Toshiba's QOSMIO X770 is both big and clever, although it's the size, weight and design that strike you first.
Under the textured two-tone case, this is a behemoth of a gaming and multimedia laptop: 17.3" 1080p HD active 3D screen, Sandy Bridge Core i7, Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphics driving the 3D, 1TB of disk space, Harmon/Kardon speakers and a Blu-ray player/DVD burner. But it takes you a while to notice that because of the case.
When we say striking, we're talking a metallic grooved surface (think wood grain or bamboo, and no fingerprint marks) that fades from red to grey at the base of the screen, and the same inside the case. It's plastic rather than metal, but it's sturdy enough and the build quality is the usual high Toshiba standard. There's no flex on the keyboard at all, and not much on the screen either.
The texture continues around the keyboard and even across the touch pad. The screen bezel is glossy black plastic but it's thin enough compared to the screen that we didn't find reflections irritating. Red illuminated controls, red keyboard backlight, red indicator stripe to tell you whether the touch pad is on or off, strange organic shapes on the speaker grilles and a subwoofer on the otherwise standard plastic base. The QOSMIO certainly stands out, and not in the tasteful understated way of a high-end Dell, HP or Asus system.
This kind of brash, in-your-face style is common on gaming rigs - and it's not like you spend all your time looking at the case. With the QOSMIO, you'll be looking at the impressive screen or complaining about the weight. The size of the screen pulls most of the 3.4 kilos down onto your knees and although the chassis tapers at the front to give the keyboard a rake, it's mostly a chunky 58mm thick; though that's actually a little smaller and lighter than previous QOSMIO monsters.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard matters on gaming systems, as it does, frankly, on any notebook where you're actually typing more than a few URLs. The X770 doesn't do anything odd or extreme here, which is a relief. The isolated island-style keys have standard squared keynotes that let the backlight filter through slightly. Light also shines through from the base of each key and the backlight comes on automatically when you type and fades when you stop. They also have excellent travel and a good, if slightly soft, action.
The secondary keys are the right size and in the right place, and even with a numeric keyboard there's enough space that they're spread out where you won't hit them by accident. The function keys are separated into blocks to make the right one easier to find in a hurry and there's a full set of navigation keys with home, end, page up and page down neatly grouped over the numeric keypad. We could complain that the half-height inverted-T arrow keys are on the small side, but half-height keys on a machine this size are still pretty large, and you've got the numeric keyboard right next to them for navigation.
Above the keyboard and between the speakers is a bar of illuminated capacitive buttons. These are for turning Wi-Fi and 3D on and off, switching to the power-saving eco mode, controlling the volume, playing and pausing music, and turning the glowing button strip off if you find it distracting. There's another Wi-Fi indicator in the strip of red lights on the front of the case, which includes an indicator to tell you if there's something in the memory card slot as well as the usual selection for power, charging, battery and hard drive status.
The texture on the trackpad is noticeable; your fingers won't be slipping on this, although it's fluid and responsive. It's centred under the keyboard so it's in the right place as you type and the proportion matches the screen. It's large, but not over-sized and there are two large, separate physical buttons with a positive but extremely clicky action that we're not keen on. The multi-touch gestures are the standard ones: pinch-zoom, rotate, two-finger scroll, three-finger flick and three-finger press to launch one or more apps. The latter worked more easily than on many systems we've tested though, which is good.
There's also a button just above the trackpad to turn it on and off, so you don't activate it by accident. This is handy, clearly labelled and also turns a long red indicator on and off, so you won't be swiping the touch pad in frustration and forgetting it’s disabled.
Ports and specification
The dropped-hinge screen and hefty battery leave no space for ports on the rear of the case and despite the size, the heat vent on the left and Blu-ray Combo drive on the right don't leave space for a wide selection. On the left is the extra-large power jack as well as: VGA; HDMI; gigabit Ethernet; a single USB 3 port; and one of the three USB 2 ports which can also charge devices when the PC is off. On the right are the other two USB ports and separate headphone and speaker sockets. On the front is the memory card slot, which is hidden enough to make the warning light a useful reminder, and takes the usual selection of formats including SD cards and MemoryStick.
