The Sony Vaio VGC-RC204 is the first PC to come equipped with a Blu-ray disc drive. The long-awaited optical format allows dozens of gigabytes of data to be stored on a single disc the same size as an ordinary DVD. This makes the RC204 a hugely attractive prospect for anyone with the need to create large backups, but it'll need an upgrade to Windows Vista to play full high-definition Blu-ray movies. At around £1,700 (if you shop around online), it's surprisingly good value for Sony.
The Vaio RC204 looks the same as the rest of the Vaio RC series. It has a large, predominantly black chassis with a silver central section bearing a backlit Vaio logo. This section houses the RC204's hard drives in a metal enclosure. You won't need to open the main section of the case to access the hard drives, but you'll still need a screwdriver to remove them, which is disappointing. A toolless design would have been infinitely more welcome.
Below the silver section on the front panel, there's a flap housing a set of input/output connectors. There are S-Video and component video inputs, headphone sockets and a pair of USB ports. We appreciate the presence of these ports, but we think they'd have been more easily accessible if positioned towards the top of the case. We also didn't appreciate the positioning of the power button, which is located towards the bottom of the chassis. If the computer is placed on the floor, there's a chance of accidentally turning the PC off with your foot or the leg of a chair -- not ideal if you've forgotten to save an important document.
The middle portion of the PC has another flap, behind which is a memory card reader supporting Compact Flash, xD, SmartMedia, Secure Digital and Sony Memory Stick formats, plus a USB port and an i.Link S400 socket (Sony's version of 4-pin FireWire). The front section of the PC is rounded off by a pair of optical drive bays, again concealed behind flaps, and the attractive but understated Blu-ray Disc badge at the top of the unit.
Near the centre of the unit is a 40mm-wide hollow area running horizontally across the middle of the case. This serves as a vent for expelling hot air. It's joined to a plastic tunnel-like enclosure at the other end of which is a large 120mm fan and an enormous heatsink. By using a larger, slower-spinning fan than the standard 48mm heatsinks in most PCs, the RC204 is able to run more quietly than many of its compatriots.