by Michele Stillwell-Parvensky
The Toshiba Qosmio F25 is a 15.4 inch desktop replacement and one of the most affordable Media Center laptops available. The F25 is the younger and not quite as talented sister of the 17 inch Qosmio Q25, which earned the Editor's Choice nods of PC Magazine and Cnet. However, if you don't need a laptop that will completely replace your entertainment center, the Qosmio F25 is a great balance between features and affordability.
Toshiba Qosmio F25 (view larger image)
Specs of the Qosmio F25-A205:
Reasons for Buying:
I needed a new desktop replacement to take the place of my 3.5 year old 1900 series Toshiba Satellite. I had a few main criteria: Pentium M processor, 1 GB RAM, and a video card that could handle some of the newer games. As the laptop would be my only computer, I was willing to sacrifice mobility for features and a 15 inch or larger screen. I did need something that would last me a few years. I also had a strong preference for a computer I could pick up in store so that I would have time to set it up before I returned to school and became too stressed to deal with it. I had a $1000 to $1500 price range.
I did a lot of research and for most of the time, the Qosmio wasn't even on my shortlist. I was looking at desktop replacements that were a level or two below the Qosmio in features, particularly the Dell 9300 and the HP dv4000. I really liked the HP and probably would have bought it if they had an in-store configuration that had a non-Intel integrated graphics card. I was about to buy the HP online when Circuit City came out with a great sale on the Qosmio F25 which brought it into the very top of my price range ($1699 with $200 of mail-in rebates). Since the Qosmio fit all my criteria and had a few cool extra features (built in TV-tuner and Media Center) plus a classy look and feel, I went for it.
Build & Design:
The Qosmio's design is very sleek and elegant, a huge difference from my old Toshiba Satellite. The exterior of the F25 is silver, but the interior is now a polished black and the circular speakers add to very futuristic looking design. Anyone who sees me with the laptop usually comments on it right away, so if that's important to you the wow factor is an added bonus
I was surprised by how decent the overall build was, especially considering that Toshiba's usually aren't known for having good build-quality. The Qosmio feels very sturdy -- there's no wobble or give anywhere and the hinges are well-built. The screen is well protected and when I push in on the back there are no ripples on the screen.
The laptop is a bit bigger and heavier than comparable 15.4 inch notebooks, which doesn't particularly bother me, but I'm glad I didn't go with a 17 inch. The only time the size really came into play was when I was shopping for a laptop case and the Qosmio didn't fit into any of the cases labeled for 15.4 inch. I ended up having to buy one designed for a 17 inch laptop, but I'm happy because I got a really nice Kensington Contour Plus on sale for an awesome price (with three rebates however, so we'll see how that works out).
The Qosmio screen is just awesome. With its TruBrite technology, the screen is extremely bright and seems deceptively larger than its actual size. The overall contrast and boldness of colors is great and the display looks good whether I'm surfing the internet or watching a DVD. Even turning the brightness down a few notches using the external buttons doesn't sacrifice much quality. The screen is a bit reflective, but it's not distracting and help improve contrast. The extra real estate offered by the widescreen is also really helpful, as I can run two windows side by side or take constant advantage of sidebars. Unfortunately, my pictures really couldn't capture the quality, brightness, and crispness of the screen, so I really recommend you look at one at a local store.
I was very impressed by the high quality speakers. The Harman Kardon stereo speakers sit at the upper corners and they sounded extremely loud, crisp, and clear. I already have top-notch external speakers that I use but the Qosmio's built-in speakers are among the best I've heard. In a normal noise atmosphere, I can comfortably have the speaker volume at of capacity -- I can imagine that the speakers would be loud enough for just about any situation. A particularly nice extra is the prominent external volume control wheel, which makes it really easy to change the volume quickly (like when I turn on the computer in class and start to hear the trademark Windows tune). The speakers are muffled when the lid was shut since the speakers aren't on the front-edge.
