Sony Previews High-End Media Center

Sony entered the digital living room Tuesday with a new Media Center PC that takes advantage of the latest updates to the operating system. The XL1, is a result of collaboration between Sony and Microsoft and features a 200-disc DVD changer with burning capability.

The XL1 uses a virtual library to keep track of the DVD or CD collection. When inserted into the changer, the computer automatically reads the disc, downloads metadata such as actor, director or genre. This will then allow the user to easily search through his or her library without much difficulty.

“This process really started a couple years ago, as the VAIO team first identified the key features that we wanted in this product,” said Mark Hanson, vice president of Sony VAIO’s American division. “It was obvious that Media Center Edition possessed most of what we needed to do the foundational work.” Sony development teams worked with Microsoft coders to ensure seamless functionality as it added new functions to the Windows XP Media Center Edition OS.

Up to 200 CDs can be ripped at once by pressing a few buttons, Sony said. Like the DVD functionality, metadata will be downloaded for each album and song.

The XL1 will connect to the TV via an HDMI connection, which the company said will allow high-definition television and multi-channel audio to travel on the same cable.

Inside the XL1 is a dual core Pentium D processor running at 2.8GHz, with an 800MHz front side bus. 512MB of RAM, a 200GB RAID-ready SATA hard drive and a NVidia GeForce 6200 graphics card make the system one of the most powerful Media Center machines available.

However, with a list of features like this, a hefty price tag follows. When the XL1 system hits retail shelves next month, it will sell for about $2,300 USD. Sony is banking that the impressive feature list will attract consumers.

Microsoft acknowledged that news of a partnership with Sony may surprise some, especially after Bill Gates labeled Sony’s Blu-ray high-definition DVD format as “anti-consumer.”

“While we haven’t always seen eye to eye on specific standards, in the end it has been our mutual respect for customers and our mutual passion for innovation that has often led to some of our best products when we work together,” explained Kevin Eagan, general manager of Microsoft OEM.

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