Review: The Toshiba Qosmio — Better, Stronger, Faster Than Anything You Have Seen Before

[Note: This is the second part of my look at the Toshiba Qosmio.  For my unboxing and initial impressions, take a look at Part 1]

When I first started looking at the Qosmio laptop, I thought I was going to have a panic attack.  There were just so many different features here.  How was I possibly going to discuss them all?  Was I in over my head?  In fact, I came close to wondering whether I should have asked for it at all.  Yikes!  Talk about a crisis of confidence.  Luckily, I had a chance to discuss this with Judie, who put it all in perspective.  “Just talk about your impressions…your impressions.”  She said.  And with that last phrase, “your impressions” echoing in my head, I set out to take a look at the Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV690 multimedia laptop.

The Qosmio is decidedly NOT the MacBook Air.  In fact, I would call it the “anti-Air”.   Is that a bad thing?  Not at all.  Taken together, the Air and the Qosmio really highlight the difference between mobility and portability.  Mobility offers the opportunity to access your data from anywhere at anytime; often at the cost of usability or other functions.  Portability allows you to carry everything you need from point A to point B, even if you cannot easily access that data before reaching point B.

To put it another way, the Air takes a shoebox and says put all of the features you can fit into this box.  The Qosmio, which is a portable laptop, looks at a pile of features, takes them all and builds a box around them.  Trust me, with a 17 inch screen and weighing in at 10 pounds, you are not likely to confuse this portable device for a mobile one.

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Without even opening the lid, you can see what an elegant machine this is with its glossy, mirrored black surface (which, of course, comes with a price as that lid is an absolute fingerprint magnet), the word Qosmio (really, does anyone have a clue what that means?) etched into it like a silver badge of honor.

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Around the sides and back are a variety of ports, jacks, and connections.  I am not going to list them all here.  Needless to say,  if it can be connected, inserted, or otherwise attached to a Windows computer, then you are almost certainly going to find the connection here (except legacy peripherals, such as those utilizing a serial or parallel port connection).  In addition, if you are a wireless sort, then the Qosmio includes both Wifi and Bluetooth built in, meaning no need for semi-compatible adapters and dongles.  There is also the standard Toshiba SD memory card reader, actually a 5-in1, but really all five formats are variations of SD.  I was disappointed that, with all of the space on the Qosmio, there was not a larger all-in-one reader.

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On the front are a series of indicator lights.  I really liked the placement of these light, because they are easy to see with the lid opened or closed.  My current Toshiba laptop has lights which are tucked under the lid and can be difficult to see with the lid closed.  Along with these lights is the latch to open the lid.

Before we open the lid, I have to note again that the Qosmio ws not built for stealth.  It weighs in at over 10 pounds and, with its massive 17 inch screen in tow,  is one of the largest laptops I have ever used.

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In fact, here you can see how it dwarfs my Toshiba Satellite and its 15.4 inch screen, a computer which some told me would be too big when I got it.  That being said, it is also one of the sturdiest feeling laptops I have ever used.  Everything from the latch on the lid to the feel to the controls says this thing will take a beating.  OK, now we can go ahead and push that latch to open the lid and get inside this thing.

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The first thing you will notice after opening the lid is the giant…GIANT…17 inch full HD 1080p monitor.  I mean, this is a screen that would have been right at home in my entertainment center.  Finding it strapped to a laptop is simply remarkable.  It is clear and crisp, and really compliments the HD-DVD rewritable drive.

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Which is good, because it will distract you from the fact that the HD-DVD drive is now nothing more than a fancy drinkholder attached to the Qosmio.  You see, shortly after the Qosmio was introduced, and as many of you likely have heard already, Toshiba threw in the towel in the high definition DVD battle royale they had been staging against Sony’s Blu-Ray technology.  As such, the HD-DVD drive is now destined to become nothing more than a footnote in history, along with the Betamax, which famously lost a similar battle to the VHS tape.  Since one of the primary selling points of this computer is the multimedia capabilities, the inclusion of the now defunct HD-DVD is going to be devastating.  I hope that Toshiba will find a way to include Blu-Ray in place of the HD-DVD quickly.  Otherwise, this computer will be obsolete almost before it reaches the stores.

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Beneath the screen, you will find a comfortable standard 5 row +1 QWERTY keyboard and a touchpad mouse…which may be the bane of my existence.  I even preferred the older eraser style laptop mice to the touchpad, which always results in a sore index finger and frequent inadvertent mouse clicks.  I have simply never found them to be comfortable to use.

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You will also find the fingerprint reader, which I found to be a pretty cool novelty.  This kind of biometric security is probably the wave of the future, so it is nice to see it making its way onto today’s devices.  That being said, it is also probably overkill for most personal users (and that is the target audience for a multimedia laptop).  Still, I had a lot of fun playing with it.

