Review: Sony VGX-TP25E Home Theater PC

Ever try to get your PC and home theater to play nice? At best, you’re left with a space-eating setup full of awkward home-brewed hacks. At worst, you’re engulfed in the flames of an electrical fire. Sony’s solution for hot PC-on-HDTV action is the VGX-TP25E; a bigger, blacker rehash of its TP20 home theater PC.

First, the good news. The compact, hockey puck design is back (in black) for the TP25E. It got us weird looks in the office, but for leisure areas the styling was spot on. A grab bag of home theater goodies make cameos as well, like an integrated Blu-ray drive, a wireless keyboard with trackpad and two bundled ATI CableCard tuners. Regular PC conventions like USB, FireWire and memory card ports can be accessed from a hidden panel on the front of the system. Meanwhile, HDMI, VGA and optical out are all accessible through a rear panel. The setup process is clean, easy and oozes elitist style.

Oh, and Sony’s brought horsepower to the party too. The Peryn-based 2.1-GHz Core 2 Duo T8100 processor and Nvidia GeForce 8400M GT GPU performed effortless renderings in our Photoshop tests. Frantic FPS action on Crysis was surprisingly disappointing, though. Dialing down the anti-aliasing helped, but this won’t double as a gaming rig. And a couple of the other components seem out of place. The Nvidia GPU makes sense, especially given this unit’s ratio of performance to size. But the 4 GB of DDR2 SDRAM? On an already expensive niche rig like this it just seemed unnecessary given that comparable (and cheaper) HTPCs do fine with 2 GB.

These obvious splurges only highlighted other shortcomings, like the lack of 802.11n compatibility, and the tiny 500-GB hard drive. Normally these specs aren’t a big deal, but considering that the TP25E was designed to meet our HD video needs (which for us means torrenting ’till the cows come home), it’s a HUGE oversight. Paired with its lack of expansion capabilities, the TP25E will undoubtedly come off as pricey and throttled for HTPC veterans. We usually have no qualms with living on crackers and Cheez Whiz to pay for juiced up rigs like this, but the TP25E sports too much style in lieu of substance.

  • RAM Size: 4 GB
  • Clock Rate: 2.1 GHz
  • Hard Drive Size: 500 GB
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