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Toshiba Qosmio X875 review: Strong gaming contender, but do we still need 3D?

This 17-inch gaming laptop includes stereoscopic 3D glasses, hybrid hard drive, and a Blu-ray burner, but skips the touch screen.

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Dan Ackerman
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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 semi-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

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8 min read

As one of only a handful of 17-inch gaming laptops we've seen since the launch of Windows 8, the Toshiba Qosmio X875 already stands out from all the slim ultrabooks and convertibles we've reviewed recently on that basis alone.

Toshiba_Qosmio_X875_35566942_09.jpg
7.8

Toshiba Qosmio X875

The Good

The <b>Toshiba Qosmio X875</b> offers excellent application and gaming performance, with enough configuration options to keep the price reasonable.

The Bad

As configured, you're paying for expensive extras, including stereoscopic 3D and a Blu-ray burner. The design, like most desktop replacement laptops, is clunky and dated.

The Bottom Line

We have yet to see a truly great gaming laptop built from the ground up with Windows 8 in mind, but the 17-inch Toshiba Qosmio X875 can be configured into a powerful, reasonably priced mainstream gaming machine.

It actually goes another step further, by jumping onto the hot hybrid hard-drive bandwagon, with a new 1TB drive. The $1,879 X875 features what Toshiba calls "the industry’s first 1TB 2.5-inch high-capacity hybrid hard drive," with an 8GB flash memory cache. Toshiba says the new drive, which was developed in-house, reduces read/write times and application startup times. Other configurations run from $1,199 to $2,299.

Having used the X875 for both gaming and everyday tasks, it's certainly extremely fast, as one would expect from a laptop with an Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia's high-end GeForce 670M graphics card. This laptop also includes a screen compatible with Nvidia's 3D Vision stereoscopic 3D platform, as well as a pair of 3D glasses. But, after an initial flush of interest a couple of years ago, very little has been said since about 3D on laptops (or on televisions, for that matter), and neither gaming nor Blu-ray video viewing in 3D is an entirely satisfying experience.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Rather than 3D, one feature I wish had been included is a touch screen. We have yet to see a Windows 8 laptop with high-end, gamer-level graphics and a touch screen -- so far, it's been one or the other.

For budget gamers, Lenovo's current 15-inch IdeaPad Y500 offers decent PC gaming for under $900 (with a single GeForce 950M config), but as a step up, the Toshiba X875 is one of the last true heavy-duty desktop replacement laptops.

Price as reviewed / starting price $1,879 / $1,199
Processor 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM
Memory 16GB, 1600MHz DDR3
Hard drive 1.0TB 5,400rpm w/8GB SSD + 1.0TB 5,400rpm
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 670
Operating system Windows 8
Dimensions (WD) 16.5 x 10.7 inches
Height 1.7 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 7.7/9.8 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

Design and features
Qosmio laptops have always been a little on the extravagant-looking side, and this new model continues that tradition. Toshiba calls the design of the chassis its "sophisticated Black Widow styling," and it features a diamond-textured aluminum shell with a light-up Qosmio logo on the lid.

It's big, at 1.7 inches thick and weighing 7.7 pounds (without the 2-pound AC adapter), but less so than the hulking gaming laptops of yesteryear. However, as mobile PCs in general have slimmed down in the post-ultrabook era, even a moderately thick laptop such as this looks and feels like a bit of a throwback. So many new consumer technology devices are moving toward (or already firmly planted in) a sense of aesthetic minimalism -- this red-and-black box is pretty much the opposite of that, but at least it's a bold statement.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Part of the fun of getting a giant laptop is that there's plenty of room for a large keyboard, big touch pad, and all kinds of extra control buttons. 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 excellent overall, but Toshiba laptops have always had oddly short space bars, which may interfere with your personal typing style.

The keys themselves are backlit -- is 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-F12 keys.

The large touch pad is a clickpad-style one, without separate left and right mouse buttons. This gives you more room for finger navigation, and the particular combination of a textured pad surface, along with Synaptics touch pad hardware and software, makes for one of the more responsive Windows 8 touch pad experiences I've had to date.

That's especially important, as the 17.3-inch display, which runs at 1,920x1,080 pixels, is not a touch screen. The majority of Windows 8 laptops we've reviewed so far have had touch screens, even models available for under $600 -- but so far, none of the handful of laptops with gamer-level discrete graphics have offered that feature. That's too bad, as Windows 8, especially in its tile-based UI view, is much easier to navigate with a few strategic finger swipes directly on the screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The full-HD screen is bright, colors pop, and it looks good even from off-axis views. As a 2D monitor, it's excellent for games and video playback. Using the included 3D glasses from Nvidia, photo, video, and game content also looked good, but keep in mind using the glasses tends to darken the overall image and also cuts the resolution you actually see. Stereoscopic 3D in laptops has never really caught on, and the X875 offers some examples as to why.

