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Laptops

Toshiba Quad Core HD Processor: Qosmio X300, F50 and G50

From here on in, the Spurs Engine we saw at CES will be known as the Toshiba Quad Core HD Processor, and it'll star in a range of new Qosmios

Back in January, we intrepidly voyaged to Las Vegas, to check out casinos Toshiba's Spurs Engine -- laptop technology that could turn standard-def video into hi-def in real time. Today, that technology has made the leap from concept to reality, as it reaches a range of new laptops.

From here on in, the Spurs Engine will be known as the Toshiba Quad Core HD Processor, and it'll star in a range of new Qosmios, namely the 15.4-inch F50, the 18.4-inch G50, and 17-inch X300 gaming rig.

The Toshiba Quad Core HD system is essentially a co-processor consisting of four separate Cell CPUs -- the PlayStation 3 uses a single one, although slightly different -- working alongside the main CPU. Whereas graphics cards are dedicated to moving polygons around, Quad Core HD is dedicated to handling video. One of its uses is to turn standard-definition footage from a DVD or an MPEG file into high-definition 1080p. It does this by upscaling the video, applying proprietary "video-manipulation technology" to reduce artefacts, and interpolating it to fill in any gaps.

Does it work? Yes, it improves the image quality, although upscaled footage is nowhere near as gorgeous as proper 1080p, such as from a Blu-ray disc. In other words, you can polish a turd, but at the end of the day, it's still a turd.

Other uses for Quad Core HD include face manipulation -- so you can see what you look like with different hair and make-up -- and gesture recognition. Users can wave their hands in front of a QCHD-equipped laptop's webcam and it'll interpret certain movements as commands. Put a palm in the air and it'll pause and resume video. Making a fist gives you control of the mouse cursor, and giving a thumbs up sends the equivalent of a mouse click.

The Quad Core HD system can also be used to transcode video footage at twice the speed of a traditional CPU alone. In other words, it'll take DVD footage, and resize it for your iPod in a fraction of the time it would take you to do it normally.

The final, and least sexy, use for the Quad Core HD system is video indexing. It can scan all your movie files, recognise faces and create thumbnails of those faces. You can then click the thumbnails to watch scenes with those faces in, or compile them in a separate playlist. This might be useful for creating a 'best of' reel of your favourite actor, or a hilarious montage video to embarass a groom at a wedding.

There's no word on the pricing of QCHD-equipped laptops as yet, but Toshiba tells us it'll launch some time in Q3 2008 -- minus Blu-ray (or HD DVD). Have a look at the laptop pictures on the following few pages for more information, or watch the system in action by hitting this link. -Rory Reid

The X300 is probably the most striking of the new range. It has a 17-inch screen, Harman/Kardon speakers, flashing red LEDs above the keyboard, and is finished mostly in red. It's clearly marketed at shy, retiring types. Librarians and the like.

The rear of the machine has an odd flame-like pattern. It doesn't look particularly great in this photo, but we've seen it in the flesh and it is something special. Final pricing and specs are unconfirmed, but we know it'll use an Nvidia GeForce graphics adaptor with SLI technology, and the latest Intel Core 2 Duos.

The F50 is the baby of the bunch. It packs a 15.4-inch screen, is finished in glossy black plastic, and packs LED lighting around the Harman/Kardon speakers.

Here it is from another angle. Again, Toshiba's photography hasn't done it many favours, but, like the X300, it's very pretty.

And another angle. Note the inclusion of DVD. There's no HD DVD. Or Blu-ray.

The G50 is slightly bigger than the F50. It's a proper desktop replacement that packs an 18.4-inch display, a Media Center remote (pictured) and, er, some other stuff Toshiba hasn't told us yet.

Here it is from the rear. It's worth noting that in real life the laptop is not greyscale. It actually looks quite nice.