Notebook Toshiba Qosmio F50-AV530 Review


the Qosmio F50 offers a wide range of multimedia features. It also houses Toshiba’s new Quad Core HD processor, a chip separate to the main CPU that aims to boost video performance–something we first heard about back in June. You can imagine, then, our excitement to review the laptop and find out how performance stacks up.

Features
With a resolution of 1,200 x 800 pixels, the bright 15.4-inch widescreen display is good for 720p HD video, but not 1080p. True HD aside, Toshiba makes much of its Quad Core HD processor that’s housed within the Qosmio F50. This aims to provide extra oomph when video editing and watching films, as well as let you control the laptop by using hand gestures via the built-in webcam.

But is this Quad Core HD thing really worth shouting about? If you’re only interested in the gesture feature, the answer is a resounding no. We gave it a fair crack of the whip, but it was a painful process with most of our gestures being completely ignored.

For movies, though, the Quad Core HD processor does perform quite well. We tried out the upconvert feature (upscaling to the rest of us) while watching Ocean’s Thirteen and video did appear more detailed, though closer inspection does reveal a heavy amount of sharpening that can end up making certain scenes look worse.

There are also some important caveats regarding the upconvert application. You can only use it with the included Toshiba DVD Player software and, more importantly, it won’t operate when the laptop’s running off the battery. When activated, you also lose certain features, such as fast forward and rewind, and the laptop fan soon ramps up to an annoying level.

Design

Aesthetics were clearly high on the agenda for Toshiba when designing the Qosmio F50, but the glossy black and silver chassis looks and feels just a little tacky. A bewildering array of lights adorn the already over-the-top chassis–thankfully one of the touch-sensitive buttons lets you turn the unnecessary ones off. Harmon Kardon speakers, controlled by an old-fashioned dial, manage to produce deep and rich, if not incredibly loud, audio.

The keyboard is sturdy and features very little flex, but the glossy coating is way too slippery for extended periods of typing–a prime example of style over substance. Various ports are dotted around the chassis, including four USB (one of which doubles as an eSATA port), one mini-Firewire, a multi-format card reader and an aerial socket for the hybrid (analogue and digital) TV tuner. There’s also an HDMI output, though to make full use of this you’ll need to add a Blu-ray drive, but only a standard DVD rewriter is included.

Performance And Battery Life

With its Core 2 Duo P8400 2.26GHz processor, 4 GB RAM and 512MB Nvidia Geforce 9600M GT graphics, the Qosmio F50 returned some decent benchmark scores. In PCMark 2005 it notched up 5,445, while the 512MB Nvidia Geforce 9600M graphics card helped drive it to a score of 4,920 in 3DMark 2006. Battery life wasn’t quite so hot, though, at 1 hour 28 minutes in the BatteryEater Classic test and 2 hours 13 minutes in the less strenuous Reader test. But weighing in at a hefty 4.1kg (including power adaptor), it’s unlikely you’ll be using it much away from the mains.

While the Quad Core HD processor works well when upscaling DVDs, the gesture-control feature is next to useless. That said, the Qosmio F50-10Z is reasonably priced at S$2,999 (US$2,006.96), it has plenty of features and, as long as the over-the-top chassis doesn’t put you off, it serves well as a mid-range, entertainment-focused laptop.

Service And Support

Toshiba offers a one-year international carry-in warranty for this machine, with options to upgrade the coverage period at the point of purchase. For greater convenience, you can register the warranty online instead of mailing it in. Prompt assistance is available through a toll-free number for over-the-phone support and troubleshooting. An online support database called IRIS (Instant Response Information Service) features a search engine for solutions to commonly encountered problems. If the issue still cannot be resolved, the unit will have to be brought down to a Toshiba service center for repair. A list of service centers can be obtained from Toshiba’s Web site, which also hosts updated drivers and utilities.

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