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Laptops/Notebooks

Toshiba Qosmio X75 A7298: A desktop replacement that won't break the bank--or your back

Most manufacturers throw weight considerations out the window when they set about designing a desktop-replacement notebook. Not Toshiba's engineers. Despite packing a 256GB SSD plus a 1TB hybrid hard drive, an Blu-ray burner (not just a player), Nvidia's second-fastest mobile GPU, and a 17.3-inch high-res display, the Qosmio X75 A7298 weighs a modest 7.3 pounds.

It might sound odd to classify 7.3 pounds as modest. After all, the Qosmio won't even fit in some laptop bags. But considering that this laptop can play games, create and edit digital media, and handle pretty much any other task you'd normally rely on a desktop computer to perform, a 7.3-pound weight is pretty remarkable. After all, how easy would it be to lug a desktop PC, a 17-inch monitor, and an uninterruptible power supply from location to location?

Intel's Core i7-4700MQ, a quad-core mobile CPU, forms the Qosmio's heart. It's paired with 16GB of DDR3/1600 memory and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 770M mobile graphics processor (which has 3GB of GDDR5 memory all its own). A dedicated GPU is great for playing hard-core games, but it will also speed other tasks.

Demanding applications such as Photoshop, for instance, will tap the hundreds of microprocessor cores inside the GeForce chip to accelerate image processing. In the GPU-accelerated image-processing segment of our Notebook Worldbench 8.1 suite, the Qosmio required just over 60 seconds to complete a task that took Lenovo's IdeaPad U430 Touch--which relies on integrated graphics--more than 5 minutes to finish.

The Qosmio's display is bright and beautiful, but it's not a touchscreen (as is common with gaming laptops). Since I've grown accustomed to using touchscreens with Windows 8, I couldn't stop myself from swiping my finger across its panel, which has native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, to bring up the charms bar. I'm sure I would eventually adapt to using the large trackpad for that. Lucky owners of a 4K television may output 4K video from this computer's HDMI port. The HDMI 1.4 port is limited to a refresh rate of 24Hz, but that's fine for movies--no one in their right mind would try gaming at 4K.

The Qosmio's chassis is wrapped in textured aluminum, painted flat-black to give it the look of carbon fiber. An attractive (or garish--you be the judge) accent stripe, bright red and highly reflective, runs around the laptop's edge,

The island-style keyboard is backlit with red LEDs to match the Qosmio's color scheme. The keys aren't sculpted, but they offer long travel, so you don't need to worry about unintentionally depressing them while your fingers are resting on the keyboard. When you're playing a stealth game like Splinter Cell, there's nothing more frustrating than accidentally giving away your position because your hand grew heavy over the WASD keys (which Toshiba has helpfully labeled with arrow symbols).

The size of the display allows Toshiba to provide adequate space between the keys and to include an embedded numeric keypad, but it's unfortunate that the arrow keys beneath the Enter key (and the function keys at the very top) have been rendered half-size.

There's an extra-wide (4.5-inch) wrist rest beneath the keyboard, which allowed Toshiba to place a large (4.5 inches wide by 3.1 inches tall) and very responsive multi-touch keypad in this area. A large speaker grille resides above the keyboard, directly under the display. The Qosmio's audio system, designed with the assistance of DTS and Harman/Kardon, is excellent: The speakers deliver crisp highs and deep, well-defined bass response.

The Qosmio has plenty of real estate to harbor ports, and Toshiba took full advantage, placing two USB 3.0 ports and a gigabit ethernet port next to the Blu-ray burner on the left side. Two more USB 3.0 ports, separate mic and headphone jacks, VGA, and HDMI out occupy the right side, and a multi-format media-card reader resides in front. I was disappointed, however, to see Toshiba give short shrift to wireless networking: A $1900 laptop deserves better than a single-band (2.4GHz) 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter.

I was surprised at how quietly the Qosmio ran, considering all the high-performance hardware stuffed inside it. Less surprising is the brief battery life, though 2 hours and 22 minutes is more than enough time to watch a full-length movie (not that this behemoth would fit on any airline tray table). This computer can do it all and anywhere, so it's a great choice for a desktop replacement.

Note: This review was written as part of a roundup of the 5 best Haswell notebooks as of September 2013.

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