E3 - Toshiba's Qosmio gets HD DVD

At the E3 conference in Los Angeles, Toshiba announced its latest Qosmio notebook, the G35-AV650, which will be the first model to feature an HD DVD-ROM drive capable of playing HD DVD movies. This announcement comes as little surprise: Toshiba's Japanese division has already announced its version of this notebook.

The US$3000 unit builds on the foundations laid by an earlier model, the US$2400 G35-AV600, but improves the graphics and processing power, as well as screen resolution and high-definition output. The core specs include Windows' Media Center Edition operating system; an Intel Core Duo T2500 2.0-GHz processor; 1GB of PC5300 DDR2 SDRAM; 200GB of Serial ATA-based hard disk storage (two 100GB drives striped together using RAID 0); a 17-inch WUXGA display with 1920 by 1200 resolution; and NVidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics with 256MB of discrete graphics memory.

In addition, the unit has an analog TV tuner, both PC Card and ExpressCard slots, and HDMI output at 1080i (playback on the unit's own display is at 1080p, which matches the resolution of the first wave of HD DVD movies).

The included HD DVD-ROM drive is manufactured by Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corporation, a joint venture between Toshiba (an ardent backer of HD DVD) and Samsung (ironically, a Blu-ray Disc proponent). The drive is an HD DVD-ROM and DVD SuperMulti drive supporting 1X HD DVD-ROM, 24X CD-ROM, and 8X DVD-ROM read speeds; and 16X CD-R, 10X CD-RW, 4X DVD-R/RW, 2X DVD+R double-layer, 4X DVD+RW, and 3X DVD-RM.

Although HD DVD is still a novelty, Toshiba product manager Dave McFarland says the decision to include the format "is a company statement as a technology leader, for one. If you're looking for an all-in-one, so you don't need a separate box for your DVR or HD DVD, you can use this one computer that can fit in your home console. It has the same look and feel of a home receiver. And at the same time, it's mobile--you have everything in there, including your HD DVD player." The sleek, black unit is designed to be able to operate even if the screen is closed.

HD DVD is vying with Blu-ray Disc for dominance in your living room for playing high-definition movies. Blu-ray Disc has a higher maximum capacity than HD DVD.

On the subject of the format war, McFarland says, "It's going to come down to which company can market to their audience better. Those will have a lot to play with how this will pan out. You may be able to record to a larger format, but if it's going to cost more, is it worth it?"

At US$3000, the price of entry is steep, but with this unit, you gain an all-in-one home theater system. Would you consider spending that much for a notebook that could pull double duty--and even replace the DVD player in your living room?

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