this over 14 separate threads? Sheeeezzzz.
post #20 of 20
are these things really a socket 775 Pentium D CPU? Isn't it time to retire these things?
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