In stark counterpoint to small, fast systems like the MacBook Air, big-screened, heavy, packed-to-the-gills desktop-alternative laptops are still alive and well, although sometimes a little hard to justify. Toshiba's Qosmio line of laptops has been a well-known example of that type of massive machine for years, and 2011's update to the Qosmio largely continues the trend with a new design. The $1,899 Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78 is bulky, heavy (8 pounds), and expensive, but it's also got top-of-the-line features. A quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 graphics, and dual hard drives with a combined 1.25TB capacity come wrapped in a chassis that's--no joke--smaller and lighter than previous Qosmios, although still far larger than any average laptop.
This particular Qosmio also comes packaged with Nvidia 3D Vision technology (the most common way for laptops to display stereoscopic 3D) and a pair of Nvidia 3D active-shutter glasses, meaning it can play 3D PC games and 3D Blu-ray movies. Both look good on the large 17.3-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel display, or either can be output to a 3D-compatible HDTV with Nvidia 3DTV Play software.
Here's the million-dollar question for a nearly $2,000 laptop, though: is all that enough? Do 8-pound media-heavy laptops make sense when they're this large? That might be a conversation for a different time, but it's a near certainty that the Qosmio X775-3DV78 won't leave your desk much, even if it's slightly smaller than previous Qosmios. The value of 3D entertainment is also up for debate--honestly, even in the years since 3D laptops were introduced, it's never been more than a high-end novelty, although Nvidia 3D Vision does work (to varying degrees) with most mainstream games and 3D Blu-ray movies.
The Qosmio X775-3DV78 adds up to a superior high-performance laptop, but many will consider the 3D not worth the extra investment. In that case, consider a 3D-free Qosmio instead (they start at $1,199), and remember also that other companies offer similar alternatives, including the Dell XPS 17 3D Edition. In direct spec-to-spec comparisons, the XPS 17 actually costs a little more for a little less.
|Price as reviewed||$1,899|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM|
|Memory||8GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||1.25TB (500GB HDD, 7,200rpm + 750GB HDD, 5,400rpm)|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||16.3x10.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8.0 pounds / 10.3 pounds|
Toshiba's Qosmio line of laptops has always been deskbound, big-screened, and oriented toward high-end media and gaming. The 2011 Qosmio has gotten as large a design face-lift as we've seen in a while, particularly in terms of reducing the laptop's overall footprint. The Qosmio X775 has a 17.3-inch screen, a step down from the previous 18-inch one. The red-and-charcoal/silver laptop is hardly small: its 8-pound weight and 1.4-inch-thick chassis won't ever fit easily into most backpacks or bags. Still, it's slimmed down a lot from older models such as the Qosmio X505-Q580, which weighed almost 2.5 pounds more.
The Qosmio's textured horizontal lines and red-to-silvery-gray design on the top lid and interior lean subtly to more of a "gamer" look, as do the ornate silver plastic speaker grilles above the keyboard, which almost look like pimp-my-ride rims. Red keyboard backlighting and LED lights on a media control touch strip add to the Alienware-reminiscent effect, though a tad more understated. From top to bottom, this Toshiba's glossy plastic veneer also might turn off some people looking for higher-quality materials and construction.
The chassis feels a lot like Toshiba's Satellite line in terms of its keyboard: the raised island-style keys are a bit smaller and more squared-off than Apple and Sony laptop keys and feel a little soft to the touch. A full number pad on the right side should make both RTS gamers and accountants happy.
The multitouch touch pad is oddly small for such a large laptop, though that's hardly a surprise; gamers tend to be mouse-oriented and sometimes get annoyed by overly large touch pads. A narrow red LED strip along the pad's top edge helps peripheral-vision orientation when engaged in onscreen activities, while a pair of curved silver plastic buttons beneath offer standard if slightly cheap-feeling click control.
Of course, keyboard and touch pad aren't the reasons you're buying a Qosmio, which brings us to the real features at hand: screen and speakers. The 17.3-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel, 120Hz glossy LED-backlit display is excellent, far sharper than most laptops and rich and bright with color. Its viewing angles are also impressive: we bent the lid down and could still see the picture from extreme angles. Few laptops will have a picture this good. Games and Blu-ray movies all looked excellent, although some might not prefer watching movies on a screen so relatively small compared with larger desktop monitors.
The speakers are very good, but not stellar: we've always liked Toshiba's Harman Kardon speakers, and the stereo speakers included here have a solid mix of bright treble and rumbling bass. However, this Qosmio lacks any additional speakers or a subwoofer. The audio's still excellent compared with most other laptops, but you might prefer to opt for headphones.
Nvidia 3D Vision comes built into the Qosmio X775 3DV78. This isn't the first 3D Toshiba laptop we've seen--in fact, Nvidia's 3D technology has been around for several years already--and if you've seen it in action before, you won't be surprised. Nvidia's 3D ecosystem is largely superior to other PC alternatives, using active shutter technology in a pair of included 3D glasses that fit nicely, even over another pair of glasses. Nvidia's glasses sync via an IR emitter that used to plug into laptops via a separate dongle, but that IR receiver is now integrated into the top lid of the Qosmio's display, next to the Webcam. Once the glasses are charged and in range and Nvidia 3D Vision has been turned on, 3D content automatically triggers stereoscopic mode.
Turning on 3D and adjusting settings involved a trip to Nvidia's control panel, and wasn't nearly as easy a process as we would have liked. This Qosmio does have a "3D" LED button on its touch panel, but we couldn't seem to get it to turn off when we pressed the button. Perhaps it's an indicator instead. Regardless, 3D setup needs to be more straightforward on 3D laptops, since it's likely to intimidate newcomers.
Admittedly, Nvidia 3D Vision delivers as advertised. The effect's often impressive: pictures and games pop, and even 3D Blu-ray movies have a solid depth of field, though it's not nearly as dramatic as on a big screen. 3D PC gaming doesn't require any special games in order to work: Nvidia's technology pulls the 3D data already in nearly every PC game and converts the titles automatically, often to impressive effect (but sometimes the end result is unplayable--it all depends on the game). It's hardly necessary, but gamers who want a little extra pizzazz will find it a fun bonus, provided they have the money to burn. We tried a variety of games and all worked well, although some older titles such as Blur had occasional 3D errors with some of its effects.
The included Corel WinDVD software automatically plays 3D Blu-ray movies, but playback was sometimes juddery compared with the smooth frame rate of non-3D Blu-rays. It's watchable, but will aggravate AV perfectionists. Alternatively, you could use Nvidia 3DTV Play, which will output 3D Blu-ray playback to a compatible 3DTV. However, for all that effort, 3D HDTV owners with that much disposable income would likely prefer (or already own) a dedicated 3D Blu-ray player or 3D-capable game console instead.
|Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray-RW||DVD burner, optional Blu-ray player|
As you'd expect of a laptop this size and price, this Qosmio's got all the feature bells and whistles. Easily accessible USB ports crowd the front left and right sides of the laptop, along with all other connections, including a USB 3.0 port. That includes VGA and HDMI ports, too, which is a bit odd: for a big desktop-replacement we'd prefer rear video ports. The included optical drive reads and writes Blu-ray Discs--more commonly, Blu-ray drives are read-only. Most people won't need the added write capacity of Blu-ray, but it might come in handy for large file archiving.