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Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV690 review: Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV690

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The Good Penryn update puts latest Intel CPU in flagship laptop; 17-inch display does 1080p; large volume jogwheel and other media controls are easier and more enjoyable to use; includes external TV tuner and remote

The Bad Saddled with HD DVD drive; not configurable

The Bottom Line Toshiba's high-end Qosmio G45-AV690 is great for movies and multimedia, and its onboard controls are fun to use--but the recordable HD DVD drive means you're paying extra for a dead technology.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 5
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7
  • Support 7

Review Sections

Toshiba's Qosmio line is known for high-end home-theater features (and high prices), and the massive Qosmio G45 is one of our favorite desktop replacements for movie and media consumption. The latest edition, the G45-AV690, tweaks the previous model, the G45-AV680, by adding Intel's new Penryn processors and a third GB of RAM, but it already looks dated thanks to its mandatory HD DVD drive (our review unit was built shortly before Toshiba pulled the plug on HD DVD, but the writing was clearly already on the wall).

Too bad you can't opt out of the HD DVD drive, because we love just about everything else, including its screen, which 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. Paying the next-generation optical drive premium for a system with dead technology doesn't make much sense, however; we hope Toshiba makes a version without HD DVD available soon.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $3,199
Processor 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300
Memory 3GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm (x2)
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate
Dimensions (WDH) 17.1x12.0x2.0 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 10.0/11.7 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

The Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV690 is physically identical to its predecessor, sticking with the current Qosmio two-tone look, with a black lid offset against a white interior. The glossy plastic finish is attractive, even if we generally prefer the matte look, but it can be fingerprint-prone. A huge silver Qosmio logo sits on the back of the lid, broadcasting your brand preference to anyone nearby.

The Qosmio G45 moves the optical drive bay to the front, something we've only seen on a handful of laptops, such as the Alienware m9750. 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. Most laptops have both the optical drives and video outputs on the side panels.

Besides the usual array of touch-sensitive media controls 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 the blue backlighting was distracting until we found the button to turn it off (it's on the row of buttons above the keyboard).

Toshiba rounds out the laptop's multimedia functions with the inclusion of an external CableCard TV tuner and a Media Center remote control. The external tuner lets you watch and record high-definition TV signals, but it's a cumbersome system and requires a CableCard from your cable TV provider and a visit from a cable company technician for installation. Our colleagues have had varying experiences with CableCard TV tuners--Rich Brown had a lot of trouble, while Matt Elliott's installation went smoothly--but in any event, this is not a feature you'll be able to use out of the box.

Even though the HD DVD drive is an albatross, at least the screen is up to the task of playing back hi-definition 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.

  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
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 or 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 burner DVD burner

As a full-featured entertainment laptop, you're not going to find much missing from the Qosmio G45, including both PC Card and Express card slots, 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi, and an HDMI output--not that we'd expect anything less from a high-end desktop replacement.

Stepping up from the Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 CPU in the previous AV680 model, we now get one of Intel's new Penryn processors, the 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo T9300, and 1GB extra of RAM, for 3GB total. The new components keep the AV690 running nearly toe-to-toe with a high performance laptop such as Gateway's P171XL FX, which has the same 3GB of RAM, but has Intel's top-of-the line 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 CPU. You won't have any problems with even robust multitasking--this laptop is capable of handling simultaneous playback of media files, working in Photoshop and surfing the Web, for example, with no slowdown or stuttering.

With an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT GPU, we were able to get decent frame rates out of current games such as Unreal Tournament III, getting 30-plus frames per second at 1,280x800. The card supports DirectX 10, so you'll be able to play games such as BioShock and Crysis with all the DX10 bells and whistles, if not at the highest resolutions.

The Qosmio G45 ran for two hours and one minute on our DVD battery drain test, using the included battery. That's 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. The AV690's sister system, the gaming-oriented Satellite X205, ran for only 65 minutes on the same test--thanks in part to having to power two video cards in SLI mode.

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