When it comes to ports, as expected of a machine with this bulk and aspiration, there is a very plentiful supply. The left is quite clean, with a Kensington lock slot, modem port, two USB 2.0 ports and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, where the headphone socket doubles as S/PDIF digital out and the mic as line-in. Unusually, the optical drive is located at the front, along with the wireless switch. Incidentally, the wireless switch’s loose housing is the only other area aside from the touchpad buttons where build quality is sub-par; otherwise it’s excellent.
The back is, again unusually, where most of the connectivity is located. There’s a TV antenna jack – yes, the G50-115 comes with an integrated digital/analogue TV tuner; a feature sorely missing from the last 18.4in entertainment laptop we looked at, the Acer Aspire 8920G. This is complemented by twin Infrared out ports for very flexible remote control usage, and the G50’s home cinema credentials are completed by an HDMI connection supporting Toshiba’s REGZA-link technology – Toshiba’s re-branding of the CEC protocol.
You’ll also find a combined e-SATA/USB port for the fastest external HDD access you can get on a notebook, while Gigabit Ethernet combined with Wireless-N provide speedy internet access. An analogue VGA port, meanwhile, caters for owners of older monitors.
On the right of our machine, hidden behind a flap that requires a single press to open, you’ll find an ExpressCard slot, memory card reader (capable of reading SD, SDHC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, MMC and xD picture cards), FireWire port and further USB socket. You might want to take care here, as that flap will break easily if you forget to close it when putting the notebook away (though good luck finding a case or pack that will fit it!).
Speaking of portability, this is obviously not the kind of notebook one would buy to drag around the country. It’s a proper desktop replacement, as confirmed by its weight: the G50 range starts at 4kg, but our sample comes in at a hefty 4.84kg – obviously affected by its twin hard drives.
Unlike its higher-specified siblings, which offer a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, the Q50-115’s 18.4in screen only sports a 1,680 x 945 one. Not only is it a pity to not have a Full HD screen at this kind of size, but it’s quite an odd and awkward resolution despite being ‘true’ widescreen (16:9). Of course, there are advantages too: everything is very readable and the discrete nVidia graphics chip can handle a wider selection of games at close to the screen’s native resolution.
However, while our initial subjective impression of the screen was quite positive, thanks to deep, rich colours and excellent sharpness, after spending a bit of time with it we noticed that viewing angles are surprisingly poor. Colour shift is extreme, and parts of the image become slightly bleached when viewed from an angle. It’s not something you’ll notice as much during daily use, but during films it can be distracting; especially when viewing with more than one person, the contrast shift means dark detail can be impossible to distinguish. Obviously, you can also patently forget any kind of visual work requiring even a modicum of colour accuracy, though few notebook panels can be recommended for this.
Frankly, for this reason only, this is one of the more disappointing panels we’ve seen on a large ‘entertainment notebook’, where it should have been one of its better aspects. It’s a shame too because, knowing the 1,920 x 1,080 18.4 inch panels from other machines are superior to this, we’d fully expect the Full HD equipped G50s to fare much better. Thus, given the choice, we’d happily pay a little more money for the more expensive Qosmio G50-10H whose Full HD screen we’d expect to be a marked improvement.