To liken the Sony Vaio TP2 to an robot vacuum cleaner or biscuit tin is a bit cruel. This is designer computing for the living room. But despite the glossy black finish and halo of LED light, we’d be lying if we said those weren’t our first impressions.
Sony calls the TP2 a ‘Home Entertainment Centre’, and it’s certainly comprehensive. With one of these HDMI-equipped hat boxes under your TV, there’s not a lot else you need. On board is a desktop Intel processor, healthy 500GB hard-drive, digital tuner and Blu-ray drive. There’s not a lot missing from the spec sheet.
This feature set immediately puts it ahead of one of our favourite media centres, the Wii-shaped Asus Nova P20. The CPU is a healthy Penryn model running at 2.1GHz and, while we like the Nova’s petite dimensions, the TP2’s undisturbed lines will sit well alongside, say, a PlayStation 3. Although it’s unlikely you’d need two Blu-ray equipped machines just yet.
Like the Nova, the Vaio inevitably runs Vista and is equally frustrating in its Microsoft-related quirks. There is a healthy software suite that comes pre-installed, though, including Sony’s own media tools and Photoshop Elements.
The supplied remote is standard fare for a media centre and very usable, and while the drab wireless keyboard looks as though it’s been torn from a equally drab laptop, it is very practical, since it has a large, friendly trackpad beneath the space bar.
Paying a premium
There are just two things that stand against the TP2, and it’s not that the biscuit tin shape makes us feel hungry. The first is the price: £900 seems reasonable at first, but is actually a £400 premium when compared to the Mac Mini or Nova. That’s a lot for Blu-ray and Sony build quality, although the large hard drive is good.
The second problem is the noise. While the TP2 is certainly quieter than a lot of desktops, it’s not quite silent enough for our tastes. Having all that computing power under the lid is a fine achievement, but first and foremost a media centre needs to be inaudible in action.
With every feature box ticked the TP2 is definitely one to consider for your lounge. But it’s not quite the last word in entertainment we were hoping for.