The specs make this a serious contender. The 2GHz Core i7 2630QM CPU is increasingly common, although not always with 8GB of RAM and rarely with twin hard drives and a terabyte of storage. One of those 500GB hard drives is a Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drive, with 4GB of flash memory. That doesn't always make it as fast as an SSD, but anything that's in the 4GB cache loads far faster than from a standard hard drive, and the drive caches what you use the most. That means after you've used the QOSMIO for a few days, Windows and the apps and files you use the most will load more quickly (including resuming from hibernation).
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M is a very recent GPU and the 1.5GB of GDDR5 graphics memory and faster clock speed give you a decent performance boost over the 460 it replaces with about the same power consumption - just as well, given how many power-hungry components the X770 has, giving it a battery life that's a disappointing one hour with 3D and wireless turned on. The GPU breezes through games on medium detail settings and copes well with the 1920 by 1080 screen resolution, delivering excellent frame rates. All that, and you get 3D too.
Screen and 3D
The 1920 by 1080 full 1080p HD screen is eye-poppingly impressive, and mostly in a good way. Colours are vivid and saturated; sometimes that means blocks of colour on Web pages can look almost garish, but the screen shines when it comes to pictures and video. It's bright and has good contrast, though it's not quite as bright as the Dell XPS 15z's full HD screen.
Streaming 1080p video from the web plays smoothly and with excellent detail, although the Dell's smaller screen makes detail slightly crisper than on the QOSMIO. The QOSMIO upscales lower resolution video, streaming 720p content over our local network showed more detail than usual as well as excellent, smooth, playback.
Don't let the twin lenses of the 3D Webcam make you mistake the X770 for Toshiba's upcoming glasses-free QOSMIO. You do need the rechargeable Nvidia glasses for 3D, and while they are quite good, they're still frustrating to wear. Set these up and you can play 3D games and watch 3D content - if you have any. Oddly, the Nvidia 3D photo viewer is installed but not the 3D video player and getting content to play is confusing at first.
Either on-screen or output to an external 3D display (over HDMI), the 3D playback quality is excellent - with high quality 3D content - cheesy artificial upscaled images still look artificial. Toshiba's own 3D video player will play 3D Blu-rays (as will the copy of Corel WinDVD BD you get) but it will also upscale video to HD and convert 2D videos to 3D. This only works with MPEG2 and MPEG4 video with no DRM; Toshiba says it's intended for home videos. It does a reasonable job, but it's nowhere near as vivid as true 3D content and high-contrast areas of video can end up getting 3D look when they should be on the same plane. The high screen brightness means that 3D content doesn't look dark the way it does on older 3D systems, in fact, you can leave the glasses on when you're not looking at 3D content without finding the screen noticeably dark.
One thing that really stands out is the sound. The audio quality of the Harmon/Kardon speakers is hugely impressive, especially with the Dolby Audio Enhancer turned on . It blows the audio on the Dell XPS 15z out of the water, and the best match we've hears is the B&O speakers on the Asus N90. Sound is rich and detailed; there's masses of bass from the sub-woofer but it doesn't take over the sound the way it can on the HP Beats Edition ENVY models.
There's also no distortion, even at high volume, and you can hear every detail and resonance in the music. You can also feel strong bass - in your knees if the QOSMIO is on your lap, and in your fingertips if you're typing. That's great for listening to music and watching movies, and it gives gaming a more visceral touch too. With speakers like this we really appreciate the option to play music from an external MP3 player through the PC, even when it's turned off.
There's a host of other nifty Toshiba utilities, including the ReelTime document history tool, although they're not as neatly organised as on some Toshiba models; you still get the Bulletin Board tool for organising information but there's no longer a tools board. Otherwise it's the usual Office 2010 Starter, McAfee, Windows Live Essentials and Skype, plus Nero 10 and Corel Digital Studio.
The QOSMIO X770 is a monster of a multimedia and gaming system, from the size to the specification to the design, to the fairly hefty price tag.
It certainly won't suit everyone, and it's overkill as a general purpose notebook, although you wouldn't have any complaints about performance for video editing, 3D rendering and transcoding. This monster is all about entertainment, especially with the 3D support. The HD screen almost matches the Dell XPS 15z and the sound beats just about every other notebook on the market.
If you do have the cash, the taste for weird metallic colours and the need for some serious entertainment, the QOSMIO X770 is an impressive system that could be the monster you're looking for.