Toshiba is looking to redefine desktop replacement notebooks in a a big, big way, and we’re the very first to bring you a hands-on with the groundbreaking Qosmio G55, which will go on sale next month for $1,549. This 18.4-inch beast isn’t notable just for its futuristic good looks (a combination of a slick black chassis, LED illumination, and metal highlights), but because it’s the first notebook to boast a dedicated Quad Core HD Processor (powered by the same Cell Processor that runs the PlayStation3). This enables gesture control, blazing fast video encoding, and more. Read on for our first impressions. Hands-Free Media Control Thanks to the dedicated Quad Core HD processor, the G55 is the first notebook that lets users control music and video playback (Toshiba’s DVD player and Media Center), as well as PowerPoint, using just their hands-no remote or keyboard required. The webcam senses your movement from 3 to 10 feet away and the Quad Core HD processor interprets your hand motions in real time. This was, obviously, the most talked about feature when the Qosmio G55 arrived in the office. After getting some significant time with the control scheme, we can say that we’re quite impressed. After manually activating the gesture control software, we were able to launch the cult classic Xanadu (we were also able to pause and resume video, skipchapters, and even turnof the G55) by using only our hands (or fists since your hand really should be clenched as you move the pointer). The controls on this pre-production model can be a overly sensitive, and, frankly, extending an arm for a period of time can be tiring, but all in all it’s a really cool tool for controlling the media player and TV tuner software. It should be noted that stopping/resuming video requires you to have a flexible wrist as you have to raise an open palm to the screen in a “stop in the name of love” position. Editor Avram Piltch was able to get his hand into a near 90-degree position, which allowed him to pause/resume with ease. My stiff wrist not only left me unable to stop or resume Xanadu, but left me more than a little bit sore and a little frustrated that I couldn’t silence Olivia Newton John’s craptastic dance numbers on my own. Forming a fist allows you to move the cursor around the screen, and pressing your thumb down on top of your fist makes a selection. We did this to adjust the volume from across the room. Pretty cool. We think the motion control feature has a lot of potential for other types of applications, especially games. Fortunately, Toshiba says that it will be making an SDK available for the Quad Core HD Processor. Specs and Other Unique Features of the G55 The same Quad Core HD Processor that powers the gesture controls also increases video encoding and transcoding times by leaps and bounds (when it’s used in tandem with the bundled new Ulead DVD Movie Factory software), catalogs clips based on subjects’ faces, and even upscales standard-def movies to 1080i on the fly–when footage is outputted via HDMI. Unfortunately, gesture control doesn’t work with upscaling enabled. This 10.8 pound desktop replacement also offers a nice array of other high-end features at a price that you probably wouldn’t expect. Our test model includes Intel’s next-generation Centrino 2 technology (exact clock speed to be announced later), Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT graphics (which is 30-percent faster than the GeForce 8600M GT), 4GB of RAM, dual 250 GB hard drives, stereo speakers and a subwoofer, FM tuner, an 18.4-inch (1680 x 945 pixel) display, and WIndows Vista Home Premium. In terms of ports, the G55 serves up plenty: Three Sleep-and-Charge USB ports (for powering gadgets when the system is in sleep mode or powered down), eSata/USB, FireWire, RGB, S/PDIF, a Bridge Media Card slot, an ExpressCard slot, and headphone and mic jacks. Not bad at all for $1,549. What’s On Deck We’re eager to dig into this this groundbreaking machine more thoroughly in upcoming days. Expect in-depth testing of the video editing, upscaling, and indexing features to see if they deliver on Toshiba’s promises. Stay tuned.