Toshiba’s heavy 15.6-inch F755-3D290 laptop offers a good display for normal use, but its auto-stereoscopic 3D effect isn’t so hot.
The Toshiba Qosmio F755-3D290 offers bleeding-edge technologies–such as auto-stereoscopic, glasses-free 3D–inside a bulky, overweight chassis. The display is gorgeous, and the audio playback quality is good, but they’re overshadowed by the machine’s heft, as well as its mediocre keyboard and pointing device. And as for the quality of that auto-stereoscopic 3D…well, I’ll get to that shortly.
When I first set up the Toshiba F755-3D290, I thought that this particular Qosmio was a 17-inch laptop. It certainly had the heft of a 17-inch laptop, and when I looked at it edge-on, it seemed to be as tall as most 17-inch laptops, too. I realized my error when I popped open the lid and noticed that the display looked awfully small. In fact, this particular F755 variant sports only a 15.6-inch screen.
It also weighs a bit over 7 pounds by itself–and a full 8 pounds, 10 ounces if you include the 120-watt power brick. So here’s a laptop that weighs substantially more than the average 15.6-inch notebook PC. What gives?
At first blush, the specs don’t look extraordinary. The F755-3D290 ships with an Intel Core i7-2630QM processor, a quad-core, Sandy Bridge CPU clocked at 2.0GHz (up to 2.9GHz in Turbo mode). It also has 6GB of DDR3 memory, plus discrete graphics in the form of an Nvidia GT 540M, along with 1GB of video RAM.
The unit looks attractive when you open it. However, although the keyboard is one of the most visually appealing laptop keyboards I’ve seen, it hides an annoying flaw: All the keys are flat, not sculpted, with very small gaps in between. As a touch typist, I found the keyboard frustrating to use; my fingers would slip off the intended keys, but since I couldn’t feel the difference, I’d make errors. The touchpad is a little problematic, as well–it’s quite sensitive, and a hovering palm occasionally induces wild shifts in the mouse cursor. In addition, the buttons require too much pressure.
What is special about the Qosmio F755-3D290 is the display. This gorgeous, LED-backlit LCD panel offers good color accuracy and rich, saturated playback. It also supports auto-stereoscopic 3D, which allows you to enjoy stereoscopic 3D effects without having to use cumbersome glasses. With this laptop, you could watch 3D Blu-ray movies and, in theory, play games using Nvidia’s 3D Vision feature. In reality, however, the stereoscopic implementation is far from fully baked.
Visually, the built-in monitor is beautiful. Working with photos and normal content is great. Games look good, though the GT 540M doesn’t allow for running high frame rates in modern titles without sacrificing substantial detail. In normal 2D mode, viewing angles are better than on many laptops. DVDs upscaled to full panel resolution appear a little soft and noisy, which is a common issue with Nvidia mobile GPUs and drivers. High-definition content looks superb, though.
The laptop is supposed to support Nvidia’s 3D Vision technology for 3D gaming, but I could never get the feature to turn on. Running the ‘Enable 3D Vision’ app did nothing. Toshiba didn’t offer more-recent drivers, either, and I couldn’t install standard Nvidia mobile drivers. So, in my tests, stereoscopic 3D for games was a no-show.
Fortunately, 3D Blu-ray movies fared a bit better in my tests. Alice in Wonderland (the 3D version with Johnny Depp) and the 3D Tron: Legacy both worked quite well in the supplied Toshiba Blu-ray playback software, in that the three-dimensional effect kicked in. However, the auto-stereoscopic playback has some serious limitations: The frame resolution drops to 1280 by 720, and you can see a “screen door” effect. Also, if you shift your head slightly, the viewpoint shifts in large increments, not smoothly as with glasses-based 3D. Overall, 3D viewing isn’t really a pleasant experience. Stick with normal 2D.
Audio playback is a pleasant surprise. Vocals in music sound a touch nasal; stereo imaging is good, however, and the sound is full-bodied, though lacking deep bass. The sound quality in movies is even better, with clear dialogue that doesn’t get lost in the mix. Credit goes to the Harman-Kardon speakers, which we’ve heard on other Toshiba laptops and consider a big plus.
The F755-3D290 supplies a healthy mix of ports, including one SuperSpeed (USB 3.0) connection on the right side. Also on the right are a pair of audio jacks and a USB 2.0 port. Two more USB connections are on the left edge, as are VGA and HDMI video outputs. Ethernet and power are on the rear, and an SD Card slot resides in the lower front of the chassis. The laptop ships with gigabit ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi. Although Toshiba specifies Bluetooth 3.0 as well, we found no trace of Bluetooth hardware or software on the F755-3D290.
The software bundle is limited, mostly consisting of Norton Internet Security trialware, Toshiba utilities, the ad-supported Microsoft Office Starter edition, and Windows Live Essentials. Documentation is in a PDF file and completely generic, with no help offered on model-specific features, such as the auto-stereoscopic 3D.
Performance from the F755-3D290 was a little better than the average for 15-inch laptops (its WorldBench 6 benchmark score was 123), but its battery life was well below average. Despite the discrete graphics chip, its game performance was lacking, too, so you should adjust your expectations accordingly. As noted earlier, you can get decent frame rates if you’re willing to sacrifice detail levels.
Overall, the Toshiba Qosmio F755-3D290 seems to be a one-trick pony, and it doesn’t really perform its one trick all that well. The auto-stereoscopic 3D is impressive in that it works, but the limitations are too glaring for the feature to be of much use. The excellent LCD panel (under normal use) and the good audio playback quality mitigate the 3D problem quite a bit. Considering that this laptop costs nearly $1700 (as of November 1, 2011) and weighs almost 9 pounds with the power brick, however, you may want to opt for something easier on your back, with fewer gimmicks.
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