Toshiba's New Laptops Sharpen up Internet Video

Toshiba is putting its quad-core SpursEngine chip to use in several new laptops to improve the quality of Internet video images.

The company's new Qosmio multimedia laptops, which will appear in Japan on Friday before becoming available worldwide, will use the graphics processing chip to clean up video from sites such as YouTube, the company said Tuesday.

The function will work when playing video fullscreen -- not when it's played in a window on a Web site -- and only when using Internet Explorer. Toshiba couldn't immediately explain why it won't work with other Web browsers.

The SpursEngine was developed by Toshiba and is based on the same architecture as the Cell Broadband Engine microprocessor that powers the PlayStation 3 console. While the Cell contains a Power PC core and eight "Synergistic Processing Elements" cores, the SpursEngine contains only four of the SPE cores.

The chip also contains a hardware encoder and decoder for MPEG2 and MPEG4 AVC/H.264 video and is designed to be used as a co-processor in a PC for handling of calculation-intensive work such a real-time high-definition graphics processing. In the new Qosmio machines it works alongside an Intel Core2 Duo processor.

A previous version of the Qosmio also included the SpursEngine chip but when cleaning up video it only worked with DVD playback and not Internet streaming.

The Qosmio is Toshiba's flagship laptop and the new models come with features and price tags to match that position.

The top-of-the-range G50 includes an 18.4-inch widescreen full high-def LCD screen, 2.66GHz Core2 Duo processor, a 640GB hard disk and dual digital TV tuners. It will go on sale from Friday in Japan and costs aroundUS$3,420. Mid- and low-end Qosmio machines will also be offered for US$2623 and US$2118 respectively. Toshiba also introduced new netbooks today.

The computers will also go on sale outside Japan although international launch dates are yet to be fixed.

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