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Monster notebooks skew two ways these days: They’re either gaming-friendly, desktop-replacement machines that breathe fire, or they’re big-ass Media Center jobbies.
We haven’t yet seen a Toshiba notebook that’s competitive in gaming performance, but the latest Qosmio (pronounced Cosmio) just might be the best Media Center notebook we’ve seen to date.
Most notebook vendors just take an existing large-screen notebook, install Windows Media Center Edition, bundle a USB TV tuner, and call it a day. It seems like Toshiba actually designed the G35-AV600 from the ground up as a portable device meant for entertainment.
The best example of that attention to detail is the Ultimate TruBrite screen, which is rated at 480 nits, a measurement of a screen’s brightness. Most notebook screens hover around the 200 nits range, while the average desktop monitor rings in around 250 nits. So believe it when we say the G35’s screen is freakin’ bright. It’s technically on par with large-screen LCD TVs, and it looks simply stunning, putting other notebook screens to shame.
The G35 also features something we’ve wanted for a very long time from notebook vendors: a slot-fed optical drive. Granted, the stand-out skill of this Panasonic drive (the same one used in Macintosh notebooks) is lightning-fast DVD-RAM burns, so it’s not that exciting.
The G35 includes both PC Card and ExpressCard slots. We dinged Dell for jettisoning the PC Card slot in its E1705, and reader feedback backs us up. PC builders need to realize that there are just too many people out there with PC Cards to be ignored. They wouldn’t drop PCI from a desktop machine, would they?
Not to rant against Dell’s E1705, but while that machine used a bulky USB tuner, Toshiba integrates an analog TV tuner into its case. Of course, there’s no HDTV support, but that’s an issue that vexes all mobile MCEs. Toshiba is also one the few notebook makers to still include a built-in volume knob. In the G35, Toshiba went all out with a classy, solid-aluminum dial. Oddly, while the knob changes volumes in MCE2005, it doesn’t work within Windows XP itself.
For storage, Toshiba equips the G35 with not one, but two hard drives. The drives offer 80GB apiece, which is a little underwhelming. In an unusual move, Toshiba has the drives configured separately but you can enable mirroring to protect your data on the fly. That’s pretty valuable if you use your notebook to store critical data such as digital pictures, but it would be far more useful if the drives were larger.
So where does the G35 fall down? In performance, of course. For some reason, Toshiba has never decked out its units with the hottest parts available. The GeForce Go 7300 GS can barely run the two-year-old Doom 3 benchmark at 1280x1024 with 4xAA enabled. Toshiba also uses an Intel Core Duo T2400, which is about 300MHz slower than Intel’s fastest. While the Intel 945PM chipset supports DDR2/667, Toshiba opted for DDR2/533. This all adds up to benchmarks that are out of the hunt when compared with current high-end notebooks. The G35’s performance isn’t horrible; in fact, in application testing it runs slightly better than our zero-point system—a year-old Dell XPS with GeForce 6800 graphics and a single-core Pentium M.
It comes down to what you want from your notebook. There are clearly better general-purpose notebooks available for gaming, productivity, and pixel crunching. The G35 is not without merits, though. It’s configured with optional RAID 1, an onboard TV tuner, a biometric fingerprint reader, and a super-bright screen. We think there are certainly improvements to be made (especially in the 3D department), but the G35 is easily the best Media Center notebook we’ve tested.
Month Reviewed: July 2006
+ STARFLEET: Brilliant screen, RAID 1, nVidia PureVideo, and a slot drive!
- STARFORCE: Second-rate CPU, RAM, and GPU put it behind the competition in performance.