Reviewed January 27, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
In Toshiba’s five notebook product lines, the Qosmio notebooks focus on entertainment. The Toshiba F45-AV425 represents that focus with its widescreen display, NVIDIA graphics, built-in HD-DVD drive, Harman Kardon speakers with subwoofer, Dolby Home Theater audio and a HDMI port for hooking up to an LCD or plasma TV. This 15.4” notebook has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 300GB hard drive and Windows Vista Ultimate. The Toshiba Qosmio F45 is on the thicker side and weighs 6.6 pounds that’s heavier than competing HP and Dell models. But then, The Qosmio line is meant to be a multimedia powerhouse most at home in a living room or desk rather than a backpack. The $1,599 F45 review unit we received is the higher-end configuration for this model with a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM and NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT dedicated graphics.
Design and Ergonomics
Despite the large size in this thin and small-crazed notebook world, the Toshiba Qosmio F45 looks well built and has its moments in design. The gloss black lid with Qosmio branding and white inner surfaces help create a sleek look, and the white keyboard is easy on the eyes. The Toshiba has a round AV control on the right side of the keyboard and a DJ style volume control on the left, resonating with the round speaker grills above the keyboard. They do look unique and cool. The notebook has a standard 86-key keyboard along with a touch pad and fingerprint scanner. The full-size keyboard feels comfy to type on and has good travel by notebook standards. The shiny and smooth wrist area feels great after removing the super-sized marketing stickers (fortunately they peel off easily and cleanly).
DJ style volume wheel.
Like most 15-inch notebooks, the Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV425 doesn’t have a separate number pad on the right, but it does have a row of AV controls including play/pause, stop, fast forward, rewind and brightness controls as well as Dolby virtual speaker audio set up. There is also a row of LEDs on the front left corner that indicate power, battery status, wireless, hard drive activity and more. There is a dedicated wireless slider on the right side of the notebook that turns WiFi on and off. The 1.3 megapixel web cam and built-in mic sit on the bezel above the display and they work well with Skype for video calls.
The control strip above the keyboard.
Display and Multimedia
The Toshiba Qosmio has a beautiful 15.4-inch display that’s 1280 x 800 in resolution. The widescreen features Toshiba’s TruBrite technology and supports 720p (HDTV) content. While the resolution is quite common among the 13.3 to 15-inch crop, the display is color saturated and balanced with great viewing angles. HD-DVD movies are several steps above standard DVDs in picture quality, and they look gorgeous on the Toshiba’s display. Regular DVDs, streaming movies streamed over the Internet and games also look great on the Qosmio. The Harman/Kardon speakers with subwoofer combined with Dolby audio software give the Toshiba a full and balanced sound. The channel separation is good and the bass was strong but not overwhelming or distorted. The volume is great by notebook standards, but be aware that Toshiba’s HD DVD Player bundled with the notebook is quieter in playback compared to IE and Windows Media Player. You can remedy this by choosing 2-channel output instead of 5.1 in the HD DVD Player software settings when using the built-in speakers. Music playback, gaming and video call sound quality was excellent and volume was loud.
Thanks to discrete graphics, the Toshiba is a formidable gaming machine that can run the latest games well. We tested some less demanding games such as Rise of Legends and more demanding games such as Company of Heroes and the Toshiba Qosmio F45 handled them with ease. The respond time was fast, fps were solid, cinema cut scenes were very smooth and audio was excellent. If you are looking for a good AV notebook that will do well in gaming, the Qosmio won’t disappoint.
Horsepower and Performance
Unlike the Toshiba Satellite P205 notebooks that allow build-to-order, the Toshiba Qosmio F45 has only three pre-configured models including the F45-AV411, F45-AV423 and the F45-AV425. The Qosmio F45-AV425 has the fastest CPU in the series, running on an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 at 2GHz with 2 megs of L2 cache and an 800 MHz FSB (Intel Santa Rosa chipset). The F45-AV425 also is the only model in the series that offers discrete graphics powered by the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB GDDR2 discrete graphics memory plus 255MB dynamic shared graphics memory using NVIDIA TurboCache technology. This is a powerful graphics solution that’s popular among fast, high-end 15-inch notebooks currently on the market including the 15 inch MacBook Pro. The Toshiba has two SDRAM slots with max capacity of 4GB memory. The pre-configured F45-AV425 comes with 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 667MHz SDRAM. The notebook has a 300 gig serial ATA hard drive (4200 RPM) and the notebook is loaded with Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit. The front-loading optical drive is an HD DVD-ROM/DVD SuperMulti (+/- double layer) drive that supports 12 formats (the Qosmio is an affordable way to get into HD DVD).
So how well does the notebook perform? We did benchmark tests with PCMark 05 with the notebook plugged in and running on the balanced power setting for our tests, and the numbers look good.
Total Rating: 4.5
Gaming graphics: 5.2
Primary hard disk: 4.5
These are very respectable benchmark numbers that correspond to our experience in testing applications including office apps, multimedia use and gaming.
