Toshiba's latest entertainment notebook, the Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412, combines good looks with an excellent display, powerful wireless performance, and plenty of amenities that will tempt you to make this machine your digital entertainment hub. And you get HD-DVD playback for not a lot of money. However, a couple of drawbacks prevent this $1,499 notebook from being the cream of the crop.
Featuring a glossy Cosmic Black exterior and a Piano White interior, the 6.8-pound Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412 is a tad bulky but certainly stylish. The crisp, bright 15.4-inch (1440 x 900-pixel resolution) TruBrite display looked sharp from a variety of angles, whether we were working in Word, surfing the Web, or watching YouTube clips. We also enjoyed the Piano White keyboard, which offered plenty of room to type comfortably, but it flexed too much under rigorous typing. A roomy touchpad makes for easy navigation, and Toshiba tosses in a fingerprint reader nestled between two firm, quiet mouse buttons.
The keyboard is highlighted by a power button, volume wheel, and navigation pad-all of which glow with a beautiful blue aura. Dedicated CD/DVD controls are also included, as well as a dedicated back button for returning to previous Web pages. The 1.3-megapixel webcam delivered decent-looking footage.
Our unit was configured with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 processor and 2GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB), allowing the F45-AV412 to notch a respectable PCMark05 score of 3,560. Its Mobile Mark 2007 score of 1,376 is below average for a notebook in this class, but we had no problems staying productive or enjoying media.
Unfortunately, the system is constrained by Intel's GMA X3100 graphics chipset, which churned out a predictably low score of 1,571 on our 3DMark03 test-more than 2,000 points below the average mainstream notebook but on par with others that have an integrated GPU. The machine handled Windows Vista Ultimate's Aero interface and Windows Flip 3D just fine, but gamers will want to upgrade to the F45-AV425, which adds Nvidia graphics (plus a faster CPU and bigger hard drive) for $150 more.
The 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi card moved data along at an excellent clip of 17.6 Mbps at 15 feet away from our access point and 15.9 Mbps at 50 feet. On our battery rundown test using MobileMark 2007, the F45-AV412 lasted 2 hours and 16 minutes with the Wi-Fi on and 2 hours and 10 minutes with the signal off. Again, this is well below the four-hour average we've seen from recent mainstream systems. (We should note, however, that because MobileMark 2007 is a relatively new test, we have only a few systems that make up its averages.)
The F45-AV412 also features 1GB of Intel Turbo Memory for swiftly loading frequently used programs, but load times swung wildly anyway. Our most frequently used application--the Toshiba HD DVD Player--would at times load in as few as 8 seconds and as many as 20 during the same computing session.
Although the F45-AV12 lacks discrete graphics, it has the muscle to playback high-definition discs, courtesy of Intel's X3100 GPU working in conjunction with a feature brought over from Intel's upcoming Montevina platform. We watched the HD-DVD version of U2: Rattle & Hum and were instantly impressed by the deep blacks that contrasted against the bright white concert lights during performance scenes. Two Harman Kardon Bass Reflex speakers and a built-in subwoofer cranked out robust, room-filling sound that are a huge step above typical tinny notebook audio. We wish Toshiba had included an HDMI port for exporting the 1080i image to a big-screen TV or monitor; for that you'll need to spring for the F45-AV425.
Bundled with the system is Google Desktop, Google Picasa, Microsoft Works Version 8.5, Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition 2007 (60-day trial), Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5, a 30-day trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite, and a bunch of Toshiba's homegrown applications. Toshiba backs the system with a one-year limited warranty and 24/7 tech support.
Power users will want to splurge a bit for the $1,649 F45-AV425, which rocks HDMI and Nvidia graphics. But if you just want to enjoy high-def movies and robust audio--and you're not into games--the Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV412 delivers a good balance of style and performance for the price.
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