Though its model name has changed very little, the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660 has seen a number of significant changes over the G35-AV600 released earlier this year. Notably, this new edition includes the latest Core 2 Duo processor and adds a built-in HD-DVD drive to the Qosmio's already exhaustive list of features. The Qosmio G35-AV660 includes a few cosmetic changes as well, toning down the luxe piano finish and glowing media controls of its predecessor. Some things haven't changed, though: the G35-AV660 delivers one of the best 17-inch wide-screen displays around and an integrated TV tuner, as well as a full complement of ports and connections, a rocking set of stereo speakers, and an unparalleled set of multimedia controls. Priced at $3,499, this addition moves the Qosmio line even further into the stratosphere; it costs at least $1,000 more than the HP Pavilion dv9000t, which also includes an HD-DVD drive. While the Qosmio G35-AV660 has a crisper display and a few more features than the HP, we're not convinced it's worth the extra money.
Measuring 2.1 inches thick, the Qosmio G35-AV660 is one chunky laptop, even for a desktop replacement. And though its 11.6-inch depth is average for a machine with this size display, it's much wider at 16 inches than the Pavilion dv9000t, which also features a 17-inch wide-screen display. That said, the Qosmio G35 is quite attractive; its matte finish isn't as eye-catching as the previous model's glossy "piano finish," but the new case should be less likely to collect finger smudges. Not that you'll be carrying it around much, but the Qosmio G35-AV660 weighs 10.3 pounds, or 11.9 pounds with its big AC adapter.
Given the extrawide case, it's all the more surprising that the Qosmio's keyboard is a bit cramped, and it lacks a 10-key number pad, as found on the Pavilion dv9000t. Those who use keyboard shortcuts should also be warned that Toshiba has moved some keys--most notably the Windows key--from their standard locations. Above the keyboard resides a complete set of system and A/V controls; highlights include dedicated controls for display brightness (a rarity on laptops), video signal in and out, and Dolby Home Theater sound. The Qosmio G35-AV660's touch pad, while small, accommodates embedded, configurable quick-launch buttons, as well as a volume control. We still wish there was an external touch pad on/off button--one of our favorite features for a desktop replacement. A fingerprint reader rounds out the features on the keyboard deck.
Like its predecessors, the Qosmio G35-AV660 offers a complete array of multimedia features and connections for audio (an external volume control wheel, headphone and microphone jacks, S/PDIF jack, and HDMI output), video (S-Video input and output, VGA out, coaxial input for connecting to a TV signal cable), and data (four USB 2.0 ports, one four-pin FireWire port). Networking connections include Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and modem. You also get a PC Card and an ExpressCard slot, plus a 5-in-1 flash card reader. Most notably, though, the Qosmio G35-AV660's tray-loading optical drive, awkwardly located along the front edge of the laptop, lets you view HD-DVDs, as well as burn CDs and DVDs.
To display HD content, Toshiba has bumped up the resolution on the Qosmio G35's 17-inch wide-aspect display, resulting in one of the best-looking screens we've seen on a laptop. Its 1,920x1,200 native resolution is as sharp as it gets, displaying HD content beautifully and affording more screen real estate than the HP Pavilion dv9000t.
When it comes to audio performance, the Qosmio G35-AV660 combines a 1-bit digital amplifier, Dolby Home Theatre, and Harman Kardon stereo speakers to deliver extremely loud, crisp, and full sound. Still, the speakers' positioning, below the display, makes for muffled sound when the lid is shut--other laptops with front-edge speakers, such as the Dell XPS M1710, sound good even with the lid closed.
As with previous models, Toshiba stuffed the Qosmio G35-AV660 full of high-end components to support its multimedia aspirations. For the astronomical $3,499 price, you get a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor; 2GB of swift, 667MHz RAM; two massive 120GB hard drives spinning at 5,400rpm; and Nvidia's GeForce Go 7600 GPU with 256MB of dedicated video memory. On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Qosmio G35-AV660 couldn't keep up with Dell's $3,659 XPS M1710, but it wasn't exactly a fair fight: the Dell was stocked with a faster processor and hard drive and had twice as much VRAM. On our iTunes encoding test, the Qosmio G35-AV660 trailed behind the HP Pavilion dv9000t, likely due to the HP's slightly faster processor; the Qosmio pulled ahead on our Photoshop test, though, likely because it has more RAM and more VRAM than the HP. The Qosmio is not explicitly marketed as a gaming machine, but in our anecdotal Quake 4 gameplay, image rendering was fluid, though the dim screen made it difficult to see where we were going.