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Toshiba Qosmio G30-102
Just over a year ago I took a look at the Qosmio G20 102 - Toshiba's top of the range all-in-one-multimedia notebook. Now the G30 has arrived and it's in many ways a better machine – it’s good to see progress as work. It's £100 more expensive than last year's effort but if you're willing to spend the best part of two grand on a notebook then it's hardly worth fussing over, especially as you're getting a lot more for your money than last time. If you do feel the need to spend more, then there's the G30-201 - a variant with a faster CPU and twice the hard disk capacity, available for £2,100.
The G30 is a big 'ol machine and at 4.8Kg it's actually heavier than the last version. The dimensions when closed are 406 x 285 x 43.1 mm - pretty big. It’s chunkiness is its most noticeable dimension. It's only sensible to consider it as a permanent, or at least one rarely moved installation. Despite its bulk there's a very large external power supply trailing from the rear.
Considering its size, the Toshiba is not surprisingly very imposing even when closed, with a very large silver lid with the Qosmio logo etched onto it. Open it up and you'll find a black brushed metal chassis round the keyboard with an array of buttons running across its top edge. The construction is actually less swish than the G20, which had the buttons as incorporated into the chassis itself and illuminated from underneath. It might not be as cool but the actual buttons are easier to use. The left button is the power switch and has the obligatory blue light surround. Next to this is one that launches Windows Media Center directly, while the one to the right launches the software that gives access to the G30's star attraction - the HD DVD drive.
While we've seen Blu-ray in two desktop systems so far, Toshiba has launched first in the UK with HD DVD notebooks. The drive is located at the front, which gives it more of a consumer electronics feeling. Flicking through the HD DVD paper guide included I must admit that my eyebrows were raised by a couple of items. Firstly there was a paragraph stating that for "uninterrupted enjoyment of HD DVD" it is necessary to connect the system to the Internet at unspecified intervals in order to renew the digital AACS key that is the copy protection employed on the format. So, if you choose not to go online with your machine you could find that your HD DVD drive won't play back movies - a great opportunity to really upset people. My favourite line though was, "Frame dropping, audio skipping or out of sync audio and video may occur during playback of some HD DVD Video titles". Great. Implying that merely by telling us that we might get an awful experience makes it all alright.
While this might not exactly inspire confidence, I can at least report that our Apollo 13 test disc played back smoothly both when the notebook was plugged in and when disconnected from the mains. I also unplugged while playing and it continued without a hitch – only the display dimmed. Playback has to be done through Toshiba's own HD DVD software, which is pretty good with a clean and uncluttered look. Being able to access the menus while the movie is playing is a nice touch and another tangible benefit over DVD.