updated 01:10 pm EDT, Mon September 24, 2007
Sony VAIO AR600
Without an official announcement, Sony today launched its AR600 series desktop replacement notebooks. The new 17-inch system improves performance while also improving the AR's usefulness as a complete TV replacement. A new version now ships with a CableCARD tuner, giving users the option of tuning into encrypted cable HDTV shows. All models also provide the room to record this content: dual 160GB hard drives provide room for hours of HD video without impacting regular computer use. Standard GeForce 8M-series video further helps the new VAIO decode HD video almost entirely in hardware rather than software that taxes the CPU and affects battery life.
The new series also lowers the barrier for entry into Blu-Ray playback, Sony notes. A stock AR630 ships for $1,700 with a BD/DVD-RW combo drive that can read the next-generation format but also writes to DVDs and CDs; it also carries a 2GHz Core 2 Duo, a GeForce 8400M GT for graphics, and a 1440x900 display. The AR660 swaps Blu-Ray for the CableCARD tuner but adds a faster 2.2GHz processor and Windows Vista Ultimate for a total of $2,400. A top model, the AR690, includes a full Blu-Ray burner, the CableCARD tuner, a faster GeForce 8600M GT graphics chip, and a sharper 1920x1200 screen for $3,300. Sony estimates shipping the notebooks by early October.