Even for a desktop replacement laptop, a category filled with oversize eye-grabbers like the HP HDX18 and the Alienware m17, Toshiba's Qosmio X350-Q708 is an extrovert. A flaming red beast of a machine, the X350-Q708 packs a lot of cutting edge hardware, but some of the design decisions it incorporates are dubious.
This $4200 laptop packs a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme processor with four CPU cores, 4GB of RAM and two nVidia GeForce 9800M GTS video cards, each with 512MB of RAM, set up in SLI mode. In addition to running in standard SLI graphics mode, the Qosmio X305-Q708 lets you dial down to use the integrated GeForce 9400M graphics. This increases the laptop's battery life (which is just 1 hour, 24 minutes in full graphics mode) and decreases its heat and noise. The laptop measures 16.2 by 12.10 by 2.5 inches and weighs 12.4 pounds with the power brick in place.
On PC WorldBench 6, the Qosmio X305-Q708 turned in a somewhat disappointing score of 100. That's 33 points behind the mark posted by the competing Eurocom D901C Phantom-X, despite Toshiba's inclusion of such components as a 128GB solid-state drive to handle the OS, and a 320GB hard-disk drive to store files on. Nevertheless, the X305-Q708 did a creditable job with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III, cruising through them at high settings and 1680-by-1050-pixel resolution, managing frame rates of 52 frames per second and 75 fps, respectively. In comparison, Alienware's more affordable m17 posted frame rates of 44 fps and 51 fps on the same two tests.
Unfortunately, after loading this Quosmio with high end components, Toshiba skimped on the 17-inch screen. It is fairly bright, displays vivid colors and sharp text, and even supports a fairly wide range of horizontal viewing angles, but its WSXGA 1680 by 1050 resolution is a bit underwhelming. Most other laptops in its class, even the Gateway P-7811FX (which costs about one-third of what the X305-Q708 costs) have a 1080p-friendly 1920-by-1200-pixel resolution.
But what you lose in screen resolution, you gain in visual flair. The X305-Q708 comes in a black and red case with reflective flames, glowing red LEDs, and lots of curves. The brash design won't appeal to everyone, but it adequately frames a generous array of ports, including three USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA port (which doubles as a fourth USB 2.0 port), an Express Card 54 slot, and a four-pin FireWire port. You also get a modem port (tucked away beneath a hard-to-open plastic port cover), a multiformat flash card reader, and built-in support for a wireless USB device. On the video front, the Qosmio X305-Q708 provides VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs. Since this pricey laptop fully supports 1080p resolution when outputting video to an external monitor, it's a shame that there isn't a Blu-ray drive.
The laptop's keyboard sports a superglossy coating that looks fairly sleek but makes the keys unusually slippery. Most of the keyboard (which comes complete with a four-column number pad) feels full-size, but the spacebar is extremely narrow. You'll also notice some flexing as you type, and overall the keyboard feels thin and cheap. The touchpad, which sits flush with the palm rests, has a fine grain texture that distinguishes it from the rest of the body. The effect is attractive, but often the right side of my palm would touch it as I was typed, moving the cursor somewhere else in the document, to my intense frustration.
The Qosmio X305-Q708 excels in delivering pitch perfect sound, thanks to four Harman/Kardon speakers and an embedded subwoofer. Games, music, and movies all sounded superb, with a wide range of highs, mids, and lows. Even at full volume, the audio exhibited no noticeable distortion. Though the speakers sound great on their own, the included Dolby Control Center software can deliver remarkably effective simulated surround sound, as long as you sit directly in front of the machine. Unfortunately, the lower left speaker sits directly beneath your left wrist as you type, muffling the sound significantly.
On the software side, Toshiba refrained from installing a bunch of bloatware on this laptop. Besides Windows Vista Ultimate, an Office trial, and various CD/DVD applications, this is a clean laptop. Toshiba does include a number of its own apps, including a voice command utility, and facial recognition software. The voice application worked adequately after calibration, but ambient sounds, even the clicking of the keyboard, caused it to open and close applications. Similarly, the system's face recognition software, which lets you log in without using a password, worked well enough, but only when there was sufficient ambient light.
Is the Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q708 worth buying? That's the $4200 question. In light of its unimpressive screen resolution and odd keyboard, you'll have to provide your own keyboard, monitor, and mouse if you plan on having a serious gaming session at home. And though this desktop replacement has some of the most advanced hardware on the market, plus a class-leading sound system, you can get comparable gaming and multimedia performance for a fraction of the price from competing laptops. That said, half the appeal of this machine consists in watching it turn heads at your next LAN party. Trust me, it will.