Qosmio Notebook More Than an Entertainment Appliance

Some pundits contend that if Microsoft’s Media Center Edition of Windows XP is going to break through the barrier between the living room and the home office, it’s going to have to do it on the notebook platform. Toshiba is taking that notion seriously with its new line of Qosmio portables.

The latest edition of the notebook with the name that looks like a typographical error (Google will plead, “Did you mean cosmo?” if you search for the appellation there), is packed with media features, including a TV tuner and a digital video recorder.

With its sleek lines and contemporary color scheme — its shell is metallic silver; its command deck glossy black — the Qosmio (pronounced COS-mee-o) will look comfortable among the components in any home entertainment system.

Cool and Quiet

Despite its large footprint — 10.8 by 1.57 by 14.7 inches — this latest Qosmio retains its laptop roots by using a processor designed for notebooks — a Pentium M 750 running at 1.86 gigahertz. That clockspeed pales before media center luggables like Alienware’s new Area-51m 7700, but the Toshiba unit runs cooler and is quieter.

However, don’t expect to stray too far from a power outlet with this Qosmio. Its battery’s life is rated at 1.85 hours.

While lighter than the Alienware machine’s barbell weight of 13.5 pounds, at 8.5 pounds, trips carrying the Toshiba unit are likely to be short — like from your home entertainment center to your home office and back.

Dynamite Sound

As in previous units, the wide-screen display, juiced by its QosmioEngine software, is gorgeous. Colors popped on the notebook’s TruBrite screen with the quality seen on a good LCD TV. The display also has a glossy demeanor that makes it brighter than a typical notebook screen.

Watching DVD movies on the Toshiba offering, especially on the 17-inch G25-AV513 model, is truly a treat. And it’s made even better by the Harman/Kardon stereo speakers built into the unit. These speakers produced some of the best sound that I’ve heard from a laptop to date. The audio was rich and well-rounded — not the reedy and thin sound that’s emitted from many portable computers.

Besides having dynamite speakers, the Qosmio’s audio is further enhanced with SRS TruSurround XT, developed by Orion Studios. The technology does an admirable job of emulating multi-speaker surround sound from a single pair of speakers.

Buff Notebook

A nice addition to this edition of the Qosmio is a flat metal dial on the right side of the unit’s deck to control its volume. It’s pleasant not having to grope the side of the machine trying to find the volume dial. Better yet, the new dial extends slightly over the edge of the device so it can be manipulated with the unit’s lid is closed.

Multimedia prowess aside, the Qosmio is very much a buff notebook with a 100 megabyte hard drive, a gigabyte of memory and a snappy graphic card, the NVIDIA GeForce 6 GO 6600.

It also has the first slot-loading optical drive that I’ve seen in a notebook outside the Apple world. The SuperMulti drive will read and burn just about every format out there — CD, DVD+ and DVD — as well as DVD+ double layer discs, which can store twice as much information as a typical DVD.

As you’ll find on most Toshiba models, the Qosmio’s keyboard is outstanding, with wide keys that feel firm, not sloppy like some laptops.

I/O Arsenal

An appropriate arsenal of I/O appurtenances is incorporated into the Qosmio. It includes four high-speed USB ports; a FireWire, or iLink, port; Ethernet and wireless networking support; a VGA monitor socket; headphone and mic jacks; a modem; infrared port; and a PC Card slot.

In addition, the unit supports S-video input and output, composite and component video and optical audio (SPDIF).

For quick transfer of images from a digital camera, there’s a 5-in-1 cardreader that supports SD, MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO and xD cards.

For all their power and pizzazz, the Qosmio units are attractively priced. The F25-205, which has a 15.4-inch display, sells for US$1819 to $2069 on the Internet, and its big brother, the G25-AV513 with a 17-inch LCD, sells for $2649 to $3239.

Clearly, Toshiba is targeting the new Qosmio at the home entertainment crowd, but the notebook is a robust standalone computer, too. Where the unit spends most of its time — in the home entertainment room or the home office — could spark a domestic tug of war in many a household.

John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].

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