Toshiba Qosmio G30 review
A stunning way to enjoy HD DVD, but the wonderful design and features come at a price
Last month, we saw the first of the long-awaited Blu-ray drives with its not surprisingly hefty price tag. Now along comes phase two of the big high-definition roll-out in the form of HD DVD, and what better way to introduce it to consumers than inside one of the most successful media centre notebook ranges currently available: the Toshiba Qosmio.
The G30 is the elite Qosmio, and it's easy to see why once you lift the lid and expose the sleek black interior. A silver volume dial sits within easy reach on the right edge, giving you quick control over the superb 24-bit stereo Harman/Kardon speakers, which support next-generation DTS-HD surround-sound audio.
But the most important part of any media centre system is the display, and happily the widescreen 17in TruBrite TFT is clear, vivid and reproduces colour well. It isn't flawless: imperfect contrast means blacks are slightly less rich than we'd like, and the glossy surface leaves you staring at your own face in well-lit rooms. But its portability means finding a good viewing area shouldn't be a problem.
And viewing is exactly what the G30 is all about thanks to the introduction of Toshiba's own TS-L802A drive. Content for HD DVD is still scarce in the UK, with just a few launch titles released, giving us an idea of what to expect. Also, some advanced interactive features such as Picture-in-Picture and network link-up won't be supported by the Qosmio, but such is the price of early adoption.
As with all other current HD DVD products, the drive is only a ROM model, so you won't be able to burn your own HD discs. Thankfully, it's backward compatible with DVD and CD, so both are burned as normal, with support for dual-layer writing at 2.4x and DVD-RAM at 3x.
There's no holding back elsewhere, though: the G30 is powered by a 2GHz Core Duo T2500 processor and backed up by 1GB of RAM, making it more than capable of handling high-definition content and media streaming. Our 2D benchmarks were dealt with swiftly, as shown by the 1.05 overall score.
The TFT has a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200, so you'll be able to play 1080p content in its full 1,080-line glory, although on a 17in screen the improvement over 720 lines is hard to see. But Toshiba has also wisely fitted an HDMI port and uses HDCP-compliant hardware, so you can hook your notebook up to an HD-ready TV and use it as an HD DVD player.
Gaming is also an option thanks to Nvidia's GeForce Go 7600, the mobile version of the impressive 7600 desktop series. You won't be able to use the full resolution of the screen on the latest titles, but we played Far Cry with HDR enabled at 1,280 x 1,024, achieving 23fps. Using our low settings at 1,024 x 768, it scored 36fps in Far Cry and 39fps in Call of Duty 2.
Elsewhere, it's loaded with features: two 120GB hard disks give ample storage for recording TV, plus there's a hybrid analogue/digital tuner. If you want to capture video from analogue devices, there's also an S-Video input and an AV input jack consisting of composite video and RCA audio L/R inputs. An S-Video output and the VGA port complete the set.
Communications consist of 802.11a/b/g WLAN and a Bluetooth module, as well as four USB 2 ports, mini-FireWire and a media card reader supporting SD, MS, MMC and xD-Picture cards. There's a handy wireless hardware switch on the front edge, and add-ins can be of the usual Type II PC Card or the newer ExpressCard/54 formats. Bundled accessories include an optical mouse and the usual MCE remote.