SonicStage Premium lets you record to MiniDisc from CDs in the DVD drive, from the built-in FM radio, or from external digital or analog sources.
If you wanted to purchase all these functions in separate hardware and software components - plus a computer - the total would probably add up to much more than the price of the Vaio MXS10. Such is the synergy provided by combining the power of a late-model PC and the storage capacity of an 80-GB hard disk with the capabilities of specialized hardware features (like the MiniDisc drive and the TV and FM tuners) and a diverse suite of bundled software.
And it all works! Timer video recording using Giga Pocket operated precisely as advertised - I was able to watch the first part of the recent PBS documentary on Mark Twain even as I was recording the second part. While Giga Pocket really eats up disk space when recording in its HQ (highest-quality) mode, its SP (medium-quality) and sometimes even LP (long-play) modes were adequate for time-shifting TV programs, if not for permanent storage on DVD.
I got the same thrills as I did in my high school filmmaking course editing MiniDV footage into something quite presentable (and of very high video quality) and just as big a kick out of burning the final production onto DVD for distribution to friends. But this only became relatively easy once I figured out how the various video capture and editing programs interacted - none of the manuals gives much guidance on this.
What we have with the MXS10, in fact, is an embarrassment of riches. While Giga Pocket and SonicStage are unique in their TV recording and MiniDisc support, respectively, the other supplied programs offer at least two completely different ways to perform many of the major operations enabled by all the hardware. In the case of video editing, as we've seen, five different programs are supplied, but we aren't told which is better for which application (video archiving, DVD burning, Web page creation, video compression for e-mail, and so on). Adobe Premiere LE is by far the most versatile of these editing programs, but it's also the hardest to use and it won't, by itself, burn DVDs. How to get your Premiere-edited video into either of the two DVD burners provided, Sonic Solution's DVDit! and Giga Pocket, is left as an exercise for the user.
When it comes to ripping CDs to a music library on the hard drive, you can use either RealJukebox, Windows Media Player, or SonicStage Premium - and there are definite audible ramifications to your choice. The most versatile in terms of trading off capacity for sound quality is SonicStage, as it provides the widest choice of ripping formats - MP3, Windows Media Audio (WMA), WAV, and ATRAC-3 - as well as a far wider range of data rates for the first two than RealJukebox or Windows Media Player offer. (Windows Media Player won't even let you make a bit-perfect copy of CD audio - everything is turned into compressed WMA files.)
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