Processor and Performance:
I expected the laptop to have top-rate performance and the Qosmio came through. The Pentium M 750 (1.86 GHz) and 1GB of ram can handle just about anything I throw at it. The 5400RPM hard drive also speeds things up. I'm a huge multi-tasker so I often have six plus programs open and the Qosmio doesn't even break a sweat (well, other than the heat and noise, which I'll discuss later). I do some photo and video editing and there's virtually no delay at all. The boot time is incredibly speedy, before I turn around it's usually up and running. The laptop is configured to hibernate when the lid closes and it takes literally two seconds to wake up and be ready to go when I open the lid.
I was also impressed with the 3D graphics performance. I had been a little bit worried about the video card only have 64 MB of dedicated memory, but the NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 has performed really well. I haven't tried any extremely demanding games, but it handles Civilization 4 on the highest settings without a single hiccup.
The program Super Pi was run to calculate the number Pi to 2-million digits of accuracy, this is a good way of simply forcing the processor to do work to calculate a number and deriving performance from the time it takes to achieve the end goal. Below are the results from running this program on the F25 and how it compares to other notebooks.
|Toshiba Qosmio F25 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 40s|
|Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 41s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
Below is a screenshot from HDTune, a benchmark that measures hard drive performance:
Heat and Noise:
This is my biggest issue with the Qosmio. Despite the fact that it sports the cooler and quieter Pentium M, the laptop gets hot very quickly and, as a result, the relatively loud fan goes on frequently, which can be extremely annoying and distracting. Even more irritatingly, the laptop will get hot and loud even when I'm doing really basic tasks like word processing or internet browsing. Even when the laptop is on my screensaver, it will heat up. I bought an external cooling pad with fans and I still notice the heat and noise. However, I am getting more and more used to the noise so it doesn't bother me as much. Only the left side of the laptop gets really hot and the palm rests remain fairly cool. I suppose for all the performance the computer delivers, the heat and noise are a small price to pay but the fact that its hotter and louder than my old Toshiba Satellite 1900 (which were notorious for their Pentium 4 caused heat) bothers me. The HD Tune utility informs me of the CPU temperature and when doing normal tasks, the computer is at about 38 degrees Celcius.
I should note that when I'm running on battery and doing basic word and internet tasks, the laptop does stay relatively cool and quiet, which is important because it's usually on my lap and in the middle of a class. So, the heat and noise probably had a lot to do with the screen brightness and power options and with some tinkering, the problem can be somewhat alleviated.
The main special feature of the Qosmio is its internal TV tuner. I was a bit skeptical on its actually utility and ease of use, but it has been a great extra. Through the included adapter cord, my coaxial cable cord plugs right into my computer and enables me to watch live TV. I bought a coaxial splitter and another cord so I can have both my computer and TV hooked up at the same time -- although you can only watch or record one channel at a time. I don't know all the details, but you can hook up a variety of other configurations up as well. The Qosmio serves many of the same purposes as a TIVO without the subscription fee. You can record and save programs and set Media Center to automatically download the TV guide from the internet so you can schedule future recordings of a single show or an entire series. The quality is as goods as on the television set (which for me is not very good) but if you have digital cable and such, it would certainly be better. I appreciate the ability to make the TV window smaller so I can be working on other things while watching TV. I should note that, understandably, watching or recording TV takes up a good deal of computing power, so you probably wouldn't be able to run several intensive programs while watching TV. For me, the internal TV tuner has basically rendered my old TV set obsolete.
Qosmio F25 keyboard (view larger image)
Keyboard and Touchpad:
The keyboard is typical of a mid-sized laptop computer. There's no flex to the keyboard and the keys are just the right degree of responsiveness. The keys are all intuitively placed. The dashboard features 11 helpful multimedia keys, which provide instant access to TV and DVDs without having to boot into the OS. The touchpad is a little smaller than I would like, but otherwise it serves its purpose well. Notably, the touchpad is slightly recessed, which means that I never bump it when I'm typing (this was a huge pet peeve of mine on my old laptop, whenever I had the touchpad on and was typing I had to be constantly paying attention to make sure I didn't move the cursor to another location). The laptop doesn't have a button to turn off the touchpad when using an external mouse, but it really isn't necessary.
