Benchmark:Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-E518DS turnkey nonlinear editor
Digital Studio Delivers

Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-E518DS Turnkey Nonlinear Editor

($2599, CPD-220VS Monitor $499)

Sony Electronics

One Sony Drive

Park Ridge, NJ 07656-8003

(888) 531-SONY

One of the biggest complaints people have about nonlinear editing (NLE) is that building a nonlinear editor can be a time- and patience- consuming process. Sony’s new VAIO Digital Studio changes all of that. Targeted at beginning to intermediate level videographers who own camcorders with an i.LINK (IEEE 1394) connection, the Digital Studio takes nonlinear editing to a level of ease not usually seen in the NLE world.

It’s One Mean Computer

The Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-E518DS comes equipped with a screaming-fast Intel Pentium III 500MHz processor. It also has 128MB of RAM and a 17GB Ultra-ATA/33 hard drive. For a video graphics adapter, the VAIO uses an industry-standard 8MB Matrox G200 AGP. The VAIO also has an Aureal A3D 3D Positional Audio card. Sony put all 128MB of RAM on a single DIMM socket, and there is another open if you want to upgrade the VAIO to its 256MB maximum.

It’s a nice touch when a computer manufacturer uses name-brand parts in their machines. All too often, you are stuck in generic-peripheral hell when you buy a computer. On the downside though, the Matrox VGA chips are built into the VAIO’s motherboard, and there isn’t an AGP slot to expand into if you ever decide to upgrade. Also, there is only one free PCI slot, so once again upgrading could be a hair-pulling task.

One of the surprises the VAIO has in store is its USB keyboard. It’s surprising to not have to plug the keyboard into the keyboard slot (there still is a PS/2 keyboard slot if you want to buy an aftermarket keyboard). The VAIO keyboard is handy with six programmable hotkeys. These hotkeys, labeled "Internet," "Mail," "Game," etc., are programmable to run your favorite software like DVgate, Premiere, Explorer and others. As handy as the programmable keys are though, the keyboard itself is very lightweight, and has a poor feel overall. The VAIO comes bundled with a number of non-editing programs like Microsoft Works and Money, however we only tested the VAIO for its video editing capabilities, not for other applications.

An i.LINK to DVgate

No, it’s not a presidential scandal. DVgate Motion is Sony’s video capture utility that transfers video from a digital camcorder to the VAIO via the conveniently located i.LINK ports. The VAIO has an i.LINK and a USB port right on the front of the box, allowing easy access and earning Sony major brownie points from this reviewer.

When you plug a compatible camcorder (more on this later) into the i.LINK port, the computer immediately presents you with an "Installing New Hardware" dialog box. A few seconds later, you can control the camcorder from DVgate. Simply mark in and out points of the clips that you want to transfer to the VAIO. DVgate creates a shot log from these, showing a picon (picture icon) of the first frame of each shot. Next, save your shot log and select the "capture" button on the screen. DVgate will then capture all the clips listed and give them a series of similar filenames (like Test01-01.avi, Test02-01.avi, etc.).

If you want to do cuts-only editing, DVgate will capture the clips you have identified as a single .AVI clip that you can export back to the camcorder or place on the editing timeline. When you want to do some editing beyond cuts-only, you’ll want to launch Adobe Premiere LE.

The VAIO worked flawlessly with the Sony DCR-TRV900 Mini DV camcorder. We thought we might throw the VAIO a curveball by trying some non-Sony camcorders. It worked flawlessly with the Sharp VL-PD3U, but struck out with the Canon XL1. Just as this story was going to print, a Canon Elura came into the office, and we plugged it in. While the VAIO kept giving error messages, it nevertheless flawlessly captured video from the Elura. So the moral of the story is that if you already own an i.LINK-equipped camcorder, take it into the store and make sure it works with the VAIO before you buy it.

Then You Can Edit

The Sony VAIO Digital Studio ships with Adobe Premiere LE (you can upgrade to a full version of Premiere 5.1 for $199). After transferring clips from a camcorder to the VAIO with DVgate, you’re ready to import them into Premiere. In Premiere, you can quickly trim clips and add transitions and filters. Once that’s done, you can quickly (and with the Pentium III 500MHz, we mean quickly) render your work and make a completed .AVI movie. If you want to store your finished project on DV tape, save it to your DV camcorder through DVgate. This converts it from .AVI back to DV format. You can now make dubs from your DV master tape.

The Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-E518DS is a solidly built home computer that has the power and the ports to handle digital home video editing. If you want a system that you can take home, plug in and start editing, the Sony VAIO is a good choice.

Tech Specs: Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-E518DS Turnkey Nonlinear Editor

Processor: Intel Pentium III 500MHz


Hard Drives: 17.2GB Ultra-ATA

Video Card: Matrox G200 AGP 8MB

Sound Card: Aureal A3D 3D Positional Audio

Modem: 56kbps, V.90 Compatible

Inputs/Outputs: 3x i.LINK (IEEE 1394), 2xUSB, Serial, PS-2 Mouse, PS-2 Keyboard, Stereo Mini, S-Link (Control-A1), phone, Mini Mike, MIDI, Optical Digital Audio (output only), monitor (VGA)


  • easy to use
  • quick rendering
  • i.LINK and USB ports in front


  • lightweight plastic keyboard
  • upgrading could be difficult
  • didn’t work with XL1

summary: An easy-to-use turnkey nonlinear editor with one of the fastest processors on the market.

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