Sony gives the Vaio a cool new look

Unveiling its first new personal computer of 2002, Sony has taken the wraps off a cool new design for its Vaio desktop computer.

The Vaio W series is built around a 15.3-inch widescreen TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) with 1,280 by 768 pixel resolution. The guts of the computer are built into a box behind the monitor, which keeps the unit looking thin. The keyboard is integrated into the package and folds down from in front of the monitor, a position it can be kept in when not in use.

The machine has a 1.2GHz Intel Corp. Celeron processor with 256M bytes of memory, a 40G-byte hard disk drive, a CD-RW/DVD-ROM optical drive, built-in Ethernet adapter, TV tuner and a slot for Sony's MemoryStick memory cards.

On the software side, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Home Edition operating system and Sony's GigaPocket LE are bundled with the machine. The Sony application allows the computer to be used as a digital video recorder, storing up to 18 hours of television in MPEG2 format at a 3M-bps data rate and 352 by 240 pixel resolution. The company's MovieShaker video editing software, DVGate software for working with DV format camcorders and three original packages for working and manipulating digital still images are also included.

Desktop personal computers that pack a flat panel display and the computer into a single case have been becoming more and more popular in recent years as LCD panel prices fall to make the machines more affordable. For consumers, the main attraction of the machines, beyond their good looks, is a reduction of the cable-spaghetti usually found behind more desktop computers and a more desk space because of their small footprints.

The Vaio W101 will go on sale in Japan on Feb. 2 at a price of around 160,000 yen (US$1,200). The company said it has no plans to sell the device overseas.

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