Even though the most interesting new laptops fall into the ultraportable category, a big, over-the-top 17-inch desktop replacement can still be fun. Toshiba's Qosmio line is known for high-end home theater features and high prices, and the latest version, the massive Qosmio G45, is no exception. For $3,199, you get an HD DVD-R drive (a first for a U.S. laptop), a screen that supports full 1080p resolution, twin media control wheels (one for volume, the other for playback functions), and a Harman Kardon speaker system, complete with a subwoofer on the bottom. Does anyone need a laptop this big and expensive? We'd venture a no, but in a world of generic gray boxes, the white, glossy Qosmio G45 stands out as an excellent portable home theater laptop that's just plain fun to use.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$3,199|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300|
|Memory||2GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB (2x160GB), 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia Geforce 8600M GT|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Ultimate|
|Dimensions (WDH)||17.1 x 12.0 x 2.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter [pounds]||10.0/11.7 pounds|
At a little more than 10 pounds and 17 inches wide, this is a huge system, rivaling other bulky 17-inch laptops we've seen lately, such as the Alienware m9750. Hauling it, even from room to room, is a pain, but home theater laptops like this aren't meant to be moved very often.
Like the Alienware m9750, the Qosmio G45 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. Conversely, the HDMI output, important if you want to use the built-in HD DVD drive with a plasma or other big-screen external display, is on the rear panel, which can be hard to access. By way of comparison, most laptops have the optical drives and video outputs on the side panels.
While desktop replacement laptops often have a lot of quick-launch and media control buttons, we have yet to see one with as many options as the Qosmio G45. Besides the usual array of touch-sensitive media control buttons above the keyboard, there is a large, silver-colored volume jogwheel to the left of the keyboard and an AV control wheel, which uses a four-way rocker switch to control media functions, to the right. The controls are fun to use, but we found the blue backlighting annoying, until we found the button to turn it off (it's on the row of buttons above the keyboard). The laptop's multimedia functions are rounded out with a basic external USB TV tuner and a Media Center remote control. The remote is useful, but we've had plenty of experience with PC TV tuners and have yet to find one that's ready for prime time.
Toshiba is going for a first with the Qosmio G45, making it the first U.S. laptop to feature a recordable HD DVD drive. While Toshiba is nice enough to throw in a single recordable blank disc, 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. We'd gladly trade the HD DVD drive, recordable or not, for $500 or so off the price.
At least the screen is up to the task of playing back hi-def movies. The 17-inch LCD display offers a 1,920x1,200 native resolution, which is enough to display the full 1080p resolution of HD DVD discs. That's a feature lacking from some other laptops with hi-def optical drives, including the Sony VAIO FZ180 and the HP HDX.
|Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV680||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video, HDMI||VGA-out, S-Video, DVI or HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers w/ subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks; S/PDIF|
|Data||5 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||PC Card and ExpressCard||PC Card and ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||HD DVD-R||HD DVD or Blu-Ray|
With an Intel Core 2 Duo t7300 CPU, 2GB of RAM (plus an extra 1GB of Intel Turbo Memory), and an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT, the Qosmio G45 has plenty of power, even if these parts are a step or two away from top of the line. Still, this isn't billed as a cutting-edge gaming machine, and its performance on CNET Labs' benchmarks were impressive, if evenly matched to similarly configured systems. Expect no problems with even robust multitasking--this laptop is able to handle simultaneously playing back media files, working in Photoshop, and surfing the Web, for example, with no slowdown or stuttering. You don't need to pay $3,000 for that kind of performance, but for that much, you should definitely expect it.
With an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT GPU, we were able to get decent frame rates out of our test games, Quake IV and FEAR. That video chip supports DirectX 10, so you'll be able to play new and upcoming games such as BioShock and Crysis with all the DX10 bells and whistles, if not at the highest resolutions.
The Qosmio G45 ran for exactly two hours on our DVD battery drain test, using the included battery. That's fairly impressive from a huge desktop replacement, and our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. HP's Pavilion dv9500t is still currently the longest-running 17-inch laptop, at two hours and 42 minutes on the same test.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, which includes onsite 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.
|1024x768, HQ, 4xAA, 8X AF||1280x1024, HQ, 4xAA, 8X AF|
|1024x768, SS:on, AA:off, 8X AF||1280x1024, SS:off, 4X AA, 8X AF|
Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV680
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GT; (2x)160GB Seagate 5,400rpm
Alienware Area-51 m5790 Special Edition
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon x1900; (2x)100GB Seagate 7,200rpm
Dell Inspiron E1705
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7900GS; 120GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
iBuyPower Battalion 101 LX750
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.21GHz AMD Turion 64 x2 TL-64; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7600; 120GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
HP Pavilion dv9500t
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB nVidia Geforce Go 8600M GS; 100GB Western Digital 5,400rpm / 80GB Western Digital 5,400rpm