Qosmio X777-3DV78 review
When NVIDIA played its signature GPU number-bump card back in May, it made a point to throw around some big names. Alienware, MSI and ASUS each announced notebooks with the outfit's new GeForce GTX 560M, but one lone machine played coy, listed only as the "new Toshiba gaming laptop." Known today as the Qosmio X775-3DV78, it pairs 1.5GB GDDR5 with the aforementioned GPU, an Intel Core i7-2630QM processor, 1.25TB of storage split between two drives and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. So, can this heavyweight desktop-replacement hold its own in Engadget's review ring? There's only one way to find out.
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Qosmio X775-3DV78 review

Toshiba

Toshiba Qosmio X775

Pros

  • Brilliant graphics
  • Fast and powerful
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Tacky design
  • Awkward trackpad
  • Particularly short battery life
Summary

The Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78 may not be a thing of beauty, but gamers looking for a killer desktop replacement won't be disappointed.


Look and feel


We're going to just come right out and say it: Toshiba's Qosmio laptops have a long tradition of being hideously ugly. Confident, proud, powerhouses who aren't afraid to be seen in shocking pink flames, or shimmering chameleon paint. Sure, any company capable of cramming an autobot-usb-hub into the form of a laptop deserves the benefit of the doubt, but we won't mince words: the X775 isn't the exception to the rule. That's not to say it isn't trying, as indicated by the blood-shade stain of "extreme" red crowding the edge of the display's hinge and lower back-lid. Pay close attention to this red strip, because it's where all the action is -- under the lid you'll find a touch sensitive media-bar nestled between a pair of aggressive looking speaker grills. All of the standard controls are here: power, WiFi, volume, and even a toggle for the Qosmio's 3D capabilities -- each activated button glowing to match the laptop's red lip. Travel south only a few of short inches, and suddenly we're in dull, drab business land. A boorish gray texture of horizontal lines plow across the rest of the machine's surface, broken only by a single red line atop the awkwardly positioned trackpad (more on that later) and the chicklet keyboard's brooding glow.

At 16.3 x 10.8 x 1.4-inches, this 7.5-pound behemoth is better suited as a desktop-replacement than a portable gaming rig. Those "official" measurements are even a bit conservative: we measured 2.1-inches from the base of the X775's meaty battery to the edge of the laptop's closed lid. Still, the X775 is almost two pounds lighter than Dell's Alienware M17x R3 and (excusing the raised battery) just a hair thinner. The beast thins out near the laptop's front edge, utilizing the thicker sections of the body to house an rewritable Blu-ray drive and a sizable vent, while splitting port space between thinner sections on either side. The left side sports VGA, HDMI, and Ethernet sockets, as well as two USB plugs (2.0 and 3.0). On the right, it has two additional USB 2.0 plugs and a pair of headphone / mic jacks. Finally, the laptop's front lip features a 5-in-1 card reader and a slew of blinking indicator lights for power, HDD activity, and so on.

Keyboard, touchpad, and screen


The laptop's keyboard layout makes few sacrifices in squeezing in the core experience of a desktop sized keyboard, delegating scant few keys to the authority of the secondary function button. Even better, the CTRL and ALT keys are extremely comfortable to toggle from the gamer's WASD position, making accidental "Windows key" quits less frequent. The keyboard's comfortably spaced and smooth keys don't feel the least bit mushy, and are beautifully backlit by a red glow, easily switched on or off or delayed with the help of an Fn shortcut.

The Qosmio's chicklet spacing suited us just fine, but we did find the keyboard's lack of advanced anti-ghosting technology a bit of a let down. Eight simultaneous keypresses is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it's a far cry from the 20-plus that many dedicated gaming keyboards offer -- not to mention that we found more than a couple three-key combinations that simply wouldn't register. Although the few combinations we found won't effect gameplay for the average user, hardcore gamers may want to stick to their external keyboard.

