by Perry Longinotti
Gaming notebooks have been around for a few years now and getting a good one has been easy assuming you have heaping piles of cash. For those of us on a budget, we were stuck with mid-range GPUs and big compromises in the visual settings of our games until Gateway's FX line came out last winter. Today we'll be looking at Toshiba's answer to higher performance on a budget, the Toshiba Qosmio X305/300 gaming notebook.
It's easy to say a notebook has game and the throw some vague slides on a company website (cough, Apple) but the nice thing about this segment is that imposters are quickly uncovered. Your notebook can either play a game as the developer intended (at or near max settings) or it cannot. Sure, you can suffer through some games with all the visual settings dialled-down on mainstream notebooks but that isn't what this segment is about. These notebooks are extreme machines – "Sharks with freakin' laser beams!"
First the vital statistics – this model is very close to the X305-Q705 (detailed descriptions further down):
Build and Design
Starting with the Satellite P30 series a few years ago, Toshiba has been easing themselves into the gaming notebook segment. Last year's X200/205 was armed with dual GPUs in SLI and was a pretty big hit. The X305 has big shoes to fill in order to make the right impression – so Toshiba started by ramping up the looks.
While there is no accounting for taste, I think the X305's hot rod inspired flames look appropriately hot. Its lid has multi-hued metallic red flames (Metallic Bordeaux Fire Shark according to Toshiba). Red plastics wrap around the chassis and extend around the keyboard. Near the hinge the plastic is translucent and backlit. The palm rests are black textured plastic.
It is rather busy in the dark - very disco!
When placed on a flat surface, the X305 exhibits no warped plastics or chassis. Four large rubber feet raise the notebook about a quarter inch from the surface allowing plenty of room for air circulation.
Handling the X305 the second thing you will notice is that this notebook feels quite sturdy overall although there are some weak spots. The cool-looking lid feels thin and flimsy and the right palm rest flexes. Given the X305's weight you might expect some chassis creaking as you carry it around, but there isn't any. With the exception of the keyboard, that we will get to in a moment, everything else is pretty firm.
Like most notebooks these days, hinge tension works in place of an LCD latch mechanism. Mechanical hinge latches are not mechanisms that I miss - those were typically the first part to fail on a notebook.
No screen latch
At 9.1 lb. and 2.5" thick you won't want to tote this around college campus. Width is 16.25" and length is 12" – a bright red manhole cover comes to mind when thinking about the X305's portability. For its intended purpose of gaming, moving between rooms occasionally and being shown off at LAN Parties the weight won't be an issue.
Tower of power - Toshiba Qosmio X305 on a Gateway P-6831FX
Toshiba chose the LG Philips LPLA101 LCD panel for the X305. This 17.1" display is bright with good contrast, color saturation and a 1440 x 900 resolution. This resolution is a good match for the 9700m GTS video card. You will be able to run most games at native resolution. The screen is usable at the lowest brightness setting but most people will probably settle on 50%. Horizontal viewing angles are good with no color inversion at really sharp angles. Vertical viewing angles were typical of TN panels with inversion of colors past a certain point – but that's no a big deal, that is what the hinge is for. Above the display are the webcam and microphone.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Reviled though it may be, Toshiba is pushing the European style keyboard layout in Canada. Weep for your poor wretched Canadian cousins. The X305's keyboard is finish is glossy – a motif that is being extended throughout the Toshiba line up. It looks good but the keys are a little slippery. Also, the base flexes a lot and the short key travel makes this defect very noticeable. Key clicks are loud getting progressively worse as you move to the right. Next to the Acer 6920g keyboard I would rate this as the worst I have used this year. It is possible that the US keyboard is better. Here is a quick video that captures the flex.
On the right side of the keyboard where flex is most pronounced you will find a full numeric keypad. The positioning of the Del, Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn and End keys is unorthodox. Above the keyboard and centered between sharp looking Harmon/Kardon speakers are media control buttons (exactly where they belong - Acer I am talking to you). Additional speakers are situated near the palm rests as well.
Toshiba's touchpads often need a bit of twiddling to get them setup the way I like them (fast with a light touch). The X305 was perfect right out of the box. Unlike in past years, Toshiba has elected to keep the touchpad simple and uncluttered with chotchkas – a smart choice. Buttons are firm and rattle free. There is no Apple-like two finger tapping or multi-touch. The top of the pad glows red while the notebook is on.
The installation is relatively clear of junk. Toshiba's utilities are present, but in some cases they are redundant with Windows offering the same functionality. There is no point having two programs that do the same thing running in memory – a good example being the Wi-Fi configuration. Uninstalling these will free up some memory and remove a few unwanted background services.
A Bluetooth setup utility pops up on first boot to help you configure any keyboard mice or other peripherals you may have. I like this feature but it is a bit odd; Toshiba reminds you to setup a wireless mouse but not to create backup discs? On a related note, lack of an included Vista restore disc is a disappointment. This notebook is not a $399 door crasher - Gateway provides recovery discs with its notebooks.
A novelty is the Toshiba face recognition feature. A cynic might say that this is just a cheap way to add biometric authentication to a notebook without the added cost of a fingerprint reader. After all, even the most basic notebooks have an integrated webcam these days. I was not able to get this working but there was an update on the Toshiba site and are many reports of people using this successfully.
Toshiba also includes a voice recognition and command utility and it works incredibly well. This is a very good accessibility feature. You launch programs, perform tasks and navigate the web. It does a good job of isolating out background noise, but watch out if you have a talkative 5 year old in the room because the results can be pretty funny (or scary if you are working on anything important).
A Norton 360 three-month trial is included. This is a pretty resource intensive antivirus solution – I prefer the Windows firewall, defender, malicious code updates and a freebee like Avira.
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