Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Toshiba Qosmio X875 - 3D

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.
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.

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
Processor2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM
Memory16GB, 1600MHz DDR3
Hard drive1.0TB 5,400rpm w/8GB SSD + 1.0TB 5,400rpm
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 670
Operating systemWindows 8
Dimensions (WD)16.5 x 10.7 inches
Height1.7 inches
Screen size (diagonal)17.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter7.7/9.8 pounds
CategoryDesktop 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.

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.

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.

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