Speaking of extra input devices, an external mouse is a boon to the X775 owner. While the laptop's touchpad performed adequately under ideal conditions, its placement can be a bit of a burden for folks with larger hands. Those who tend to rest their non-mousing hand on the keyboard's home row might obstruct the top-left portion of the trackpad with their palm, rendering it temporarily inoperative. Although the 3.6 x 2-inch pad itself moves the cursor well enough, its buttons feel loose and plasticy. Sure, it does the trick for lazy couch browsing, but we were sure to keep a wireless rodent handy for anything more taxing than checking our email.

Display and sound


The X775's Harman / Kardon stereo speakers (and bottom-dwelling subwoofer) blast rich, clear sound with negligible distortion, even at maximum volume. The laptop's overall audio fidelity won't be a replacement for a proper sound system or headset, but it definitely won't disappoint in a pinch. Of course, the baked-in Dolby Advanced Audio and Waves Maxxaudio 3 enhancements do a lot of the heavy lifting, and the sound falls noticeably more flat without them. While the enhancements definitely improved the sound overall, some of the default settings were problematic, namely an auto-leveling feature that would auto-adjust for sudden loudness in reaction to the rig's "volume level tone" that plays to indicate what the current windows volume level is at. Suffice to say, having the volume go down when we were trying to crank it up quickly became confusing and frustrating. Still, it was only a minor annoyance. All in all, we found the Qosmio's integrated speakers to be among the finest we've heard on a portable machine.

The Qosmio's 17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 full HD display may be a hair smaller than its predecessor's 18-inch panel, but it sure didn't leave us wanting. The LED backlit TFT display bombarded our pupils with bright, vivid colors, producing an image so sharp, even the textured background of Kung-Fu Hustle's FBI warning looked like a work of art. Screen viewing angles almost overreach the play of the laptop's hinge, displaying only a slight loss in contrast from sharper angles. The X775's screen suffered a common laptop fault: it's just a bit too glossy for outdoor use. Not that you were planning to take the beast into the great outdoors, were you? The top edge of the screen sports a dual-webcam to capture your fancy stereoscopic video blog drama, and an embedded IR emitter so you can enjoy your own greatest hits with the rig's included NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses. The IR / glasses combo also works for watching 3D Blu-ray movies and getting some depth out of 3D Vision enabled games.

Performance and battery life


Does the Qosmio X775's Intel Core i7-2630QM processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M GPU make this ugly duckling pretty on the inside? Let's put it this way: we ran simultaneous instances of Fallout 3, Team Fortress 2, and Crysis -- all fully playable and cranked to high or very high -- while running two tab-overloaded web-browsers and watching a high-definition film on Blu-ray. If that's not a thing of beauty, we don't know what is. The 17-inch gaming powerhouse breezed through just about everything we threw at it, stuttering only when we pushed Crysis to its absolute max. Throwing NVIDIA's 3D switch, however, tended to drop framerate by about half. Portal 2's 50fps stepped down to 27, for instance, and Batman: Arkham Asylum's 30fps average became an unplayable 13. Still, with the 3D gimmick switched off, the X775 has some serious stuff to strut, and we were intentionally cranking every game's settings up to 11. With a few reasonable tweaks, there was nary a title we tried that didn't play well with NVIDIA's 3D vision or break the 100fps barrier.

The Qosmio performed just as adequately wrangling our cluttered work desktop: over 30 open tabs across two web browsers, piled atop Photoshop, two open email accounts, various IRC and chat interfaces, and a couple of word processors? Smooth as silk. PCMark Vantage clocked the Qosmio at 7,900, while its graphic benchmarking cousin, 3DMark06, pegged it at 15,169.


