SAN FRANCISCO (06/23/2000) - Have Blockbuster dreams but saddled with a B-movie budget? Sony Corp.'s new VAIO PCV-J100 can help. Sony aims this US$1130 desktop PC squarely at Apple Computer Inc.'s iMac DV. Both claim to provide easy, inexpensive digital video editing. The VAIO costs $170 less than the iMac, however, and offers beefier components.
I tested a shipping unit that was configured with an Intel Corp. Celeron-600 CPU, 64MB of RAM, a 15GB hard drive, a modem, a network card, and a 4X/8X/32X CD-RW drive (Sony now bundles the unit with a 4X/4X/24X drive). Sony parks the standard beige CD-RW drive behind a spring-loaded panel, rather than making its tray flush with the case--that's high style, but fragile design. The system's 15-inch flat-screen Trinitron monitor displays sharp text and elegant colors.
The VAIO's integrated Intel 810 chip set doesn't supply any graphics card memory; instead, it siphons memory from main system RAM, leaving less available for intensive video applications. Buying an additional 64MB of system RAM may allow some breathing room. Fortunately, one of the PCI cards carries IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire) ports, which let you connect a digital video camera that bypasses the graphics system altogether.
Sony bundles its own video editing software, including a new application, MovieShaker, which lets you combine video footage and sounds and then add transitions and special effects to create a finished movie. MovieShaker doesn't provide many editing options, however, and it can't capture video from a camcorder--for that chore, you must use one of Sony's five bundled applications instead.
Still, the VAIO hardware is a good value for the money. Investing in better video software would give you an even better package.
PRO: Good value for the money, small but sharp monitor.
CON: Five nonintegrated video apps can make work confusing.
VALUE: Brings video editing to the masses.
Street price: $1130