Toshiba Qosmio G15-AV501

One of two new installments in Toshiba's Qosmio line of mobile entertainment laptops, the $2,999 G15-AV501 offers a bit more oomph than the inaugural model, the Qosmio E15. With more powerful components and all of the added benefits of Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, the Qosmio G15-AV501 looks to play the part of laptop, TV, DVD player, personal video recorder, and gaming machine, all at once. Also check out the brand-new, 15.4-inch wide-screen Qosmio F15-AV201.

Upside: The G15-AV501 represents the high end of the Qosmio lineup. Most significantly, it features a gigantic, 17-inch WXGA display that's big enough to do nicely as your primary TV and movie screen; it's a serious step up from the Qosmio E15's 15-inch, standard-aspect panel. Another major improvement is the move to Nvidia's GeForce FX Go 5700 graphics chip, with 128MB of dedicated video memory--enough to make this laptop a prime-time gaming contender. The G15-AV501's other upgrades, while nice, represent baby steps: a slightly faster, 1.8GHz Intel Pentium M 745 processor and a 100GB hard drive (compared to the E15's 80GB). Also featured, of course, is Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, which gives you greater freedom in capturing, editing, managing, and playing your digital content.

Downside: We're psyched that Toshiba got wise and gave the Qosmio G15-AV501 a big-time, wide-aspect screen. We're less psyched that this screen features a somewhat wimpy, 1,366x768 native resolution, which affords considerably less screen real estate than many other laptops with comparably sized displays. The 17.1-inch wide-screen panel on the Sony VAIO VGN-A190, for example, has a 1,920x1,200 native resolution that makes for a truly large and crystal-clear viewing area.

Outlook: This time around, the Qosmio appears somewhat less gimmicky, and we think that with the G15-AV501, Toshiba has made some important corrections to the original Qosmio design. Still, battery life and computing performance will ultimately determine whether this laptop is a true digital Swiss Army Knife or another four-in-one product that offers four times the mediocrity. Check back soon for a full review of the Qosmio line.