PCMarkVantage 3DMark06
Battery Life
Qosmio X775-3DV78 (Corei7-2630QM, GeForce GTX 560M) 7,900 15,169 1:26
HP Envy 17 (Core i7-740QM, ATI Radeon HD 5850) 6,153 10,787 2:10
HP Envy 14 (Core i5-450M, ATI HD Radeon 5650) 6,038 6,899/1,928 3:51
Dell XPS 14 (Core i5-460M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M) 5,796 6,827/1,955 2:58
Dell XPS M15z (Core i7-2620M, GeForce GT525M 2GB) 8,023 7,317 3:41 / 4:26
Sony VAIO Z (Core i5-450M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M) 9,949 6,193 4:25
ASUS U33Jc (Core i3-370M, NVIDIA GeForce 310M) 5,574 1,860/3,403 5:10


So, a fabulously vivid 17-inch screen and NVIDIA's latest in portable graphics? Sounds great, but here's the rub: you won't get far without the Qosmio's massive 2-pound AC adapter. Big screens and pretty scenes suck down a lot of power, and the X775 burned through Engadget's standard battery test in only an hour and 26 minutes. Fancy a game while you wait for a flight? Cut that down to a mere 35, and that's without 3D Vision. Paired with the laptop's already cumbersome size, its poor battery life does little more than secure the machine's status as a desktop-replacement -- but then again, gaming rigs aren't known for their electric longevity. The Qosmio will still be a hit at your next LAN party, but don't count on it to get you through your next flight -- or even your next layover.

Configuration options

The X775 is available in three pre-built configurations: budget, mid-range and flagship (we've been playing with the high-end X775-3DV8). Our $1,900 review unit sports a Intel Core i7-2360QM processor, Blu-ray burner, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, dual hard drives with a total of 1.25TB of storage and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M graphics with 3D Vision. A nearly identical machine, sans 3D, can be had in the X775-Q727, a $1,450 rig with the same processor and graphics, but with only 6GB RAM and a single terabyte of storage over two drives. Budget-minded folks can save an additional $250 by stepping down to a Core i5-2410M processor, a single 640GB HDD and a DVD-RW drive. The pre-configured options offer a wide enough range to keep you from feeling out-priced, but if you want to actually customize your machine, you'll need to look to...

The competition

When it comes to high-performance gaming laptops rocking huge screens, impressive graphics, and baked in 3D tech, it turns out your options are pretty limited -- but we found a few. Our favorite X775 alternative happens to be Dell's Alienware M17x R3, which can be customized to both undercut the X775 in price in performance, or outgun it. A similar configuration to Toshiba's toy (including 3D Vision) will set you back just over $2,100. Its worth noting however, that the Dell's visuals are powered by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M, not a 560M.


Of course, if you're willing to forgo Blu-ray drive and silly 3D glasses, there are definitely cheaper options. The Core-i7 ASUS G74SX-BBK7 can be had for roundabout $1,200, and sports the same 17.3-inch screen size, the same 8GB of RAM, and the same GeForce GTX 560M graphics as the Qosmio. If you just need to have everything, you could always spring for MSI's GT780R-057US, a hefty 17.3-inch machine also rocking NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 560M, a Core i7-2630QM processor, a 1.5TB hard drive, Blu-ray burner and not just eight, but 16GB of DD3 RAM. Minus the X775's 3D gimmick and doubling its RAM, the MSI beast shares the Qosmio's $1,900 price tag, leaving the buyer a choice: extra RAM or extra depth perception?

Wrap-up


By now, you've probably figured out that Toshiba's latest Qosmio is a bit of a Quasimodo -- beautiful on the inside, but covered in enough repulsive blemishes to give pause to the Esmeralda in all of us. Beneath its rough exterior lies an all in one platform tailor made for the very latest in media entertainment: extreme graphics, a full-HD display, Blu-ray rewritable / DVD combo drive, and even NVIDIA 3D Vision baked right in, glasses included. This package just might be enough to shine through the Qosmio's craggy cast if you're willing to overlook the hunch of its atrocious battery life -- not that you'd want to lug the hefty rig very far anyway. Despite its looks, the X775 is no slacker, and you pay for that performance -- although not as much as you could. Toshiba's total-package toy isn't cheap at $1,900, but considering that you could easily pay an extra few Benjamins for an equivalent configuration of Dell's Alienware M17x R3 (with an NVIDIA 3D Vision package), it's not a bad value. Overall, the Qosmio X775-3DV78 is a solid machine, despite its somewhat bland appearance and annoying quirks. And that suits us fine. After all, didn't your mother always tell you that it's what's on the inside that counts?

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