Toshiba Qosmio G50

It’s been said that in the next few years, the humble mouse will no longer exist. Jumping onto that notion, Toshiba have released a laptop that lets you control it using hand motions.

It’s been said that in the next few years, the humble mouse will no longer exist. Over the course of the decade, people will gradually go from that device that had its beginnings with a ball and one or two buttons and make their way to an interface that is far more user friendly.

Apple have a level of touch, Microsoft have their Surface, and we’ve got all manner of touchscreens beginning to take the place of the mouse in some of the coolest ways.

But motion control is probably the coolest because it’s easily the most science fiction of it all… and we all want to live in the future in some way or another.

The Toshiba Qosmio G50 is an oddity in the world of laptops. While we have all sorts of technological achievements, motion gestures have never really been on the agenda. Toshiba aim to change that with the G50, a high-end laptop with a web camera that will watch for specific gestures made by your hand and then allow you to use the computer with those gestures.

Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor clocking in a 2.53GHz and featuring two 320GB hard drives and 4GB of memory, the Qosmio G50 sets itself up as being the new powerhouse in the Qosmio line-up. Toshiba’s high-end range pronounced Kos-mee-oh (for those of you inserting the “u” where it doesn’t need to be) have been stunning reviewers with power and design since they initially launched back in 2005 and now they’re changing the game yet again with a slightly different design and some added weight.

Yes, the new Qosmio G50 has put on a little bit of weight as Toshiba have switched from the 17 inch screens they’d been running with for a while to the new 18.4 inch 1080p beasts we first saw on some Acer laptops a few months back. With the added screen size comes a larger laptop that is literally impossible to find a back pack for; good luck taking this thing with you as it is huge and weighs a whopping 5 kilograms.

It does look nice and if you’re a fan of simple lines and chrome trim, this will suit you nicely. If you play a lot of games or edit video, you’ll be sure to appreciate the Geforce 9600M GT with 512MB on-board memory as well as the unique Quad-Core Cell processor that makes the laptop better suited for video applications. And with harmon/kardon speakers and subwoofer, WiFi n, Gigabit Ethernet, a digital TV tuner, 4 USB, 1 eSATA port, a card reader, HDMI, PCI ExpressCard slot, and even the ever diminishing Firewire port hidden behind a nice push-to-open panel, the G50 looks seriously like a contender.

But playing against all of the good are a few key things that Toshiba have failed to note, things that will make the Qosmio more a flop that should have spent more time in R&D instead of being released as an overpriced prototype.

The first of these relates solely to the gesture control and that is the Cell processor used to power the technology. Similar to the high speed processor found in the Sony PlayStation 3, the Cell processor used here uses four cores to work away and get that motion gesture control working.

Unfortunately, you need to keep the G50 plugged in to get this to work.

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When you do get it running, the gesture controls seem to be lacking. The symbols guiding you are somewhat easy to understand (somewhat) but the Cell processor can’t seem to keep up with quite how much power the technology needs and is very slow to use. You may as well get out a mouse or a remote control for all of the time you’ll be using the G50’s innovative control scheme for.

Controlling the G50 is fairly easy once the laptop has locked onto your gesture but it’s really only useful for browsing Windows Media Centre by slow hand movements. You wouldn’t want to do anything simple like surfing the web or playing Solitaire with this as it’s just not good enough yet.

It’s also very buggy. Because the gesture control isn’t always enabled in hardware as this would no doubt stress the computer past breaking point, it’s still controlled via a software interface which unfortunately has the tendency to crash.

And if there’s one thing an 18.4 inch high definition 1080p screen needs it’s the ability to play back high definition content… something which the Toshiba Qosmio G50 sadly cannot do.

Call it a fallout from the format wars when Toshiba lost with the HD-DVD format (which I honestly still use) but any form of high definition is absent here. There’s no HD-DVD drive and showing that Toshiba are still a little bit sour, there’s no Blu-ray drive either. All of this makes the high definition 1080p screen sitting at 18.4 inches a little underwhelming when all you’ve got are your regular old DVD’s.

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That’s not to say that they won’t look great here: they will. In fact, you’d be hard pressed noticing the difference between DVD and 1080p short of extra detail in imagery at this screen size, but that’s sort of not the point.

Here we have a high definition screen… but nothing to use it with.

What this leaves Toshiba with is still that same oddity I talked about in the beginning of the review. The Qosmio G50 is a good idea that needs more time in R&D. Motion control is obviously no way near anything workable or useful yet and while the implementation is interesting, the lack of use this has in a so-called “portable” computer makes this technology a bit pointless, as does a lack of high definition drive.

And while the speed of the computer coupled with either the high-end video chipset or the quad-core Cell inside would make it perfect for people editing video on the go or playing games, it still feels like it could do with a bit more time in the oven making that new technology go the extra mile.

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Product: Toshiba Qosmio G50

Vendor: Toshiba

RRP: $2799

Website: Toshiba Qosmio G50

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark