There are two types of people in the world: those with shed-loads of disposable income, and the rest of us. The Sony Vaio VGC-RM1N, also known as the 'R Master', is definitely not for the latter group -- it's a high-price, high-performance desktop that's designed to edit high-definition video.
It's the second consumer PC we've seen that uses a quad-core Intel CPU, and it's also the first (that we can recall) that depends on two chassis, not one. The RM1N is available online for around £2,400.
The Vaio RM1N is reminiscent of a bulky old component hi-fi system. The main base unit is of the horizontally oriented desktop variety, rather than the more common tower shape. There's also a secondary access unit that sits on top of the base unit, or to the side of it in a special cradle. It's not conventionally attractive, but it's far from ugly. We like the blue-grey and contrasting black colour scheme, and the thick vents at the front give it a powerful, industrial look.
The access unit is a strange addition -- it's connected to the base unit via a special cable and houses separate 5.25-inch Blu-ray and DVD rewriter drives. It's also home to four USB ports (two at the front, two at the rear) a PC card slot (also at the rear) and a memory card reader at the front. There's plenty of connectivity on the main base unit, too: four USB ports at the front, four at the rear, plus a four-pin FireWire port. That's more ports than you could shake a stick at.
While the base unit is completely lacking in optical drives, it's positively teeming with hard drives. It can accomodate four in total, all of which can be crammed into a front-accessible drive cage. Each drive can be removed with relative ease thanks to a quick-release system, but you'll need to remove the plastic fascia on the base unit and flick a few other switches to do so.
Hit the power button on either the base unit or the access unit and the RM1N's cooling fans spin ferociously to life. Thankfully they settle to a quiet hum -- until, of course, you ask it to encode some video. All that noise is necessary because the RM1N's cooling fans have to contend with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU clocked at 2.4GHz. It's not as fast as the 2.6GHz Q6700, or the all-conquering Core 2 Extreme, but we assure you it's the processing equivalent of giving Einstein four brains and jamming his face into a motherboard. The 2GB of DDR2-667MHz memory is about the minimum we'd expect from a PC of this type, but there are a couple of spare DIMM slots in the PC and you can add up to 3GB.
The RM1N is all about multimedia, so it's no surprise it uses an Nvidia Geforce 8600 GTS card. This is a couple of rungs below the flagship GeForce 8800 GTX, but it's fast enough to run any game you ask of it, and of course, to handle other multimedia tasks. The card has a dedicated 256MB of dedicated memory and plenty of memory bandwidth, so playing and editing video is as smooth as you like.