Toshiba Qosmio X75 review: Great performance proves looks aren't everything

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The Good The Toshiba Qosmio X75 comes packed with an Intel Haswell CPU, new Nvidia graphics, a combo SSD/HDD drive, and even a Blu-ray writer.

The Bad The bulky design has a budget feel for a premium-price laptop, battery life is disappointingly short, and the laptop lacks newer features such as DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, or even a touch screen.

The Bottom Line Toshiba's multimedia and gaming Qosmio X75 laptop gets great performance from its high-end components at a reasonable price, but the design and some features feel dated.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Battery 4

Some things in the PC universe can change a lot in a short period of time. We're now living in a world of touch screens, detachable keyboards, and 12-plus hours of battery life. Other things remain stubbornly the same, much like the Toshiba Qosmio X75, a thick throwback of a laptop packed with high-end CPU and GPU parts, a flashy red-accented body, and a lack of modern concessions (no touch screen here).

But, that's not to say sticking to your guns is necessarily a bad thing. Instead of a throwback, we might call the X75 a stoically traditional desktop replacement laptop. Sure, the design may have gotten a tweak or two, and the last couple of Qosmio generations are a little thinner and lighter than the models from a few years ago, but this is still a classic anchored-to-the-desk 17-inch laptop -- a category with fewer players right now than any time in recent memory.

The main difference between the new X75 and the X875, which was itself only launched at the beginning of 2013, is the move to the latest generation of Intel and Nvidia parts. This system has a fourth-gen quad-core Core i7 CPU, plus Nvidia's new GeForce 770M GPU, putting it fairly close to the top of the heap in performance. You could spec out more expensive systems with more bells and whistles from Alienware, Origin PC, and others, but the Qosmio is more interested in riding the line between gaming rig and multimedia machine (hence the recordable Blu-ray drive in our configuration).

Sarah Tew/CNET

This specific config, the X75-A7298, is $1,799, and includes the Intel Core i7-4700, the Nvidia GeForce 770M, a Blu-ray burner, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive/256GB solid-state drive (SSD) storage combo. If you can skip a few frills, the exact same CPU/GPU combo is available for $1,199, but without the Blu-ray, SSD, and so on. In terms of performance, I've got no complaints about the value here. On the other hand, especially for $1,799, but even at $1,199, this is essentially a big aluminum-and-plastic box that feels "budget" in the hand. Everything, from the clacky keyboard to the shiny red highlights, feels a bit subpremium. At least these don't have painted-on flames anymore. And don't get me started on a 2013 Windows 8 laptop, even one intended for gaming, not having a touch screen.

If I could insert the Qosmio X75's internal components into a nicer body, with a touch screen and a silent keyboard, I'd buy one today. Instead, what we have is the guts of a great 2013 laptop at reasonable price, stuck in a body that feels a few years out of date.

Toshiba Qosmio X75-A9278 Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch w/Retina Display (June 2012) Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390 Razer Blade 14
Price $1,799 $2,299 $1,749 $1,799
Display size/resolution 17.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 screen 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 screen 17.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 screen 14-inch, 1,600 x 900 screen
PC CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ
PC memory 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M 3,072MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M
Storage 256GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive 256GB SSD 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive 128GB SSD
Optical drive Blu-ray/DVD writer None Blu-ray optical None
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8 (64-bit) OS X Lion 10.7.4 Windows 8 (64-bit) Windows 8 (64-bit)

Design and features
In look and feel the X75 is close to, but not exactly the same as, the recent X875 model we reviewed in April. It still features a diamond-textured aluminum shell, but the light-up Qosmio logo on the lid has been moved from the center to the lower left corner. The metallic red accents have been toned down a tiny bit (no more red hinges), but you'd have to compare the X875 and newer X75 side by side to really tell them apart.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Thin and minimalist, this is not. Nor is it the wild abandon of, say, an Alienware gaming laptop with its crazy multicolor light show. Instead we're stuck in the aesthetic middle ground, or at least what the middle ground looked like before ultrabooks.

Of course, a big part of the advantage of a giant laptop is that there's plenty of room for a large keyboard and big touch pad, with few concessions to space requirements. In this case, we get Toshiba's generous flat-topped keyboard -- a style that has not noticeably changed in a couple of years -- plus a full-size separate number pad. The typing experience is good, but the keys are little on the clacky side. Toshiba laptops also have oddly short spacebars, which I always find contributes to typing mistakes. The keys themselves are backlit -- in Toshiba red, of course, and the function keys are reversed, which means you don't have to hold down the Fn key to access the volume, brightness, and other controls on the F1 to F12 keys.

The large touch pad is a clickpad-style one, without separate left and right mouse buttons. There's plenty of room for multitouch gestures, but at the same time, I found myself frequently accidentally triggering Windows 8 swipes when my fingers wandered too close to the edges of the pad. Hopefully, as a gamer, you'll have a mouse plugged in full time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 17.3-inch display, which runs at 1,920x1,080 pixels, is not a touch screen, a serious omission because Windows 8, especially in its tile-based UI view, is much easier to navigate with a few strategic finger swipes directly on the screen. To be fair, none of the gamer-targeted laptops we've seen this year have had touch screens, and there seems to be a real reluctance to marry discrete GPUs with touch screens so far.

That said, the screen itself looks great playing HD video, running games, and displaying Web content, even from off-axis views, although it's very glossy and you may have to shift it a bit to avoid glare.

The Harman Kardon speakers, a Toshiba mainstay, are excellent for a laptop, with good volume and punch. Laptop speakers will never push all that much bass, but for gaming and movie watching this'll fill a small room.

Toshiba Qosmio X75
Audio Quad speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 4 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive Blu-ray writer

Connections, performance, and battery
Thanks to its large body, the X75 has plenty of room for ports and connections. It has dual video outputs, four USB 3.0 ports (two include a sleep-and-charge function for powering external devices using the laptop's battery), and both headphone and mic jacks, at a time when many laptops are going to a single audio port. This configuration also includes a Blu-ray recordable drive, which you can ditch to save money on a less expensive configuration.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While I'm being a bit tough on the X75's design and lack of a touch screen, no one will have any problem with the system's performance. With a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ Haswell-generation processor, plus 16GB of RAM, the new Qosmio gave us a nice performance boost over the X875 model. Even heavy-duty Photoshop use, video editing, or gaming won't give the X75 much of a problem.