Toshiba's Qosmio is quite a unique proposition. Not only is it an impressively equipped notebook, with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a high-end performance portable, but it's also a Media Center. This means it's intended to live a bit of a double life - mild mannered (if comprehensively endowed) productivity machine by day, home entertainment appliance by night.
To this end, Toshiba has packed the Qosmio with just about every feature you could imagine - although "packed" is a relative term, as the Qosmio G10, with its titanic 17-inch widescreen TFT, is far from compact. Weighing in at over 4kg, the Qosmio is also definitely more on the luggable side of the mobility fence.
The Qosmio sports Toshiba's trademark black and silver stylings, and while it will look a little odd when placed next to your TV in the living room, it won't hurt the eye. Toshiba has clearly demonstrated its long experience in making portable computers in some of the more subtle design decisions of the Qosmio. For example, there are USB ports on the back as well as both sides of the unit, meaning you can attach peripherals easily regardless of where they're located. There's also a row of shortcut buttons above the keyboard that control the Media Center functions such as switching to TV, along with Stop, Pause, and input/output selectors.
The only slight disappointment with the design is the lack of a full-size keyboard, given the amount of room left around the sides of the unit. Given that, the keyboard is comfortable and responsive, and the track pad has the nifty inclusion of vertical scroll buttons that give you the functionality of a mouse wheel.
When it comes to features, the Qosmio has it all. The first thing you'll notice when you fire it up is the incredible brightness and clarity of the 17-inch widescreen TFT. Twin lamps are the secret behind the brightness, and while they'll suck the power when running on batteries, that's more or less irrelevant as you'll likely have it plugged in to the mains most of the time anyway.
Although a 17-inch widescreen is only equivalent to a 43cm TV, it's high brightness and crisp picture make it suitable as the main screen in a small room, although you'll want to plug it in to your television for the most effect. To this end, the Qosmio is well equipped with outputs, including S-Video and component.
Audio output is also well catered for, with the headphone port also doubling as a S/PDIF digital output. That's not to say the built in sound is inadequate. Harmon Kardon provide the stereo speakers, and while the volume is not enough to fill a room, they excel in a close environment.
Of course, as a Media Center, the Qosmio has a built in TV tuner, and comes with a compact remote control. The Qosmio can also output HD TV, although the built in tuner is analogue at this stage.
A NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5700 handles the graphics output, and along with 128MB of video RAM, it's even powerful enough to handle the latest games at decent resolutions and frame rate.
Storage is also well catered for, with dual 80GB hard disks complementing one of the most fully featured DVD burners ever to appear in a notebook. The DVD Super Multi drive can handle CD-R and -RW as well as DVD-R, +R, -RW, +RW, RAM and even dual-layer DVD+R. A 5-in-1 card reader rounds things out.
The Qosmio comes with plenty of connectivity options, from a V.92 modem, to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as a 10/100 Ethernet port. The wireless transmitter can also be turned off care of a small switch on the left side in areas where you don't want your notebook to be radiating, such as when in the air or in environments with interference from other wireless networks.
In the case of a reinstall of the system, things are made substantially easier through the use of a recovery DVD. Just slip it in, and it will format and restore the unit to its factory configuration, including pre-installing drivers and Toshiba's extensive range of software utilities. These utilities add extra functionality, such as power saving options, extra controls for Media Center features, enhancements for the touch pad, diagnostics and more. The do clutter up your System Tray, so you may want to disable or uninstall the ones you don't use, but they are handy to have around.
Inside the unit throbs a Pentium M 755, running at 2GHz, supported by a whopping 1GB of PC2700 DDR RAM - so the Qosmio is no slouch. It barely batted an eyelid during any tasks, whether conventional applications or Media Center functions.
As a single piece of technology, the Qosmio is very impressive. Besides the head turning abilities lent by the huge screen and massive size, it's been intelligently designed and extremely well equipped. As a Media Center, it's not going to be the ideal configuration for everyone, and will really only appeal to those who seek a notebook for both work and pleasure. Besides this strange role, the only other potential drawback of the Qosmio is the price. At nearly AU$6,000, it's no small investment. Given you could buy a decent Centrino (or soon, Sonoma) notebook and a small dedicated Media Center PC for this price, it's only going to appeal to those with the pockets to afford a technology showcase such as this. Besides that, if you can afford it, then you won't be disappointed.
Tim Dean writes for ZDNet Australia's sister site, CNET.com.au. Read more consumer technology stories from CNET.com.au here.
Toshiba Qosmio G10
Company: Toshiba PC
Phone: 13 30 70
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