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Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412 review: Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
6 min read

Toshiba's Qosmio line is known for high-end home theater features and high prices, and like the flagship 17-inch Qosmio G45, the 15-inch Qosmio F45-AV412 offers a wealth of multimedia extras, from an HD DVD drive (although not the recordable HD DVD drive found in the G45) to a subwoofer to media control jog wheels. For a desktop replacement, these are useful features, but we question their value on a midsized laptop with a maximum resolution of 1,280x800.


Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

The Good

Eye-catching design; HD DVD drive, volume jog wheel, and other media controls add convenience; built-in subwoofer.

The Bad

The 15-inch display can't support HD DVD's full 1080p resolution; no DVI or HDMI ports; dreadful battery life; front-loading optical drive can get in the way.

The Bottom Line

Toshiba's Qosmio F45-AV412 offers a wealth of multimedia features, but the HD DVD drive and subwoofer seem like overkill for a 15-inch laptop. You're better off spending a bit more for a 17-inch model for this type of laptop.

To include an HD DVD drive on the F45 for only $1,499, Toshiba cuts a few corners, including the use of integrated graphics and a slower processor than its 17-inch cousin. The biggest sacrifice is the smaller, 15.4-inch screen, which cannot support HD DVD's full 1,080p resolution. While movies will still look good at 720p, we are less satisfied with that output when we've ponied up for an HD DVD drive. The audience for 15-inch home theater laptops is still something of a mystery to us, but aside from the screen-resolution issue, you can't debate the fit and finish of the white, glossy Qosmio F45. It certainly stands out from the crowd and looks and feels like a much more expensive machine. In fact, aside from our issues with the choice of optical drive, screen resolution, and video-output options, there's plenty to like about this impressive system.

The Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412 has a stark two-tone look, with a black lid offset against a white interior. As on the larger G45, the system has a glossy plastic finish--we generally prefer the matte look as glossy-coated cases can be seriously fingerprint-prone. A huge silver Qosmio logo sits on the back of the lid, so this isn't a laptop for those who would rather not broadcast their brand preference to nearby onlookers.

Like the Alienware m9750 and the Qosmio G45 (both larger desktop replacements), the F45 moves the optical drive bay to the front, making it easier to access--unless, like us, you had the system sitting on a laptop stand with rubber feet that partially block the front panel.

We were disappointed to see that the F45 ditches the G45's touch-sensitive media control buttons in favor of plain old click buttons. It retains the larger model's silver volume jog wheel to the left of the keyboard and an AV control wheel to the right. The controls are fun to use, but we found the blue backlighting annoying, until we figured out which button turns it off (it's on the row of buttons above the keyboard).

While Toshiba includes an HD DVD drive at a reasonable price, we agree with the common assessment that the HD DVD/Blu-ray format wars are far from over, and can't think of too many reasons why you'd want to tie yourself into just one next-gen format at this point. One high-end extra we do appreciate, however, is the 2.1 audio system, with two speakers on the keyboard tray and a subwoofer underneath. It still won't compare to a desktop audio system, but for a laptop, the sound is thick and rich.

More to the point, the F45's screen is not up to the task of playing back hi-def movies. The 15.4-inch LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution that isn't enough to display the full 1080p resolution of HD DVD discs. We had a similar issue with another 15-inch home theater laptop, the Sony VAIO FZ180 and the HP HDX. On the F45, there's no DVI or HDMI output, either, so you can't output the signal to a big-screen TV (unless it has a VGA input, but that's not an optimal choice).

We were pleased to see 802.11n Wi-Fi technology, but the lack of Bluetooth is odd for a mainstream system, and we would have expected at least a DVI output on a laptop with a high-def optical drive. Unfortunately, this is a fixed configuration system, so these are not problems that are easy to solve.

With a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 CPU and 2GB of RAM, the Qosmio G45 is a reasonably powerful performer, on par with Toshiba's recent AMD-powered Satellite A215. Stepping up the CPU a notch to a T7300, as in the Acer Aspire 5920G, yields slightly better results, but in real-world conditions, the performance differences between systems in this range are negligible. We were able to multitask, surfing the Web, playing video files, and working on office documents at the same time, with no slowdown or stuttering, as we'd expect from any dual-core laptop in Intel's T7000-series range.

Despite the lower resolution screen and integrated graphics, the Qosmio G45 ran for a measly 1 hour and 39 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included battery. That's not acceptable for a mainstream laptop that can be expected to do its share of road duty, but bear in mind, however, our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. We're also much more forgiving with battery life on larger, harder-to-tote 17-inch models, which generally stay put.

Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, which included on-site service. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $249, although Toshiba is currently offering the extended plan as a free upgrade. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Enpower 660
Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Acer Aspire 5920
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT; 200GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

Enpower 660
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Mobile Intel 965GM; 120GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Fujitsu LifeBook A6025
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo T2450; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 120GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite A215-S4757
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-56; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X1200; 250GB Fujitsu 4,200rpm

Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM; 250GB Fujitsu 4,200rpm


Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Battery 4Support 7