The Toshiba Qosmio G20 is available in New Zealand now and one of the few Microsot Windows-based PC models with digital media management as one of its main features.
When you open the Qosmio G20 there is no way to escape the big impression its large 17” widescreen LCD will make on you. The picture is really clear and crisp, and the size of the screen (1440x900 WXGA+ and up to 2,048 x 1536 on external monitors) gives lots of space to work on. The graphics controller is a NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 Graphics with 128MB DDR video memory.
The built-in TV Tuner can receive channels from an internal antenna, CATV or an external antennal, with an autoscan function from 41MHz to 860Mhz. It also comes with monitor in port, s-video in port, s-video out port, d-video out port and S/PDIF jack for headphone.
Being a true entertainment centre it allows the user to watch TV and even pause the live TV programme or replay it instantly.
Surprisingly though the video quality I managed to get on a widescreen 32” JVC TV wasn’t the best one. I tried a s-video connection and the picture was distorted. Tried the same s-video connection from a Pioneer DVD player and the distortion was gone. Watching the DVD on the LCD showed no problem though.
Detail of one of the built-in harmon/kardon speakers
Volume control knob
The Qosmio G20 also features the QosmioPlayer. It is a a built-in software that allows users to play DVDs and CDs using standard AV buttons, without having to boot the computer into Windows. All buttons are on a row on top of the standard keyboard. It can be up and running ready to play a music CD in a couple of seconds. However when playing a DVD this way it is not possible to have the video output redirected to an external monitor.
QosmioPlayer controls above keyboard
This is the main problem I found with this notebook: until Microsoft officially releases Windows XP Media Center Edition here in New Zealand, the Qosmio G20 runs Windows XP Home Edition and Toshiba’s own media centre software. This software is simply a shell that launches other programs, not as integrated as the Microsoft software, but it works well. For example, the TV Tuner player/recording software provided is WinDVR, which does a good job in playing live TV and time-shift management.
Outside of the scope of the Qosmio, Microsoft is working to release Windows XP Media Center Edition in New Zealand, but the TV listings might be a problem. If all goes well, the software should be tested and ready to conform to New Zealand standards by the end of 2005.
The media software (click images to enlarge)
The other problem is size and weight. At 4.45 Kg and measuring 406 mm (w) x 285 mm (d) x 48.9 mm (h) it is not the lightest or smallest notebook in town. Amusingly enough though I had the Qosmio G20 on my lap and managed to watch a full movie on DVD without feeling the weight. It is well balanced and I have to say I was distracted by the movie and sound quality.
The sound is another interesting feature. With a pair of built-in harmon/kardon speakers and SRS tru-sound technology I actually enjoyed the movie and was surprised with the quality of sound effects.
The notebook is based on an Intel Pentium M (with 2MB level 2 cache) and using and Intel Centrino platform (including the Intel Pentium M, Intel Pro/Wireless Network Connection and Intel 915 chipset).
The model I tried had 1024MB RAM, but the memory configuration can be expanded up to 2GB (2x 1024MB modules).
The notebook includes some other impressive hardware. It comes with two (yes, two) 80GB hard disc units which can be used as individual drives (one for programs and data, and another one for recorded media for instance) or in a RAID configuration. Both RAID-1 mirroring and RAID-2 striping are available and can be easily configured through software.
Automatic RAID maintenance
The slot-in optical units is a mult-function CD/DVD drive supporting multiple DVD formats and speeds (DVD Super Multi – 8x DVD 24 x CD, 10x CD-RW, 8x DVD-R and DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+R DL, 4x DVD-RW and 5x DVD+RW, DVD-RAM)
In terms of connectivity there are very little limits. There are ports for analog VGA, USB 2.0, IEEE1394 Firewire, PC Card slot (Type II), Express Card and Bridge Media (SD, Memory Stick (Pro), Xd and MMC). All this in addition to those video ports I listed before.
Users will also find it easy to connect to a network. Thanks to the Intel Centrino chipset there is support for Wireless LAN (Wi-Fi, 802.11a/b/g) up to 108Mbps when in turbo mode). Built-in Bluetooth and International V.90 modem + fax plus 10/100 Base TX Ethernet are present.
The removable battery is a rechargeable 6-cell Lithium Ion (Li-ion) 14.8V with 4400mAh capacity. It weighs 320g but can provide only up to 2.0 hours of power for this notebook. Not enough for a full length movie sometimes.
Like other Toshiba notebooks, the Qosmio G20 also comes with ConfigFree, a software that helps users manage and diagnose network connections.
Huge screen for a notebook
Well integrated unit
Impressive hardware features
Great expansion capabilities with lots of ports
Can play CD and DVD without booting into Windows
Can’t comfortably be used in small spaces – like an airplane
No Windows XP Media Center Edition in New Zealand until late 2005
Windows XP Home Edition - it should be at least Windows XP Pro if MCE is not available
Battery power not enough for a full movie in some cases