Sony VAIO VGN-AR49G Notebook PC - First Look

Sony VAIO VGN-AR49G Notebook PC - First Look

Core 2 Duo T7500 Processor 2.2GHz, 2GB RAM

The Sony VAIO AR series (which started with the VAIO VGN-AR18GP) is the Japanese maker's flagship multimedia product and the first series to include the next-generation Blu-ray drive. Coming from a premium brand, we were not surprised that this model does not come cheap, priced at almost S$7,000 (US$4,605.22). Its close rival, the HD-DVD-equipped Toshiba Qosmio G40, is almost S$2,000 (US$1,315.96) less. If you really must have a Blu-ray drive but don't have the budget for an AR notebook, then the cheaper FZ series with a Blu-ray option is a possible alternative (which was recently countered by Toshiba's Satellite A200 laptop).


Typical of Sony notebooks which put a premium on style, the VAIO VGN-AR49G is no slouch in the looks department. With its heft this VAIO is certainly not one for the road. Nonetheless it looks classy in the study or living room with its piano-black glossy finish. The key selling point of this laptop, however, is really its entertainment features and next-generation Blu-ray drive.

With HD content becoming more prevalent and the penetration of HD-ready LCD TVs increasing, home entertainment buffs will be glad to know that this VAIO can stream Blu-ray content via its HDMI port to the big screen. Moreover, Sony is also pushing for HD digicam recording at the consumer level and markets the VAIO AR series, with its high-end graphics card, as a suitable machine for HD video editing. Besides movie content, the built-in hybrid TV tuner also allows digital and analog broadcasts to be received. Naturally, it makes no sense to have to go to the machine when it's hooked up to a larger display just to change channels. Hence, a full remote control is included in the package.

When it comes to productivity, this VAIO does not disappoint. In the past, the memory slot in VAIOs was compatible only with its proprietary Memory Stick format. Fortunately, the VGN-AR49G incorporates the more common SD/MMC reader as well. It even goes the extra mile by making the latter SDHC-compatible, which allows 4GB and above SD cards to be read. Other notable features include a built-in Webcam, both ExpressCard and Type II PC card slots as well as a RAID-compatible dual harddisk setup.


Despite being on the Santa Rosa platform, we were a little disappointed that 802.11n compatibility was not included in its Wi-Fi radio. The higher bandwidth of the Draft-N standard would have come in handy with the new range of wireless A/V streamers which are coming into the market. Moreover, the VAIO VGN-AR49G memory maxes out at 2GB despite the fact that most Santa Rosa laptops have a 4GB maximum. With Windows Vista and next-generation games requiring more and more power to run, some users may find the 2GB limit a serious bottleneck to performance. At the same time, despite its strong video performance, it has recently been upstaged by the cheaper Dell XPS M1730 which offers dual graphics cards.

Another issue is that for a premium 17-inch multimedia laptop, it offers only a miserable three USB ports when the norm is five or more. Granted one can use a powered USB hub as a solution, but for S$7,000 (US$4,605.22) we expected a little more connectivity than this. Moreover, despite being an entertainment model, a subwoofer is surprisingly missing especially since this feature is present in some smaller 15.4-inch machines.


The Sony VAIO VGN-AR49G is, without a doubt, a premium multimedia machine with strong graphics performance and a Blu-ray drive. Unfortunately, the high price may drive those with smaller wallets to Toshiba's HD-DVD machines which offer similar functionality (sans Blu-ray).