Networking and Ports
The Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV425 comes with Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN and has excellent WiFi performance. Using 802.11n, The range is great and signal strength is fantastic. We watched movies on Netflix over the Internet several rooms removed from our WiFi N router and movies played smoothly. Other networking includes 10/100 Ethernet (Realtek) and an internal modem. There’s no Bluetooth hardware onboard, but Toshiba’s pervasive Bluetooth stack ready to work with a Bluetooth USB key. In addition there are 4 USB 2.0 ports (2 on each side of the notebook), a FireWire IEEE-1394 port, an ExpressCard slot (supports ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54) and a 5-in-1 built-in card reader slot (SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MMC, xD Picture Card).
The Toshiba Qosmio has VGA, S-Video and HDMI ports. Audio ports includes S/PDIF (shared with headphone port), mic input and headphone output ports. For security, there is a fingerprint scanner that works with the F45’s TPM (Trusted Platform Module).
System and Bundled Software
The Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV425 comes with Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit) while the lower configurations in this notebook series come with Windows Vista Home Premium. Bundled software includes Microsoft Works v8.5, Adobe Acrobat Reader 8.0, Toshiba HD DVD Player, Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5 and Toshiba Speech system. That’s on par with most software bundle on Windows notebooks and covers basic productivity and multimedia needs. Like all current Toshiba notebooks, the Qosmio comes with a recovery DVD that has software and drivers to restore the notebook to factory settings (there is no recovery partition on the hard drive).
Sadly like many of today’s notebooks, the Toshiba Qosmio comes with at least 3 times more bloatware and trialware than useful software. The desktop is loaded with shortcut icons that lead to CNN Pipeline, eBay, Vongo, Napster, Shutterfly and more. Mixing these shortcuts with important ones such as Toshiba support/tutorial shortcuts will surely confuse a novice user. In addition to the toolbars and music downloads, there are some useful trial software such as Microsoft Office Trial Home and Student 2007 Edition and nagging to borderline pushy trial software like McAfee Internet Security Suite.
Like the 17” Toshiba Satellite P205, the Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV425 comes with a rechargeable Li-ion battery pack that’s 4000 mAh (10.8v) in capacity. With a bright widescreen, dedicated graphics, HD-DVD drive and speakers, etc. onboard, the battery on the Toshiba has a lot of hardware to power. We had expected the battery life wouldn’t be stellar, but our battery test results still surprised us with even shorter runtime than we’d expected. A 45 minute movie streamed over WiFi from the Internet streaming with the power setting at “balanced” drained half of a full charge. Just installing (not playing) Rise of Legends (4 CDs) took 38% of a full battery charge. Standby time isn’t great either. The good news is even on the balanced power setting, the screen is bright and easy to see when viewing movies, games and other applications. The bad news is that the battery life of the Qosmio is approaching the “non-portable” portable class.
The Toshiba offers High Performance, Power Saver and Balanced settings and a custom setting where you can set your own performance and conservation balance. The notebook comes with a 120W world charger (a large brick) that takes input 100-240V.
The Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV425 is a competitive AV and gaming notebook with a fantastic screen, powerful processor and dedicated graphics and excellent sound system. The HD-DVD optical is a valuable add-on and the WiFi 802.11AGN has excellent range and strength. If you are looking for a notebook to watch and edit movies, play music and games on top of web browsing, working on Office files and other basic functions; the Toshiba Qosmio F45-AV425 is a strong contender at a reasonable price for what you get. Though it has a very pleasing design, the thickness and weight might turn some folks away.
Pro:Great CPU and graphics performance, beautiful screen, excellent WiFi, great HD-DVD movie watching experience, outstanding audio, and gaming is a joy on the Qosmio.
Con:Too much bloatware, very short battery life. Not a terribly portable notebook among others in the 15 inch class.
Display:15.4” diagonal widescreen TruBrite TFT LCD display at 1280 x 800 native resolution (WXGA), native support for 720p content. NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics, 256MB GDDR2 discrete graphics memory, plus up to 255MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory using NVIDIA TurboCache. Total available graphics memory 511MB.
Battery:Lithium Ion rechargeable, 4000 mAh, 10.8V (model number PA3589U-1BRS). 120W AC adapter 100-240V/50-60Hz included.
Performance:Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7250, 2.0GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB. 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM with max capacity of 4GB.
Size: 14.9 x 11.0 x 1.50 inches (without feet). Weight: 6.6 pounds.
Drives:300GB (4200 RPM) Serial ATA single hard drive. HD DVD-ROM/DVD SuperMulti (+/- double layer) optical drive, supporting 12 formats.
Audio:2 built-in Harman/kardon speakers with 1 Bass Reflex sub-woofer, sound volume control dial, built-in mic, 3.5mm headphone jack and S/P DIF output port.
Networking: Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n). 10/100 gigabit Ethernet and 56k modem. RJ-45 LAN port.
Ports and Slots:Four USB 2.0 ports, a firewire port, 1 stereo headphone out with SPDIF digital audio, one 3.5mm mic-in, a 5-in-1 card reader, an ExpressCard/54 slot, S-Video out, RGB port and HDMI port. Also included a fingerprint scanner and TPM.
Software: Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit) Operating System. Microsoft Works v8.5, Adobe Acrobat Reader v8.0, Toshiba HD DVD Player software, Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5 and InterVideo WinDVD 8. Recovery software included on CD. Trial software includes: Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 Edition (60-day trial) and McAfee Internet Security Suite (30-day trial).