Notebook PCs, for much of the Nineties and throughout the past few years, were a mission-critical must-have for business users. Descending price points, however, and a drive in the computer industry have conspired to make the device a ubiquitous tool that transcends social and professional barriers.
Evidence of this can already be seen in current newspaper ads where laptops can be bought for as little as €700. There are other interesting trends that are leading to the notebook PC’s dominance over the traditional desktop models many of us are used to. Notebook PCs are becoming entire entertainment systems capable of doing much more than merely displaying spreadsheets. After all, you can surf the net, watch DVDs, play videogames and rip and burn CDs.
With a reputation for making better quality notebook PCs, Toshiba has created a notebook family that does all of the above and more insofar as it combines all that with a TV tuner and a high-definition screen. To drive home the laptop’s purpose as a TV and DVD entertainment machine, it even comes with its own remote — the first remote control I’ve seen with a Windows button on it.
In terms of features, and despite the unpronounceable name, Toshiba’s Qosmio family packs quite a punch. If the Japanese tech giant wasn’t trying to position it as a ‘smart home’ entertainment system, it would still make an excellent business PC.
With a 1.5GHz Centrino processor, the notebook is ideal for working within a wireless local area network and comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Word, OneNote and Works and has XP Media Centre edition preloaded. It also comes with Bluetooth capabilities, making it ideal for transmitting photographs from cameras and synching with PDAs.
For PC gamers, this is a dream machine, thanks to the 15-inch high-definition screen (unlike typical LCD screens, this one is a glass thin-film transistor screen that can show up to 16.7 million colours), an 80GB hard drive and some 512MB of Ram to keep it speeding along. The DVD drive is capable of playing, recording and burning every kind of CD and DVD available today. It also comes with two built-in speakers and all the various speaker jacks and headphone slots you need, even featuring four USB 2.0 ports. Battery life is reasonable at two and a half hours.
The laptop weighs in at 3.6kg, so for any seasoned wireless warrior flitting between Wi-Fi hotspots — unless you’re built like a wrestler — expect backache. In other words: this is more of a machine for the home; if you’re planning to lug it anywhere, bring a car.
To compensate for not trying out the TV function, I threw in a DVD and the sound from the machine was extraordinary. The green writing we are so used to seeing on our TV screens drove home the point that Toshiba is making — this is a home entertainment machine comparable and potentially better in the long run than the ordinary box in the corner of the living room. At €2,330 (incl. Vat), the product is at the mid-to-upper scale of laptops on the market today and may initially only appeal to a niche audience. Ultimately, however, it is a superior machine to many others currently available and is a good indication of where computing — and home entertainment — is heading.
By John Kennedy