Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sony Takes Aim at the iMac


Sony has announced pricing and specs for their new Vaio JS desktop PC which looks strangely familiar. Wired's gadget lab has a handy chart comparing the iMac to the JS (although the Sony is actually only $1,449):

Sony has announced the pricing for its iMac-a-like Vaio JS desktops, and they hit Apple's all-in-ones dead on. There are two models, one at $1100 and one at $1500, both featuring 20.1" screens. The easiest way to see how things stack up is to check our chart, below.

Wired continues:

Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be any kind of external video connector -- at least it is not listed on Sony's site. We know this is usually used for video and photo editing, but it would be nice to have the option to connect a projector. About those graphics. The Vaio JS uses the GMA 950 chipset, Intel's built-in graphics chip which shares the main RAM, instead of using a dedicated video card. Again, this fits -- it's not a gaming rig or an editing station, and the stock RAM of 4GB means that you're not going to run short of memory.

Sony has of course added a proprietary slot, this time for the Memory Stick Pro, alongside an SD card reader. These will be useful for quick viewing and transfer of photos, and although the bundled software list doesn't include a photo application, there are plenty of video streaming and authoring packages.

It's a solid attempt at a living room machine, with the usual weird omissions Sony loves: One is the lack of Bluetooth on the lower end machine, which means no Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for easy, sofa-bound control. In fact, we'd expect this machine to actually ship with a cordless mouse and keyboard instead of the wired versions it actually comes with. Neither is there a remote control, which the iMac does have.

Otherwise, though, the price cutting has been done in all the right places, and the Vaio JS looks great -- very important if you are going to move it from the study to the living room.

BoyGenius likes it. I'm somewhat less enamored. The lack of a video output seems particularly strange to me. Maybe Sony doesn't want this unit affecting their Blu-Ray DVD player sales? I dunno, but not being able to hook this up to my new monitor would almost certainly be a deal-breaker for me relative to the iMac (which does have video output).

Readers of this blog know I love the design of the iMac. Sony is obviously copying many elements of the iMac -- right down to the flat metallic keyboard. While the style looks nice and the specs are impressive, I don't think the design is quite as nice as Apple's. Combine that with Windows Vista, Sony's strange design decisions, and my own nightmare dealing with Sony tech support and I'd take the $1,500 iMac over this any day. At the $1,100 price point however, if I didn't have an external monitor, I might edge towards Sony and just buy a USB Bluetooth adapter to go with it. You'd still spend less than on the $1,200 iMac.

Keep in mind that putting the numbers head to head like they are listed above doens't tell the full picture. What's far more important than which computer has 2 GB vs. 4 GB of RAM is how well OS X runs on 2 GB vs. how well Vista runs on 4 GB. Same goes for processor speed.

Going from Sony's cheaper model to the more expensive looks like it buys you three things. For $349 you get:

  1. Blu-Ray DVD (read only),
  2. Bluetooth, and
  3. A 3.0 GHz processor vs. a 2.5 GHz.

If were comparing these two and already had a nice TV, I'd rather get a dedicated Blu-Ray DVD player for my TV, the cheaper Sony computer, and a USB Bluetooth adapter. For the same price, I might even have enough money left over to also buy a wireless keyboard and mouse and doubt I'd notice the difference in processor speed.

While I personally won't go out to buy one of these soon, I do like to see another manufacturer starting to put great design elements into their PC and try going head-to-head with Apple. Hopefully this will nudge Jobs towards putting Blue-Ray into some Macs, beef-up their specs a bit, and/or get more competitive on pricing. I think once either company comes out with a similar computer for under $1,000, they will hit a sweet spot with many consumers. If they wait too long, companies like Averatec might convince consumers they can make do just fine with much less processing power than what Sony and Apple are trying to sell.

P.S. -- Looks like Sony is also coming out with a 25.5-inch all-in-one PC... for only $3,999!

1 comment:

thinking said...

It does look great, but the problem is that it's a Windows device.

At this point there is no contest between the Mac OS X and any flavor of Windows.

The specs don't tell the whole story. The big deal is that a Mac will outperform a PC any day of the week now.