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Standard Member
When I was looking for an all in one system for Freeview PVR, BlueRay Player to sit under my new Sony TV, I was looking at separate unit from Sony but decided to splash out on the Sony Vaio TP3 which according to the Sony web site would provide everything I needed. After one month of searching for settings on the internet and calling Sony, I have decided to give up and return the box to John Lewis, I will be doing this with some sadness as I really like the MCE interface and being bale to surf the internet on the TV is a nice feature (doesn't go down well with the Mrs)

The problems I have had with the box stated on day 1 , the picture looked jerky, which was particularly evident on channels with rolling ticker text e.g. BBC News which was not smooth at all. The picture also stuttered on all channels every few minutes, which was especially true when recording more than one channel at a time, this makes the TV unwatchable.

I am not massively technical, so my first point of call was the Sony helpline (which unfortunately only opens office hours 8-6pm Mon/Fri). Sonys first piece of advice was to complete a Vaio Recovery, then a complete system restore, which also didn't improve the picture. The Sony helpline are very PC focused, and I did feel like I was talking to someone who did not really appreciate what the TP3 was designed for, so it was at this point I turned to the web and sites including AvForums, I spent many (tens of) hours trying the following

Changing resolution – Trying multiple different resolutions on the Nvivda graphics card, PC desktop and MCE.
Trying multiple refresh rates – 50hz, 60Hz etc
Trying to update Nvivda drivers – unfortunately this is not supported by Sony, so when you go to the Nvivda web site you are unable to install.
Refining the Nvivda control panels – the online trick of 20% noise reduction etc
I also tried turning off the WLAN, different aerial inputs, different physical position of the box etc
The only thing I have not managed to do is to change the default codec – which having looked at on the forums seems beyond me technically so I have decided not to pursue this.

After I had completed all of this I decided to give Sony another call to see if they had a solution, so having left the office early to get home within their opening times, I was told that you would never get a perfect picture with the TP3 compared to dedicated equipment , and were therefore closing my case. This was complete shock to me having spent >£800 on the TP3, but I will today be returning it for a refund.

If you are therefore looking for a all in one PVR, Blue Ray player, I would not recommend the Sony TP3, and will be buying separate PVR, BluRay player etc.

I would be interested if anyone has had a better experience with the TP Series, as I can beleive that my experience was typical, but Sony were not willing to repair the unit, so my only option is to return it.
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Stephen Neal

Distinguished Member
I think most of us here have steered clear of ready-made HTPCs for similar reasons.

Whilst building your own is often more expensive (particularly as we pay through the nose for the OS compared to large customers - even if you buy an OEM Small System Builder licence rather than a retail copy) - it often delivers you a system that does exactly what you want, and at the performance level you want, rather than delivering what people think you want. On the other hand - you wouldn't have a help-line to ring at all if you built your own - so it isn't for everyone.

The Sony HTPCs undoubtedly look lovely - but their limited options (both on purchase and when it comes to later expansion) are real issues.

There ARE small companies out there that build similar HTPCs to the ones we're building ourselves - but they may be more expensive than the Dells and Sonys of this world - as small companies have to pay more to build each machine and still make a profit.

However I think Sony are on very dodgy ground if they aren't properly supporting their HTPCs AS HTPCs - they are sold in their stores connected to TVs and as HTPC solutions. One recurring issue with Sony is that they install HUGE amounts of junk software as standard (they even charge - or used to charge - extra if you wanted it removed) - which I'm sure slows down booting and maybe also gives you a performance hit in general use.

If you aren't in to tweaking and re-installing - then separates may be a good solution for you. If you still want to watch video from your desktop or laptop non-HTPC then a streaming device like a Popcorn Hour may be a good addition.

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