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On the sides of the keyboard are two dials which control the AV functions and volume.  While I liked the layout, it seemed like a lot of wasted space to me to have such a large dial controlling the volume of the computer.  I would have rather found a trackball or larger keyboard here.  Finally, near the hinge in the back are two Harmon Karden speakers.  Two more speakers are found vertically on either side of the screen.

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A subwoofer can be found on the bottom of the laptop.  At the top of the screen is the 2 megapixel webcam and internal microphone, perfect for video conferencing or Skype functionality.

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OK.  Enough about the hardware and layout.  I think we are ready to fire this thing up and take it for a test drive.  Unlike most Windows devices, this will not be a long and arduous boot up process. Granted, I did not have any taskbar items or sidebars loaded, but I still had Windows Vista Ultimate ready to go from a cold start in under two minutes.  Then again, with 3 GB of RAM and and the superfast Intel Core 2 Duo Processor (2.5 Ghz) , what else would you expect.   In fact, I found just about everything about the Qosmio to be better, stronger, and faster than any laptop I had used before.

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Heck, even the hard drive is enormous, featuring dual (yes that means two) 160 GB hard drives.  That is 320 GBs of storage.  If I added up all of the storage I have on my current computer, internal as well as external drives, I might come close to a single 160 GB hard drive.  You will never need to worry about whether you have room for that latest Bon Jovi CD or 150 pictures of your kids at the park.

Of course, tearing into this massive storage space is the included bloatware, freeware, trial software, and occasionally useful program that comes packed onto the Qosmio.  Like any computer, you will ignore most of this, be annoyed when your trial runs out on some of it, and find one or two nuggets of usefulness here.  You will have to check out all of this software and see which programs are going to be useful to you.  Though I was impressed by the amount of Google-based software (Google desktop, Picassa, etc…) which came preloaded on the Microsoft-based machine.

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OK.  With all of these features, there is an obvious elephant sitting in the Qosmio living room which we have not yet discussed, that of the battery.  The Qosmio includes a 7050 mAh battery.  In fact, I was prepared to be horrified by the battery.  Surely a screen like this and all of these high-powered, multimedia features would just tear into the life of your battery.  So, I gave it a good test run.  What I found was impressive.  Not overwhelming, but impressive.  Left to its own devices — meaning, turned on with a few programs running — I was able to get between 2 1/2 to 3 hours out of the battery.   To run this test, I turned on Wifi and Bluetooth (two known battery killers), opened up media center, a Word document, and a few random windows.  Overall, simulating normal use more or less.  Obviously, if you are watching a DVD or power using the computer then your experience will be different, but even two hours on this battery is much more than I would have expected.  On my Toshiba Satellite, which is not even close to comparable, I am lucky to eek out an hour from the battery.  Of course, an AC adaptor is also included, and I suspect that this laptop would spend a lot of its time plugged in on your desk.

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The final piece of the Qosmio package was the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner.  This hefty accessory will allow your computer to connect with the digital cable feed coming into your house so you can watch and record live tv, directly from your laptop.  I thought this was a fantastic addition to the package, and really complimented the multimedia capabilities.  Unfortunately, since it was going to require professional installation from our satellite company, I was really not able to fully test it out.

If you are looking for a computer that you can take anywhere, then this is probably not the computer for you.  At 10 pounds, you are simply not going to carry this one onto the train or bus, and hold it on your lap while typing.  On the other hand, if you are looking for a full featured desktop replacement which can travel when you travel, and be wherever you need it, then this is absolutely the computer you need.  It includes virtually every feature a desktop would include, and probably a whole lot more than most.  This is a true portable computer.  So, there you have it.  My impressions of the Qosmio or, as I call it, the Bionic Computer…better, stronger, faster, than any other laptop.  But get ready to pay for all of those features.  At $3000 and higher, you will want to pinch those pennies for a while before you take a closer look.

Full name: Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV690

What I Liked: This is a feature packed computer.  Everything a desktop can do, it can do better.

What Needs Improvement: Unfortunate inclusion of the HD-DVD drive.  A trackball would be nice.  A true multicard reader.  This is one big, heavy computer.

Where to Buy: Toshiba

Price:$3000 (and up depending upon configuration)

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1 Response to “Review: The Toshiba Qosmio — Better, Stronger, Faster Than Anything You Have Seen Before”

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  1. Gravatar Icon 1 Judie Lipsett Feb 23rd, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Mobility offers the opportunity to access your data from anywhere at anytime; often at the cost of usability or other functions. Portability allows you to carry everything you need from point A to point B, even if you cannot easily access that data before reaching point B.

    Perfectly said…which is why I love my 17? X205 so much.

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  2. better qualified