Toshiba’s Qosmio Hybrid Entertainment Device

With several recent product announcements blurring the line between computers and consumer electronic devices, Toshiba has gone one step further -completely erasing the line.

If it works like they say it does, Toshiba’s new Qosmio laptop truly is both a traditional consumer electronic device and a computer built into the familiar laptop form factor. Packed into the Qosmio?s traditional laptop exterior is a TV tuner, an extra-bright 15-inch LCD panel and instant-on technology that allows it to play DVDs and audio CDs, and tune TV stations without booting up the computer.

Available in August, Toshiba is hoping the Qosmio E15-AV101 will spark an interest in an entirely different type of computing solution.

“Qosmio is Toshiba’s stake in the digital convergence ground,” said Taro Hiyama, vice president of marketing, Toshiba DPD, a division of Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. “We’ve already made great strides in the digital convergence arena and as a recognized leader in both mobile computers and consumer electronics, the new Qosmio brand simply represents Toshiba’s best-of-breed and marriage of the two.”

When the computer is turned on, it runs Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center edition and performs like any regular laptop. The first generation of Qosmio’s will feature an Intel Pentium M 735 processor, a 15-inch Toshiba TruBrite XGA TFT display, 512MB of DDR, an 80GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and a multi-format CD/DVD writer.

Other features of the Qosmio include: a Toshiba TV tuner capable of 720×480 resolution with composite, coax, and S-Video in; a 64MB NVIDIA GeForce FX Go 5200 graphics adapter with 1024×768 max resolution; integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b/g wireless; a multi-function infrared remote control; and advanced Harmon Kardon speakers featuring virtual surround sound with SRS TruSurround XT technology.

For complete specifications, click here to download/view Toshiba’s spec sheet.

The Technology of the QosmioEngine

According to Toshiba, the heart of Qosmio’s unique features is what they call the QosmioEngine. Toshiba says the QosmioEngine is – a hybrid hardware and software system providing superlative video processing to deliver a high-quality visual experience. Arrayed around the QosmioEngine are components to support analog television and video input as well as digital (MPEG2) multimedia input.

The QosmioEngine performs a number of video processing functions, including enhancements for overall performance, monitor-in functionality, TV viewing and the Toshiba Picture Enhancement Utility. The company says these enhancements are easily enjoyed with the intuitive user interfaces of the Qosmio, including the QosmioPlayer and remote control.

There are several video enhancements that Toshiba says improves the overall video experience. Those enhancements, according to Toshiba’s documentation include:

Digital sharpness: To enhance the perception of fine details, the QosmioEngine sharpens images in both horizontal and vertical directions. This process, in combination with the “Edge enhancement” feature, increases the contrast shown in edge features of the image bringing out fine detail.

Black/White extension: Dark images tend to hide color contrast, while light images tend to wash out colour contrast. The “Black/White extension” process increases the contrast levels in both dark and light images; this helps bring out details in dark images, while making colours in lighter images more vibrant.

LCD over drive:  The “pixels” in liquid-crystal displays have historically been quite slow in reacting to change. In rapidly changing images (that depict rapid motion, or quick changes in color), each “pixel” must quickly change its displayed color. The conventional LCD’s somewhat delayed responsiveness can result in ghosting and blurriness when viewing rapidly changing images.

The QosmioEngine’s “LCD over drive” feature increases the apparent response speeds in areas of the video image affected by this, thus reducing the perceived blur in rapidly moving video images. Consequently, action movies, games, sports footage and other rapidly moving images can be seen in clear focus for an exciting action experience.

De-interlacing:  Many analog video signals transmit their information in an interlaced format, where first all the odd scan lines in an image are transmitted and then all the even lines. In rapidly changing images, this can result in a jagged picture because the image has changed very slightly “in between” the odd-line and even-line batches transmitted.

The “De-interlacing” process “re-assembles” a transmitted signal, interleaving the odd and even lines and tweaking them to remove the jagged appearance. The resulting “progressive scan” image is sharper and smoother.

Color adjustment: The QosmioEngine provides a thorough process to test the control parameters for gamma, brightness, and color balance in a video. This pro-actively works to ensure correct presentation of images with respect to color and brightness resulting in a cleaner, lifelike image (for example, yellows are truer yellow and not tinged with red).

Enhanced “monitor-in” functionality: The Qosmio device provides a monitor-in feature, so you can use the LCD for viewing analog video, digital video and graphics. This allows you to, for instance, plug in a camcorder or VCR to watch video on the LCD screen.

Edge enhancement: When viewing analog video input (for example, from a camcorder or VCR), often the edge contrast of the video source is poorly defined. To improve the viewing experience, the QosmioEngine provides an edge enhancement process to add or replace graduation and segmented pixels within the image. This pulls out the edges of the displayed image making the picture sharper and clearer.

Digital noise reduction: Analog video signals can also carry a large amount of noise along with usable signal data. The QosmioEngine performs a digital noise reduction process on monitor-in video signals to filter out high-frequency pixel changes that are typical of analog video noise. This improves the quality of the displayed image, helping to remove fuzziness and display artifacts in the image.

The Qosmio features a video-in port that can be used without booting up the computer.

The Qosmio’s built in TV-tuner functionality also provides a number of features to enhance the TV viewing experience, including:

Y/C separation: Analog video signals pack the brightness/darkness information and the colour balance information into the same portion of the signal; thus, color displays must separate out the Y (blackness) and the C (colour balance) information to make the image usable.

This process is not easily done, and the exact methods used vary in effectiveness depending on the format of the incoming signal (NTSC or PAL/SECAM television signals, for example). The Qosmio’s TV tuner performs sophisticated Y/C separation to help reduce flicker, color bleed, and artifacting in the displayed image, producing a clear, crisp, well-balanced image.

Time-base correction: Degraded or irregular video signals (for example, the signal read off old, worn video tape) creates unclear images because the timing pulses in the video signal are no longer uniform. Qosmio’s time-base correction process helps cope with a degraded video signal, to re-construct and present in the proper, regular timing resulting in a clear, sharp image.

Digital noise reduction: As with Qosmio’s “monitor-in” source, it also performs noise reduction on TV input signals to help reduce the noise inherent in analog video information.

Has Toshiba Succeeded in Erasing the Line?

Toshiba doesn’t envision an entire family huddling around a 15-inch laptop as the center of their home theater but it certainly could be used as such. The Qosmio is better suited as a portable entertainment center for frequent travelers or in an RV, small apartment or dorm room. However, it is easy enough to hook the Qosmio up to an LCD projector or a high-definition display making it a highly capable, low profile home-theater system.

At $2,699 for starters, the Qosmio is decidedly more expensive than other notebooks of comparable size and specifications. Obviously you’ll pay a premium for the instant-on applications and the video enhancements.

Future Qosmio products will include other features such as wide-screen displays up to 17-inches, higher storage capabilities and additional consumer electronic functionalities. Toshiba plans to add features that will further extend product usability and flexibility and continue the simplification of personal entertainment.

Available online at Toshiba’s Website and at retailers soon, the Qosmio just might be the product that ushers in a new era of home-entertainment and computing.