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Sony PCG-X9 8/10

This notebook is one of the most striking on the market, sporting Sony's trademark design. The Sony PCG-X Series are very fully featured and could easily be desktop replacements. This 500 MHz Pentium III model comes with 128 MB RAM and a giant 18 GB hard disk. Unfortunately, in my machine, the hard disk packed up after a year (it was replaced under extended warranty costing 150 for three years)! Apart from this minor mishap, this is a fine machine for music making and mixing. It has an additional docking station (which is included in the price) which has two USB outputs and an optical digital output, great for recording onto minidiscs. Also notable is the IEEE1394 port for connecting a high performance firewire CD-RW or other such products. For output of DVDs you get S-Video output too. The optical digital out lets you bypass the computer's A-D converter and instead use the one on your amplifier or other music equipment. The analog output is fine for causal monitoring (certainly better than most notebooks), but I would not recommend using it for precise mastering.

The performance of this machine is reasonable and you can play several tracks of audio in Wavelab on it at once, and rip tracks from the DVD/CD drive (a DVD/CD-RW drive is also available). It is also fast enough to edit video, which can be captured (and put back) onto a suitable video camera with digital IEEE1394 In/Out. Most laptops cannot cope with video editing, even if they have an IEEE1394 port. The screen is excellent and very bright, although to conserve battery life, you can dim the screen. To protect it from scratches it has a plastic screen which can be replaced. The software bundle is impressive with Adobe Premiere LE and a host of other utilities, although nothing for the musician here. It is very easy to setup and manage, for example there is a powerful battery setting programme. This power management programme is excellent allowing you to specify various settings. You can choose to have a "Performance" setting or a "Quiet" setting, or choose to turn on or off the docking station fan. I know of no other computer which has such impressive power management. It certainly goes beyond Windows power management options. Even after a year of using this machine, I can still squeeze about two hours out of the standard Lithium Ion battery.

The main problem with this machine (apart from the hard disk which broke) is it's price which is excessive. You can buy many cheaper machines which are faster. Sure it does have an optical out, but this can easily be bought as USB soundcard costing 150. If you are not paying for the machine though and your company is, there are hardly any other machines better than this.