Toshiba launches multimedia Qosmio notebooks

Toshiba Corp. launched on Thursday a new line of notebook PCs that come optimized for audio and video functions and will be made available worldwide.

Machines in the Qosmio line feature an in-house-developed image-processing chip and other enhancements such as the addition of a second backlight in the LCD to offer a brightness equivalent to that of a flat-panel television.

The dedicated chip includes 11 image processing functions, most of which are intended to clean up the image displayed on the computer's screen, said Midori Suzuki, a spokeswoman for Toshiba in Tokyo. They include functions such as a deblocking filter, which is said to reduce block noise during playback, and an interlace-to-progressive scan converter, which can help reduce screen flicker and improve edges on fast-moving objects.

On the audio side, the notebooks feature a pair of 30-mm Harman/Kardon speakers, which are the largest speakers yet to be offered in a notebook computer, according to Suzuki. The 4-watt audio system also supports the TruSurround XT and Wow XT systems of SRS Labs Inc.

A problem usually faced by users who watch TV on their computers is the time it takes for the operating system to start and load and for the TV application to begin. This process typically takes more than 30 seconds. To shorten it, Toshiba has made it possible to watch the TV, and record or time-shift programs without starting up Windows by including a Qosmio Player application that runs on Linux and can be booted much faster than Windows. A similar feature was included on a notebook computer launched by Sharp Corp. in Japan earlier this year.

The high-end model of the Qosmio line is based on an Intel Centrino Pentium-M Processor 715, while the other two models are based on a Centrino Celeron-M Processor 330. Other specifications include 256MB of memory, a 80GB hard disk drive and a DVD drive. The integrated TV tuner includes a hardware MPEG2 encoder.

Toshiba couldn't immediately provide battery life figures.

The first two machines in the Qosmio line will go on sale in Japan on Aug. 6 with a third model joining the lineup on Aug. 27. The three launch models will have 15-in. screens. Toshiba is promising additional models with widescreen 15.4- and 17-in. displays by the end of the year.

Outside of Japan, the notebook computers will go on sale between August and October. In the U.S., they will be launched in mid-August, in Europe at the end of August, in Singapore in August and in China and South Korea in October, according to Suzuki. Prices will be about the same as those in Japan, she said.

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