Many of the unique demo units and prototypes seen at the annual CES show don't make it onto store shelves in the near term, if at all (for example, Lenovo's convertible U1 tablet/laptop). Then there's the Toshiba Qosmio F755, which we saw as a 15-inch glasses-free 3D prototype at CES in January, and which is now officially for sale in a single fixed-configuration model.
That's a pretty quick turnaround, although the glasses-free 3D market is starting to pick up with help from Nintendo's 3DS handheld gaming system and similar stereoscopic gadgets from Sony and others. Like the CES prototype, the final version of the $1,699 Qosmio F755 has a 15.6-inch display that uses special eye-tracking software to track the viewer's head movements via the built-in Webcam and adjust the stereoscopic image accordingly. But keep in mind that the screen's native resolution is 1080p, but for 3D content, it drops to 720p (actually 1,366x768 pixels).
As with a 3D TV, it'll take a few moments to orient your eyes, especially if you're not used to watching 3D content. But we found the eye-tracking feature allowed for a reasonable amount of freedom of movement, and the 3D effect worked from an off-axis side view. However, again because of the tracking feature, it works best for one viewer at a time.
Other drawbacks are that the 3D display doesn't work for video games or streaming-video content yet, only 3D Blu-ray and 3D video files you're able to download and play in Toshiba's custom media player application. Both Toshiba and Nvidia have told us updates for expanded compatibility are in the works, but there are no firm details or time frame right now, which is a shame, as 3D gaming would be a killer app.
Stereoscopic screen aside, the rest of the system is typical of Toshiba's Qosmio line of consistently excellent multimedia and gaming laptops. Components include an Intel Core i7 CPU, discrete Nvidia graphics, and even a rare Blu-ray-burning drive.
|Price as reviewed||$1,699|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM|
|Memory||6GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||750GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.3x10.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.1 pounds / 8.7 pounds|
At first glance, this is a fairly standard Qosmio laptop, although based on a slightly older design. The outer shell is a textured bright red, with a glossy black interior. It's not as outlandish as some Qosmio systems we've seen, such as those with illustrated flame graphics, but its not as subtle as the recent Qosmio X775-3DV78 laptop, which traded the gloss for a brushed metal look.
There are a few other design elements we liked better in the X775, including a more popular island-style keyboard, with widely spaced keys--the ones here are tightly packed. We'd also like to see easier-to-use flat mouse buttons, as opposed to the Toshiba house-style convex glossy plastic buttons seen here.
The chassis does allow room for a full-size number pad, and there is a row of touch-sensitive control buttons right above the keyboard, including volume controls and a button for turning the 3D view off and on (which only works for 2D-to-3D conversion).
But we've all seen Qosmio laptops before. What you're really interested in is how the 3D features work. In brief, the entire setup is just short of practical, and feels more like a proof-of-concept piece than a finished consumer product. That said, for watching 3D Blu-ray movies by yourself, it can be a good overall experience, once you get used to how the system and software work.
The box includes a single page of 3D instructions, written by someone who must either write tax code for a living or else is not a native English speaker. Little of practical value is explained, and there's even a line that reads, "This technology does not currently support Blu-ray Disc format media." Of course it does--that's the entire point of the system. The instruction sheet, while it doesn't specify, is referring to a built-in 2D-to-3D conversion function, which you'll probably never use anyway, as like all 2D-to-3D conversions, it's headache-inducing.
To get started, pop a 3D Blu-ray Disc into the tray-loading drive. The custom Toshiba 3D Blu-ray player app will launch and for most discs you'll have to choose either the 3D or 2D version from the disc menu. The Toshiba Blu-ray player app is slow, clunky, and unintuitive, but for now it's the only software that will work with the 3D screen. Its pop-up control bar obscures the onscreen Blu-ray menus, there are unexplained buttons and functions, we couldn't find anything resembling a virtual remote, and you need to juggle between the touch pad for player-specific functions and the Enter and arrow and keys for disc menu functions. In short, it's a mess. But, once you get a movie playing, it should stay out of the way.
The 3D effect isn't as crisp as you may be used to from a 3D movie theater or 3D TV with active shutter glasses. Still, from a couple of feet away, it's quite watchable. There is a subtle screen-door effect that gets more obvious the closer you get to the screen.
As with the Nintendo 3DS, it's best to find a head position that works and stay relatively still. As mentioned above, the media player works with a special app that uses the built-in Webcam to track your eye movement, but there's a shifting effect if you move your head too much, like looking at an old lenticular image. The face-tracking app can show you what the Webcam sees in a small side window, which is a cool effect, but bringing it to the forefront (or, for example, hitting one of the volume buttons, which has an onscreen indicator) kicks you out of the 3D view in the media player until you bring the player back to the forefront. We also found the 3D image also occasionally separated into its left and right side-by-side components, requiring a restart of the media player to fix.
The 1,920x,1080-pixel, 15.6-inch display looks perfectly normal when displaying 2D content, but the maximum resolution for 3D content is 1,366x768 pixels, and that view also adds a screen-door effect, as we noted earlier. The overall look of 3D content is not as crisp or sharp as on laptops with Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses, but it's better than on the 3D laptops we've seen that use the competing Tri-Def 3D technology.
|Toshiba Qosmio F755||Average for category [Midsize]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray rewritable drive||DVD burner|
While a Blu-ray drive is what we'd expect to find in a multimedia laptop such as this, the big surprise is that the drive records Blu-rays as well, not just DVDs. As this laptop is currently only available in a single fixed configuration, you're stuck with that potentially expensive extra, and there's no chance to upgrade the midlevel Nvidia GeForce 540M graphics.