The included Toshiba Blu-ray player app, the default for watching 3D Blu-ray movies, is just as slow, clunky, and counterintuitive as the last time I tried it, about a year ago. As you can't actually use your mouse to navigate through the (usually unlabeled) menu options, you have to rely in the arrow keys and Enter button. Compared with many of the sharp, functional apps that are built into or built for Windows 8, it's painful to use.

Games are always hit or miss, unless they're specifically coded with Nvidia 3D Vision support in mind (and even then, your milage may vary). The brand new BioShock: Infinite, for example, looked terrible and ran slowly in 3D mode.

Toshiba Qosmio X875 Average for category [desktop replacement]
Video VGA plus HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Quad speakers, headphone/microphone jacks. Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.
Data 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive BD-RW drive DVD burner or Blu-ray player

Connections, performance, and battery life
If you're tired of ultraslim laptops that leave you wanting for ports and connection, then the Qosmio X875 should satisfy. It has dual video outputs, four USB ports (two are USB 3.0), and both headphone and mic jacks, at a time when many laptops are going to a single audio port. This particular configuration also includes a Blu-ray recordable drive, which is much less common than the read-only Blu-ray drives found in most other BD-enabled laptops.

For a hefty $1,800-plus investment, you get a powerful, well-equipped laptop. If you're interested in the X875 but want to spend less, I'd consider the lower-end $1,199 model, which still has a Core i7 quad-core processor, Nvidia's 670M graphics, and a 1080p screen, but trades down to a smaller, non-hybrid HDD, drops the RAM from 16GB to 8GB, and loses the Blu-ray and 3D functions.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It should come as no surprise that a laptop with Intel's high-end 2.4GHz Core i7-3630QM CPU, plus 16GB of RAM, and a hybrid hard drive, would be fast. Of course, it's well-matched with other Core i7 quad-core laptops, such as the recent Lenovo IdeaPad Y500, and much faster on some tests as laptops with the ultra-low-voltage version of the Core i7 (the 1.9GHz i7-3517U) found on more ultrabook-style systems. That means the X875, whether you pay $1,200 or $2,200 for your configuration, is going to be more than fast enough for even heavy multitasking, video editing, or other high-pressure tasks.

The real reason to choose this over another quad-core laptop is the high-end GPU. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 670 is near top of the line, and one of the reasons you might consider paying more the $1,000 for a laptop. A full 1080p resolution the X875 ran BioShock: Infinite at 20.1 frames per second at very high settings. The very challenging high-end Metro 2033 test ran at 13.3 frames per second at the same resolution. That means that by dialing back a bit from the top settings (really intended for gaming desktops), you can get great frame rates from any current game, even at 1,920x1,080 pixels. If you want to spend about twice as much (or more), our Windows 8 Origin PC Eon 17-SLX, with dual GeForce 680M cards, ran the same BioShock: Infinite test at 37.6 frames per second, but that's overkill for most gamers -- if you're that serious, you're probably building your own gaming desktops from scratch.

Of course, with all that power coursing through the system, it wouldn't be wise to expect much from the battery. The X875 ran for 1 hour and 39 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, and that's without even a running a game to really tax the CPU/GPU, or any 3D content. Using those features, you can expect even less battery life. To be fair, big desktop replacement laptops such as this are not intended to live away from a wall socket for more than a short while (and they'd hardly fit on an airline tray or coffee shop table).

Conclusion
The Toshiba Qosmio X875 is one of the only new 17-inch Windows 8 gaming laptops you can buy right now. The components inside are current, including the new hybrid hard drive, but the design and features feel dated, including the clunky stereoscopic 3D implementation and lack of a touch screen. If you're in the market for a gaming desktop replacement, I'd suggest skipping this $1,800-plus configuration and instead starting with the slightly stripped-down $1,199 base model, adding must-have upgrades as you go.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

BioShock Infinite (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Native resolution, 1,920x1,080  
Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390
20.06 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

System configurations:

Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 3630QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 3072MB (Dedicated) HDD#1 1TB Hybrid Toshiba 5400rpm HDD#2 1TB 5400rpm Toshiba

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 3630QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; (x2) 2GB Nvidia Geforce GT650M; HDD#1 SanDisk 16GB SSD/ HDD#2 1TB Seagate 5400rpm

Origin EON17-SLX
Windows 8 (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-3940XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; (x2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M; HDD #1: 240GB Intel 520 SSD / HDD #2: 1TB Western Digital 5400rpm (RAID 0)

Dell XPS 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Toshiba 5400rpm

Apple Macbook Pro 15-inch w/ Retina Display (June 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M + 512MB Intel HD 4000; 256GB Apple SSD

Toshiba_Qosmio_X875_35566942_09.jpg
7.8

Toshiba Qosmio X875

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 9Battery 6Support 7
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