Surely one of the most highly-anticipated notebooks of the year, Sony's Blu-ray-sporting Vaio VGN-AR190G offers a lot of compelling features for HD buffs on paper -- 1,920 x 1,200 WUXGA+ Xbrite display, HDMI out (cable and DVI-adapter included), 200GB worth of storage, and of course that high definition optical drive -- but specs don't mean much if the machine can't perform in the real world. Thus we've been eagerly awaiting the first reviews of this 8.4-pound, 17-inch model, and much to our delight, it seems to work almost exactly as advertised. Laptop magazine was lucky enough to get a pre-release unit for putting through the old benchmark torture test, and came away very impressed with the high resolution, anti-glare screen and video output quality, pretty impressed with the performance of the 2.0GHz T2500 Core Duo CPU and nVidia GeForce Go 7600 GT graphics, and not all that impressed with the 2-hour battery life, inconveniently-placed trackpad/mouse buttons, and pokey 1.0x Blu-ray burning speed. Still, the simple fact that you can burn to an HD optical disc at all puts the AR190G in a class by itself and makes it more attractive than Toshiba's Qosmio G35-AV650 with read-only HD DVD, but Laptop still feels that even the burner and the better screen don't quite justify the extra $500 you'll have to thrown down for the Sony.

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