The Sony VAIO VGN-AR Series, released in 2006, was designed to tackle the desktop replacement segment. As usual for VAIO desktop replacements, the VGN-AR was equipped with powerful hardware and many multimedia features, which makes it a high-end and expensive laptop.
At launch the full-spec VGN-AR was offered with features like a Blu-Ray RW optical drive, 17" 16:10 screens, which could be had in either 1440x900 for lower-end models or 1920x1200 for the higher-end offerings. Something that Sony complemented with was an optional ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner, making for an excellent multimedia device (only on high-end models).
With a range of Intel Core 2 Duos, Core Duos and a Pentium Dual Core to choose from, as well as the choice between NVIDIA GeForce 7600 Go (for the earlier models), 8400M GT and 8600M GT GPUs, the VGN-AR had a lot to offer in terms of performance, making image and video editing, as well as gaming a simple enough task. Sadly performance was hindered by only 2GB of RAM on most models, which could be upgraded to the maximum of 4GB. The refreshed VGN-AR with the Penryn line of CPUs can be identified by looking at the bezel, which will have a Sony logo instead of the glowing VAIO logo.
All of this performance comes at a cost. With its weight of around 3,8 to 4,1 kg, the VGN-AR is quite heavy. Another negative is the small battery life between 1.5 and 3 hours. This is fine for a desktop replacement, but considered low for a laptop you would carry around. The speakers, for such an expensive media oriented laptop, are also not very good.
What the VGN-AR lacks, it makes up in connectivity, featuring a PCMCIA Type II, ExpressCard/54, 6-in-1 card reader (SD Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, MagicGate), i.LINK 4-pin, HDMI, VGA, S-Video out, Modem, Ethernet and 3x 2.0 USB ports. Besides the Blu-Ray-RW drive, the VGN-AR was also offered with a Blu-Ray-R or DVD+-R/DVD+-RW/DVD-RAM drive on the lower spec models. A webcam was included on all models.
In addition to the choice between Windows XP Professional (earlier models) and several Windows Vista versions, the VGN-AR came with a plethora of multimedia software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Works and Microsoft Office 2007.
Processor: Intel Pentium M T2370 / Intel Core (2) Duo T2500, T5450, T7100, T7200, T7250, T7300, T7700, T8100, T8300, T9300
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT, 8600M GT, Go 7600 (earlier models)
Display: 17.1" 16:10 1440 x 900 WXGA+ / 1920 x 1200 WUXGA
RAM: 2x SO-DIMM DDR2 (upgradable to 4GB or 8GB on Penryn refresh)
Storage: 2.5" SATA HDD, optional 2nd hard drive configured in RAID (high-end models)
OS: Windows XP Professional / Windows Vista Home Premium / Business / Ultimate
Weight: 3,8kg - 4,1kg
MSRP: 900€ - 3499€
The VGN-AR models equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT and 8600M GT all have a very unfortunate problem. The NVIDIA 8 series of GPUs are known for their 100% failure rate because of a manufacturing problem from NVIDIA, and the VGA-AR is not an exception to that. All NVIDIA 8 series chips on every single VGN-AR with those GPUs are affected by this problem. Models equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce 7600 Go are not affected.
Symptoms of this problem are:
- Black screen when turning on the device (device is not booting up, it has not passed the power-on self-test)
- Artifacts on the display
- Not being able to successfully install GPU drivers
- Unable to boot into the operating system
There is no real permanent solution to this problem. One temporary solution would be a reflow (see our upcoming reflow guide), one more permanent but still temporary solution is a reball or chip replacement. However, all of these methods requires a precise hot air station, BGA No-Clean flux, and some experience (practicing on a junk board is a good start). If you are thinking of doing a chip replacement and you have a 8600M or 8400M GT version, NVIDIA did release a later revision of the chip that fixed the issue. This can be identified by a white underfill (gel border around the chip) and usually have a date code after 0830. Some also have an odd digit at the end of the model number instead of an even digit (e.g. G84-603-A2 instead of G84-602-A2).
Daily Usage Today
Thanks to its high-end hardware of the time, most VGN-AR models, especially the later Penryn models, are still quite usable today. Casual tasks such as web browsing and text editing are no problem for the large desktop replacement. Playing games from the time and modern 2D games should also be possible. Though modern 3D games will either not run at all, or run very badly.
You can bypass the model checks of these discs by using SVRP.
Follow our guides to download and install drivers.