Editor's note: When this review was first published, we inaccurately reported that Toshiba offered 24/7 phone support for the life of the product. Toshiba actually offers one year of 24/7 phone support for the Qosmio E15-AV101. We regret the error. (11/22/04) The Qosmio incorporates some trendy, cutting-edge laptop technology--it's a Windows XP Media Center-based PC with PVR, TV, and DVD-burning functionality that plays CDs and DVDs without requiring you to boot up the OS. But at $2,599 (as of October 2004), the Toshiba Qosmio E15-AV101 is no less expensive (or less complicated) than buying a separate , , PVR, and . If you're a space-constrained apartment dweller, the Qosmio could be the answer to your prayers, but if space isn't an issue, the Qosmio smacks of overkill (it comes with two remote controls, after all). There are other multimedia laptops, such as the and the HP Pavilion dv1000, but they don't offer the amazing breadth of connectivity options, both wired and wireless, upgraded sound and display technology, and performance of the Qosmio E15-AV101. Toshiba's Qosmio line currently includes three laptop versions that differ from one another mainly in screen size and processor speed; we looked at the lowest-end model, the Qosmio E15-AV101. Take note that these larger systems, the 15-inch wide-screen and the 17-inch wide-screen , cannot deliver the same incredible screen brightness as the E15-AV101 we tested (more on that in the page).
The Qosmio E15-AV101 is a handful, despite its lowly standing in the Qosmio line, with a travel weight of just more than 9 pounds, including its bulky AC adapter, and with a large footprint--13.3 inches wide, 11.2 inches deep, and 1.75 inches thick. An attractive silver cladding covers the whole system, which opens to reveal a 15-inch screen boxed in by a wide black bezel. Overall, we give the design of this system a big thumbs-up, although the small mouse buttons and the poor keyboard layout, including abbreviated Tab and Caps Lock buttons and a badly situated backspace key, leave room for improvement.
The Qosmio has a wonderful row of dedicated audio and video navigation buttons above the keyboard, as well as a great assortment of key combinations that give you easy control of mute, video source, hibernation, standby, and several screen brightness presets. A wheel control, which we prefer to up and down buttons, lets you adjust the speaker volume in an instant. Above the keyboard sits a silver grille covering Harman Kardon stereo speakers custom-designed for this system.
All manner of connectivity options adorn the sides and the rear of the system. You'll find a single Type II PC Card slot and a three-in-one flash card reader; FireWire, Ethernet, and modem ports; four USB ports scattered on three sides, useful for connecting peripherals from any angle; and tons of multimedia connections, including S-Video and composite video, S/PDIF digital audio, and cable TV-in ports. A switch on the left side turns on Bluetooth connectivity; it worked flawlessly in our tests. The optical drive on the right side is fixed, and a 3,600mAh lithium-ion battery snaps into place on the Qosmio's underside.Toshiba sells the three Qosmios in set configurations, so you cannot opt for more RAM or a faster processor at the point of purchase. The model we tested, the Qosmio E15-AV101, came with a Pentium M processor 735 with Centrino wireless technology, 512MB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive. It also included a fixed multiformat 8X DVD burner.
The Qosmio E15-AV101's central feature is its 15-inch XGA display with Toshiba's TrueBrite technology. It really is magnificent--brighter and with greater viewing angles--than almost any other laptop LCD we've seen. DVD playback looked radiant in testing, thanks to Toshiba's QosmioEngine technology and the Qosmio E15-AV101's 64MB GeForceFX Go 5200 graphics card. However, live TV looked as grainy as ever; we recommend you view it in a small window or sit a suitable distance away from full-screen images. The specially designed Harman Kardon speakers delivered solid sound for a notebook but distorted severely at top volume.
The Qosmio's strength is mostly in its flexibility as an entertainment platform. Its Microsoft Windows XP Media Center OS provides personal video recorder (PVR) functionality, and thanks to the OS's setup wizard, we had live TV onscreen and several recording sessions set up in a matter of minutes. The system's trendiest feature is that it can display TV or DVD movies without booting the operating system, a feature that's also found in the and the , both of which are much less expensive than the Qosmio. You just sit back, press a button, and in about 10 seconds, you're watching TV. Here's where things get tricky, though: If you watch TV through the OS, you use the included Media Center remote. If you use the instant-TV feature, you use the Qosmio remote and the remote that came with your set-top box to change channels. Confused yet? Don't get us wrong, we love the instant-TV feature, but it's still a little quirky.
Toshiba says that the Qosmio can become the nerve center of a living-room home-theater system, but here again we feel it's an imperfect fit. With its vast array of video-out connections and an included USB IR box, which allows you to change channels through the laptop itself, Qosmio hooks up to your living-room home theater for supreme video and sound. But who wants to disconnect their laptop and cable TV whenever they take their system on the road and reconnect everything when they want to watch TV on the living-room set?
We see the Qosmio operating as a laptop delivering all manner of multimedia in a mobile form factor. Or, we can see it as a stay-at-home multimedia "server" for your home-theater setup. But if you want both these things, you might just buy a cheaper notebook and pick up a combo PVR/DVD player for the living room with the money you save.Mobile application performance
The Toshiba Qosmio E15-AV101 clocked the second-highest mobile performance score so far in CNET Labs' test suite, tying the Editors' Choice Dell Inspiron XPS and just barely edging out the solid . Both the Qosmio E15-AV101 and the Aspire 2020 feature second-generation Pentium M processors with 2MB of L2 cache running at 1.7GHz and 1.8GHz, respectively. The Fujitsu LifeBook C2310 came in a distant third--despite having the fastest hard drive of the lot--due to a first-generation Pentium M that lacks the 2MB L2 cache. Overall, the Qosmio E15-AV101 is an exceptional mobile performer equal to any office-productivity or content-creation task.
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Find out more about how we test notebooks.