San Diego (CA) - Following up on Toshiba’s announcement just last week of its upcoming Qosmio notebook computer, which will display 1080i content on its high-resolution display, Sony today set the release date for its upcoming, much-anticipated VAIO AR Premium notebook with built-in Blu-ray player. Although a Sony press release today projects its release for "this summer," Reuters reports this morning that it has pinned the company down to June.
Sony’s VAIO AR Premium with built-in Blu-ray burner. (Courtesy Sony Electronics)
The date is important, because June is when Sony has stipulated time and time again that the final HDMI 1.3 specification is due for release that same month. Computers and electronics equipment that include HDMI connectors - such as the Qosmio - may or may not conform to the HDMI specification, though Sony has made it clear it intends to follow the final specification (to which it is a major contributor), even if it has to wait. The advantage for consumers, Sony may be hoping, is that they won’t be enticed into too early an adoption, only to find themselves returning their equipment to retailers for a firmware upgrade.
Like its PlayStation 3, whose pricing scheme Sony formally announced last Monday, the VAIO AR will have two tiers, and it’s the Premium that will attract the most attention with its built-in Blu-ray burner. Its price tag of "about $3,500" (read : $3,499) may keep those already raised eyebrows fused in place for quite some time. For that price, however, the AR Premium’s features list is astonishing : It promises a 17" WUXGA display at 1900 x 1200 resolution, capable of displaying 1080p images from Blu-ray Disc. (The first HD DVD discs, and Toshiba’s Qosmio, will display only 1080i.) Nvidia’s GeForce Go 7600 will be on board, with 256 MB of graphics memory. It will feature Intel’s Centrino Duo technology, which includes the new Core Duo processor (speed and voltage not yet specified).
And although Sony hasn’t gone into much detail on this feature yet, both the AR (with standard resolution playback, DVD drive, and $1,800 price tag) and AR Premium will include not only built-in camera and microphone, but a standard-resolution NTSC digital recording system with TV input - essentially the equivalent of a mobile TiVo. Whether a TV scheduling service such as TiVo provides will be included, Sony hasn’t said, but we already know that Sony is building up its online services portfolio (with an unnamed content service for PS3 forthcoming), so it’s not out of the question.
Media aficionados will be impressed with VAIO AR’s wide support of DVD formats - which Sony may have had to include to keep up with Toshiba. In addition to burning the full dual-layer BD-R and BD-RE (rewritable) discs with 50 GB capacity, this morning, Sony also reported AR and AR Premium will support both the "dash" and "plus" versions of recordable DVD : specifically, DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. If Sony’s using the drive we think they’re using, it should also support all recordable CD formats as well, including perhaps a few that haven’t actually caught on in North America.
With Windows Media Center Edition 2005 pre-installed, it can be presumed both VAIO ARs will come with a remote control, although one has yet to be mentioned or pictured.