The Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78 ($1,899.99 list) targets a specific kind of gamer: an early adopter who wants to experience hard-core 3D games in the actual third dimension. This laptoprequires you to wear gawky Nvidia glasses in order to view the 17.3-inch 1080p widescreen in stereoscopic 3D. Apart from this engaging gimmick, this Qosmio also runs one of Nvidia’s most powerful graphics chips and an Intel quad-core processor. Unfortunately, you’re laying down a lot of money for a tacky design and battery life that won’t last through an episode of Law & Order. A better bet would be the Editors’ Choice Alienware M17X (Sandy Bridge) ($2,254 direct, 4.5 stars).
A laptop’s design is as much a part of its gaming persona as the parts it runs. Unfortunately, the texture the X775 uses over its gunmetal-gray top resembles an artsy adaptation of scratch marks, and the bit of red paint applied to the back of the laptop and logo seems downright sloppy. Furthermore, the plastic housing isn’t as elegant as the aluminum coating on the Acer Aspire AS8950G-9839 or as menacing as the M17X’s matte black finish. The X775 weighs a hulking 7.9 pounds, although the M17X and Asus G73SW-BST6 ($1,299.99 list, 3.5 stars) are both heavier, at 8.3 pounds. More intimidating, though, is the X775′s enormous AC adapter, which brings the total system weight to 10.1 pounds. For your back’s sake, your LAN party had better be close by.
Once you get over the X775′s bold look, you can start appreciating what’s inside the laptop—starting with the 17.3-inch widescreen. Not only is the screen resolution scaled to the highest one available, but it’s intensely bright and has excellent viewing angles. The glare is also more tolerable than that on the M17X and AS8950G-9839. The “buy-me” gimmick here is the stereoscopic (or 3D-enabled) screen, which uses Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology. A pair of active-shutter 3D glasses, which flicker to a darker tint when 3D is enabled, are included, and they fit perfectly over my own pair of glasses. This kind of 3D pertains mostly to gaming, and you don’t need to a certain type of game to view it in 3D. Simply launch the game, press the Enable 3D button above the keyboard, and the game’s scenery will come to life. (Movies in 3D, whether on Blu-ray discs or downloaded from the Web, are less common.) The glasses are wireless and communicate with sensors built into the laptop, although you will need to tether them to a USB port for charging purposes. The M17X has a 3D screen option as well.
The full-size chiclet keyboard is borrowed from Toshiba’s award-winning mini and Portege lines, a real treat if you like island-style keys that have more depth than ones from HP and Apple laptops. Plus, red LEDs—like those located under the keyboard here—are always cool. There’s even an adjacent numeric keypad for number crunchers. Although the touchpad is wide and roomy, the clicking noises from its mouse buttons were too loud for my tastes.
There are two items on the X775′s feature list that are worth pointing out immediately. The Blu-ray drive may not be that rare, but it’s a praise-worthy complement to the 1080p HD screen. You can hook it up to a living room HDTV using the built-in HDMI port, and watch your Blu-ray flicks on a big screen. Then there’s the X775′s pair of 5,400rpm hard drives: They have capacities of 500GB and 750GB, for a total of 1.25TB. One of them is a hybrid, which means it contains 4GB of flash storage that loads the operating system so it boots in an instant. The X775 is USB 3.0 ready, though that’s only the case with one of its four USB ports. The M17X and Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) ($1,785 direct, 4 stars) have two USB 3.0 ports apiece.
The X775 houses parts that hard-core gamers will want to brag about. It uses a 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM, which is a quad-core CPU that can also be found in the Asus G73SW and Acer AS8950G. It has twice as many processor cores and twice the memory (8GB) of typical laptops, so its performance scores weren’t too shabby. Its 4.42 score in CineBench R11.5 and time of 4 minutes 1 second in Photoshop CS5 didn’t quite surpass those of the M17X (5.4 in CineBench, 3:26 in Photoshop) and G73SW (4.98 in CineBench, 3:56 in Photoshop), but they came close. And the X775 was a second quicker than the AS8950G and GS73SW in our Handbrake video transcoding test, taking 2 minutes 7 seconds to their 2 minutes 8 seconds.
No gaming laptop deserves to be called one unless it has a powerful graphics chip. The X775 packs a wallop with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M. Its 3DMark 06 score at 1,024-by-768 resolution (16,826) was second only to that of the M17X (20,097). And it handily beat the G73SW and AS8950G in accredited games like Crysis and Lost Planet 2 at medium quality settings, earning frame rates of 80.1 frames per second (fps) in the former and 79fps in the latter; the G73SW earned 31fps and 65.5 fps, and the AS8950G 48.4fps and 47.7fps. The only thing the X775 lacks is a switching graphics mode that utilizes integrated graphics when 3D isn’t needed, a feature Nvidia calls Optimus but that the GTX 560M doesn’t support.
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For this reason, the X775′s battery score paid a huge price. It doesn’t help either that the laptop ships with a small 47Wh battery. In contrast, the M17X (90Wh), G73SW (75Wh), and AS8950G (87Wh) come with monstrous batteries, and leverage graphics-switching systems . The X775′s MobileMark 2007 score of 49 minutes doesn’t even qualify it for couch surfing, let alone leaving the house. You’ll get better toshiba laptop battery life from the AS8950G (5:22), G73SW (3:31), and M17X (2:24).
A gaming laptop is supposed to be over the top, integrating some of the most advanced parts known to man. The Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78 succeeds in areas such as gaming performance, screen technology (with 1080p resolution and 3D capability), and feature integration. But design is where it falls flat-footed, as its poor man’s paint job and too-bold texture don’t reflect the laptop’s hefty price—and battery life could stand to improve a lot. The Alienware M17X (Sandy Bridge) costs significantly more, but it’s worth every penny, and the one I would recommend instead.