capsule review

Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

Toshiba's latest luxury notebook, the Qosmio G35-AV650, is the first notebook available with an HD DVD drive for playing high-definition content. We looked at a shipping unit, and we liked many of the heavy portable's outstanding audiovisual extras. However, while HD content looked fantastic, the pricey Qosmio has some minor limitations.

The $2999 G35-AV650 uses Toshiba's own HD DVD tray-drive, the HD TS-L802A. This combo drive serves as a 4X multiformat, double-layer DVD burner as well as an HD DVD-ROM reader. To enable HD DVD playback, the G35-AV650's 17-inch wide-screen display has a native resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels, more than enough to support the 1080p HD format. The display also features a glossy coating to increase the viewable angle, and it gets power from two lamps instead of one for greater brightness.

We watched The Last Samurai in HD DVD on the laptop; the video looked sharp, and exhibited incredible detail and depth. (We then watched the same movie in standard definition, and found it lacking in comparison.) The Qosmio's sound is superb as well, thanks to an integrated 1-bit digital amplifier, Harman/Kardon speakers, and Dolby Home Theater enhancements that together simulate easily discernible multichannel surround sound.

Connect to an HDTV

Another unique feature of the G35-AV650: It includes an external HDMI port with HDCP support. This lets you connect the unit directly to an HDMI-equipped HDTV for use as a high-priced HD DVD player. If your TV lacks HDMI, though, you're out of luck in regard to an HD signal; the G35-AV650's other outputs are for analog S-Video and a VGA monitor, neither of which will facilitate an HD DVD signal.

If you've hooked the notebook up to an HDTV, you can close the screen and still play content inserted into the HD DVD drive, once you've used Toshiba's power-management tools to prevent the notebook from hibernating. An instant TV-out button sends the display signal to the television. Alternatively, you can use the Fn and F5 keys to toggle through output options.

Using this method we were quickly able to send an HD DVD signal to our test HDMI-equipped HDTV. However, despite HDMI's ability to carry both video and audio, in our tests the audio emitted from the Qosmio's built-in speakers rather than the television. (Toshiba reps said this shouldn't happen; we're still working with the company to resolve the issue.)

Another drawback: Like Toshiba's HD-A1 and HD-XA1 HD DVD players, this notebook outputs video over HDMI only at 1080i, a disappointment considering that Hollywood studios are starting to encode their discs at 1080p resolution.

The G35-AV650 is bundled with a coaxial adapter cable (for use with its coaxial antenna input), as well as a composite video/audio adapter cable (for connection to the composite input, which also doubles as a stereo audio input). The notebook has an S-Video input port, too, but as with the HDMI, no cable is supplied in the box.

Like previous Qosmio notebooks from Toshiba, the G35-AV650 runs Windows XP Media Center and comes with a TV tuner and a remote control. Though using the remote control is easy, we also like the numerous media playback buttons located just above the keyboard, some of which have multiple uses.

For instance, if the notebook is on, the dedicated TV and record (DVR) buttons will initiate the Media Center interface. But if you press the TV button when the unit is turned off, you can watch TV via Toshiba's QosmioPlayer interface without having to boot up Windows.

Unfortunately that ability to play media without booting Windows doesn't extend to playing HD content. We were able to play HD DVD movies only through the preinstalled InterVideo WinDVD HD application. Toshiba intends to have "instant on" playback for HD DVD movies in the future. The ability to play content such as MP3s and video files without having to boot up Windows would be an added bonus.

Top-Notch Features

The G35-AV650's top-of-the-line features include a 2-GHz Core Duo T2500 processor, 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, and a 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics controller. It also offers 200GB of storage in the form of two 5400-rpm SATA drives.

Among its other connections are four USB 2.0 ports, one Type II PC Card slot, and one ExpressCard slot compatible with the ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54 standards. A four-in-one media card reader and a fingerprint reader are provided as well.

Though Toshiba's Qosmio notebooks each feature a full-size keyboard, it's worth pointing out that they don't have a dedicated number pad--a feature sometimes prized by gamers and number crunchers alike--though there is room for one.

One feature that does stand out on the G35-AV650's keyboard, however, is the dual-mode touchpad. In addition to controlling mouse-pointer movement plus vertical and horizontal window scrolling, you can use the programmable touchpad to launch up to six programs by holding your finger on one of the designated areas.

In its secondary mode the touchpad's back lights illuminate, and its corners become hot spots for a switching tool; a pop-up interface lets you quickly switch programs or access favorite links and even hard-disk locations you've previously specified. It's quite straightforward to use, as well as to program (via another one of Toshiba's many little utilities).

Though the G35-AV650's glossy silver lid helps it resemble a home theater component, it will probably travel from your desk to the living room only rarely, as it tips the scales at 10.1 pounds.

We're currently running our WorldBench 5 benchmark as well as our battery life tests on the unit, so check back soon for our performance scores and overall rating. We enjoyed our first few hours with the Qosmio. As the first HD DVD notebook to ship, it still has a few kinks--but overall it's a solid, powerful portable that likely won't disappoint early adopters with money to spend.

Danny Allen and Melissa J. Perenson

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Large desktop replacement performs very well, has great battery life and plays HD DVD movies. Features HDMI output and TV tun

    Pros

    • Terrific multimedia notebook with HD DVD

    Cons

    • Bulky size may not be for everyone
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