Toshiba Qosmio dashboard (view larger image)
Input and Output Ports:
The laptop has quite an assortment of ports, some of which I haven't even had the chance to use yet. I don't particularly like the layout of the ports because it forces me to have cords hanging off the sides, which is annoying since I have little desk real estate. I think the old style of having most of the ports in the back or on the back end of the sides was preferable. The microphone and headphone jacks are on the front of the laptop, which is great if you're using headphones but burdensome for plugging in my speakers.
It comes with 3 USB 2.0 ports and probably could have used another one -- especially since there's only one on the back edge -- the other two are towards the front on the right side. There's a modem port on the front right side and an Ethernet port in the back. There a coaxial port for connecting your cable to the laptop, which enables use of the built-in TV tuner. It comes with a remote control and an infrared USB receiver, which can be used to control DVD playback or TV. The Qosmio also sports a RGB port (connect an external monitor), an S-video out port (connect a projector or TV), an i.LINK port, a composite in port, and one PC card slot.
One the front edge is a memory card slot that supports Memory Stick, SD, MMC, and xD cards. It worked well when I tried it out -- easy enough to read and write, although I was a little concerned that there wasn't an eject button, instead you just have to grab on and pull out. Unfortunately, it doesn't take my digital camera's Compact Flash card, but it's a nice extra all the same. Right next to the slot is a wireless on/off switch that's very useful.
From left to right: indicator lights, wireless on/off switch, i.LINK port, memory card reader, microphone jack, headphone/speaker jack. (view larger image)
From left to right: RGB port, S-video out port, cooling vent, PC card slot. (view larger image)
From left to right: Coaxial antenna, power cord, network port, USB port. (view larger image)
From left to right: Composite in port, 2 USB ports, modem port, DVD-RW/CD-RW drive (view larger image)
The integrated 802.11b/g wireless works very well. I'm on a school network and a lot of my friends have trouble connected at certain locations or when the weathers bad, but I have consistent excellent signal strength. There is no built-in Bluetooth.
With all the performance and features that the Qosmio offers, I wasn't expecting a long battery life but I've been pleasantly surprised. When I'm doing light office tasks with a level 4 (4/8) brightness, the battery lasts about three and half hours and having wi-fi on only takes off about thirty minutes. That is actually longer than the average battery life Toshiba claims in their literature (2.88 hours). The Qosmio lasts long enough to watch a full length movie on decent brightness levels. Obviously this laptop is not designed with mobility and battery life in mind and you should usually have it plugged in, but it holds a charge long enough to free you from wires occasionally. The Qosmio came with a standard 6-cell Li-Ion battery and, as far as I can tell, the only option for extending the battery life is buying an extra 6-cell.
Operating System and Software:
The laptop came with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, which is basically Windows XP Home with a few extra features to take advantage of the TV options. Two system restore/recovery disks are included. The computer came with the typical amount of bloatware (including Microsoft Works, McAfee, ArcSoft ), most of which I just uninstalled. However, I was particularly annoyed with the included version of America Online which, despite the fact that I can run the program, I can't easily uninstall because the uninstaller claims that "No installed versions of AOL could be found on your computer." There's also a ton of Toshiba utilities, some of which are helpful but most can be disabled. It comes with QosmioPlayer, which enabled you to watch television, play CDs or watch DVDs without booting up the OS, and Sonie RecordNow, which records CDs and DVDs well enough. Hidden within the trial of Microsoft Office 2003 is a full version of Microsoft OneNote 2003 (serial number is included in the documentation), which is actually a very helpful note taking program that I use for typing notes in class -- it also minimizes to the system tray for quick access for post-it type notes without using too many resources.
I have absolutely no experience with Toshiba customer support either with this laptop or my old Toshiba. Their web page is very unhelpful though. It came with a limited one year warranty. I have a philosophy of never paying for extra warranty or insurance for any product I buy and it has worked out very well for me -- I've saved hundreds of dollars and I've never been in a situation where I would have used a warranty had I had one.
Qosmio F25 (view larger image)
This is a great desktop replacement for someone who wants excellent performance, great gaming potential, numerous multimedia options and a few extra features without sacrificing affordability.
Pricing and Availability: Toshiba Qosmio F25
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