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NEW YORK (AP) — Whoever at Sony hatched its newest idea in digital video convergence likely figured: ’So many people are spending so much time glued to their personal computers, we might as well include a television.’

So they did. The PCV-RX490TV represents another step toward combining all digital entertainment into a single package.

It adds what Sony has dubbed the Giga Pocket personal video recording system — for video and audio management and editing — to a features-packed minitower. Users can record onto the PC’s spacious 80-gigabyte hard drive from any source — be it cable TV, digital versatile disc or videotape. They can then burn that material onto a DVD.

The concept is not hugely innovative, especially for anyone unafraid of lifting the cover off their computer and sliding in a peripheral card. TV tuner cards for PCs have been out for several years and run about $70. And DVD drives are starting to be standard fare on high-end PCs and laptops.

So what makes the Giga Pocket stand out? Not much, really.

Granted, it’s a top-of-the-line Sony, which means it has all the bells and whistles users expect and gives would-be film auteurs a high-speed, digital desktop studio for a fraction of the cost of professional gear.

As for the other main intent of this product: Who would want to watch TV on their PC? Maybe those with a big, expensive monitor or in a dorm room, where space is short?

The PCV-RX490TV does give computer users who want to share, say, the latest episode of “The Sopranos”, the ability to easily record the program, much like with a personal digital recorder like TiVo.

With the rewriteable DVD-RW drive, that program could be recorded and passed around among friends and family. No big deal, if it’s just for fun, but there is eventual potential for piracy. That’s not just a Sony problem, of course.

Other computer companies including Compaq and Apple are offering machines with similar digital copying capabilities.

And of course the possibility of taking 100 hours worth of television programming (that’s the amount that can be stored on the PC’s hard drive) and uploading it to the Internet isn’t practical.

I don’t think Sony had that in mind when they designed what Rich Black, director of desktop PC marketing for Sony Electronics’ Information Technology Product Division, called “the industry’s first PC with integrated video recording.”

I hooked up my Time Warner Cable company digital cable box to the device and watched some shows, but frankly, that’s not much of a draw for me. The pictures were crisp and clear on Sony’s 15-inch flat panel display but I got tired of craning my neck while sitting at the desk.

I recorded a few programs, and the playback was good, with no signs of degradation.

But at $2,600, not including the monitor, it’s better to buy a personal video recorder like TiVo. Those typically retail for around $400 and store up to 30 hours of programming.

And there is always the option of a standalone recordable DVD player, though they’re not yet widely available and remain pricey at about $1,000. An internal recordable DVD drive for a computer costs about $600.

How the Giga Pocket works is simple.

Sony’s PC lets users watch TV streaming through the cable box, or another analog source, and stores the program onto the hard drive. The PC includes a remote control, and programs can be rewound and paused, similar to personal recording devices.

There are plenty of ways to hook up devices: RCA and S-video jacks in the front, but not in the back, as well as FireWire and coaxial cable inputs, too.

Sony has even gone to the trouble of providing a free Internet Electronic Program Guide on the PC. That lets users set up programs to be recorded once or on a regular basis.

The system runs on Microsoft’s Windows ME. It comes standard with a 1.7 gigahertz Intel Pentium 4 processor, DVD-RW and CD-ROM drives, a 32-megabyte video card and 128 MB of RDRAM.

The built-in Ethernet port enables a high-speed Internet connection.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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