And for our own assessment purposes here, it's also interesting to see what digital studio-specific features are built into the PC itself, how it represents the vision of the manufacturer in defining what a desktop digital studio is.
Sony's Digital Studio line, a subset of its VAIO family of desktop and laptop PCs, seems like a suitable place to start, and not just because of its name. For the rest of 2003, the RX790—top of the Digital Studio VAIO line—will serve as our in-house testbed machine. We'll use it in multiple reviews in each issue, as well as in other testing projects demanding top PC performance.
Our RX790, a 2.4gHz Pentium IV running Windows XP Home Edition, features a pre-partitioned 120GB hard drive, 512GB RAM, and factory-installed DVD-R (Pioneer A04) and DVD-ROM (16X LiteOn) drives, as well as a Memory Stick slot (standard-issue on all Sony systems). In keeping with Sony's emphasis on IEEE 1394 technology (commonly known as FireWire; Sony calls it i.Link), the RX790 includes two i.Link ports, a 4-pin and a 6-pin. The PC also features two USB ports, one for USB 1.1 and the other USB 2.
With our unit we also received a Sony SDM-X72 17-inch LCD-TFT display with 1280x1024 XGA resolution—a basic necessity of studio-level video work.
The RX790 also ships with a variety of basic digital content capture and production tools, including DigitalPrint, an image import and management tool; Dvgate, a video capture and clip-editing tool; MovieShaker, a personal movie creation application; and SmartCapture, an i.Link management utility that also includes video compression features.
In initial testing with the VAIO, it proved a marked improvement over our previous system, a 1.5gHz Dell with 256MB RAM. Video editing and DVD authoring tools ran remarkably fast and smoothly, DV-to-MPEG-2 rendering speeds increased threefold, and succeeded as background operations without the slowdowns or crashes experienced on the slower system.
Though not a complete digital studio in and of itself, the VAIO RX790 makes a rock-solid foundation for building one.