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Laptops

Toshiba Qosmio Media Center notebook

The Toshiba Qosmio is the first notebook to market in Australia with Windows XP Media Center onboard. Wireless mobility means that your media center can move with you - to the kitchen, outdoors, or it can even go with you on holiday.

Upside
Toshiba enters the Media Center notebook market in two flavours - the Qosmio F10 ($4999) and the Qosmio G10 ($5999). With a slick, silver casing, it's a good looking notebook, as befits the style demands of today's home entertainment gear. Indeed, when connected closed next to a plasma screen, the unit looks very smart - slicker than most DVD recorders.

Qosmio is built from the ground up for multimedia. The screen has a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio and with two lamps, it boasts a bright screen and a 500:1 contrast ratio. It also has an anti-glare CSV coating (Clear Super View) that reduces both internal and external light reflection for better clarity indoors and out.

Toshiba claims that its TV tuner and video encoder, dubbed the 'QosmioEngine', is a combination of hardware and software that will generate a higher quality output than other notebooks with TV tuner cards. The company has put its R&D muscle into the AV proccessor to better manage ghosting, colour separation and contrast. The remote can be used to browse both free-to-air and Foxtel channels, as well as video, picture and music libraries.

Another interesting feature is the 'Qosmio Player', a quick-start functionality that allows you to immediately begin playing DVDs and CDs using standard AV buttons without waiting for the software to boot. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait for quick-start to live TV, which will be offered as an update on the next-generation Qosmio models. The notebooks also have surprisingly good stereo audio on 30mm Harmon Kardon speakers.

Both models come with an integrated Intel Pro 802.11b/g wireless LAN, a V.90 modem+fax,10/100 Base TX Ethernet and a DVD SuperMulti (double layer) drive (DVD+R+RW, DVD-RAM). On the connectivity side, you'll find USB x 3, FIR, 5-in-1, PC card, integrated Bluetooth, composite, component, S-video and S/P DIF.

The F10 has a 15.4 inch XGA display with an Intel Pentium  Processor 755 and an 80GB hard disk drive. The G10 steps up to a 17 inch screen with a 160GB hard drive.

Downside
The Media Center integration comes at a cost - in heft as well as dollars. The notebooks are not designed as light weight business tools for the travelling road warrior.

It may seem trifling, but there's nowhere to store the remote and misplacing it would be a big inconvenience. And of course, there are the standard Media Center limiations - you can't burn DVDs and the TV tuner is analog only.

Outlook
The Qosmio notebook is a more expensive option than other new Media Center packages, but the wireless portability means potentially greater use of its functionality. If you've got a wireless network, you can stream your pictures, music and video to any room of the house from a central Qosmio hub. It's also great for taking your picture and video libraries with you to a holiday house or to visit Grandma.  Qosmio is also very easy to set up and certainly takes up less space in your lounge room.

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