Toshiba unveils laptop that uses powerful Cell chip

Same chip that IBM used to push Roadrunner supercomputer over the petaflop barrier

Toshiba Monday unveiled the first laptop computer to use the computing-intensive Cell chip that was first was designed for Sony's PlayStation 3 game console.

The PC maker announced three new high-end laptops -- the Qosmio G55, Qosmio X305 and Qosmio F55. Designed for gaming and multimedia applications, the new machines are slated to hit the market later this US summer, according to Toshiba.

The Qosmio G55 is the laptop built to use the Cell chip, jointly developed by Toshiba, Sony and IBM. The processor is not only used in the video game console, it was also credited with powering IBM's Roadrunner supercomputer past the petaflop barrier last month.

Roadrunner, which also runs AMD's Opteron processors, uses the Cell chips for massive calculations, according to Don Grice, chief engineer on IBM's Roadrunner project. "It was built to do high-performance computations for video games," Grice explained in an earlier interview. "We had done enough studies to see that it's one of the best computational chips in the world."

Branded here as the Toshiba Quad Core HD Processor, Toshiba said that the chip is designed to give gamers and movie editors a better experience. The Qosmio G55 has up to 500GB of hard drive storage space, and is the first laptop from Toshiba to have an 18.4-inch diagonal widescreen TruBrite high-definition display.

"I'd give it a'nine' on the innovation scale," said Dan Olds, a principal analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. "We're just now seeing these types of co-processors, or accelerators, show up in supercomputing. Putting one in a laptop is definitely way out there on the aggressive meter."

Olds also said Toshiba has a good shot at taking the high ground in the high-end "lifestyle laptop" market, which is made up of people who use their laptop as their main source of communication and entertainment. "If HD video continues to take off, anyone who wants to roll their own video will find it easy to justify the cost of these systems."

Part of Toshiba's laptop rollout Monday, the Qosmio X305 was designed for the gaming community. It's built around a 17.1-inch diagonal widescreen TruBrite high-definition display. The laptop uses the NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX GPU3 graphics card that provides up to 1GB VRAM graphics memory, and dual hard drives with up to 400GB of collective storage space.

And the Qosmio F55, with a 15.4-inch diagonal widescreen TruBrite high-definition display, uses a NVIDIA GeForce 9700 GTS graphics card. The machine also includes a built-in GPS receiver and Garmin mapping software.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld

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