Toshiba Qosmio X305 Review

by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (50,919)

by Charles P. Jefferies

The Qosmio X305-Q708 is Toshiba’s flagship gaming and multimedia notebook. This 17-inch monster has a flashy design, dual Nvidia video cards, and Intel’s first mobile quad-core processor. Despite all the bells and whistles, is the X305-Q708 worth $4,200?

Our test notebook has the following specifications:

  • 17-inch WSXGA+ (1680×1050) glossy display
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9300 (2.53GHz/ 12MB L2/ 1066MHz FSB) quad-core processor
  • 4GB DDR3-1066 RAM
  • Dual Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GTS with 512MB GDDR3 memory in SLI
  • Nvidia GeForce 9400M chipset
  • 128GB Toshiba SSD primary disk, 320GB 7200RPM secondary
  • DVD Super Multi drive
  • Atheros WLAN and built-in Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
  • One-year warranty
  • 230W AC adapter
  • 47Wh 8-cell battery
  • Weight: 9.04 lbs
  • Dimensions: 16.2” (W) x 12.0” (D) x 1.7 – 2.5” (H)

Toshiba only offers the X305 as a pre-configured model; the Q708 version we are testing is the most expensive with an MSRP of $4,199.99. It can be purchased from Toshiba Direct and authorized Toshiba retailers.

Build and Design

The Qosmio X305 has the most radical design I have seen to date. In addition to its look-at-me color scheme, its lines also set it apart. The side of the notebook and the lid are curved like an upside-down parentheses, which is truly different. Finding an even surface on this notebook is difficult.

Every single visible bit of the X305’s viewable surface is glossy plastic, even the keyboard. Despite its vulnerable appearance, Toshiba’s Fusion finish is actually quite durable.

The internal frame of the X305 is rigid, but the exterior plastic construction is thin and has weak points. It is relatively easy to flex most parts of the notebook, especially the lid. The lid’s hinge is sturdy, but the display can be twisted side-to-side easily and the back does not have enough reinforcement. Fortunately, no ripples appear in the display when the back is pushed in. Due to this notebook’s gargantuan size, it feels hollow.

This is one of the largest notebooks I have tested. It weighs nearly ten pounds, with the power adapter adding another two, and is an insane two and a quarter inches thick at its highest point.

Despite the X305’s radicalness and my initial rejection of what Toshiba’s designers had created, I must admit the notebook’s look has grown on me, and I actually think it is well done. The swooping lines meld together well, and the overall look of the notebook is polished (pun intended). The entire base around the keyboard of the notebook is downright elegant, especially the speaker grilles, touchpad buttons, and the strip of chrome red plastic surrounding the base of the notebook. The flame-covered back lid is quite attractive in person and is fitting on this notebook. There is not a single part of the X305 that looks out of place in relation to the rest.

I was originally in the crowd of “wow, that’s an ugly design” surrounding the X305. However now that I have spent significant time with this beast, my opinion has done a 180. Toshiba has created something unique and beautiful. I highly recommend that anyone who is curious about this notebook to go see it in person at a brick and mortar retailer, and spend some time with it.

Display

The X305-Q708 has a 17-inch WSXGA+ (1680×1050 pixels) glossy display. It has ample brightness, good contrast, and is not grainy. Viewing angles are typical for an LCD – great from side-to-side, but colors wash out from above and darken from below. Though the display passes my judgment, it is not stand-out in any particular way, and is actually below-par next to competitors in this price range. My major complaint is the resolution; a gaming notebook of this caliber should have a full HD WUXGA (1920×1200 pixels) resolution. Nevertheless, the X305-Q708 has a satisfactory but not outstanding display.

Speakers

It is appropriate to call the X305 a portable boombox, because it is one. The four harman/kardon speakers and subwoofer are absolutely fantastic – clarity is excellent, they get very loud, and the bass isn’t just noticeable, but can actually be felt. Sound quality is present at all volume levels, which is impressive. The Toshiba X305 is unsurpassed when it comes to notebook sound. I am going to miss these speakers dearly.

Heat and Noise

Three centrifugal fans on the bottom of the notebook jet hot air out the back of the notebook. The X305’s cooling system did a fantastic job of keeping the notebook cool during hours of gaming. The three fans create noise, but it is in the form of air rushing, not motor whine, and can be dismissed as background noise.

Keyboard

As someone who places extreme importance on input device quality, I consider the X305’s keyboard to be quite disappointing. It does not feel solid at all. On good keyboards, keys give ample feedback when fully depressed; there is multi-step feedback loop for each key. You can feel the key providing resistance while being depressed, be able to tell how long and how much distance it took to reach the bottom, the key hitting the bottom, and the key pushing your finger up to the top again. The X305’s keyboard provides no such feedback. Key travel (the distance between the keyboard and the bottom) is vague, since there is a lot of flex – using a small amount of pressure, the whole keyboard caves in. There is clearly a lot of space between the bottom of the keyboard and a solid surface. The keys are not springy enough and this further adds to the vague feel. The keys are made of very thin plastic and, combined with the hollow sound the keys make when depressed, feel and sound cheap.

While gaming, I had issues pressing down keys – if I pressed the [W] key down on an angle, it sometimes jammed. Not good.

Touchpad

Fortunately, the touchpad fared better. It has a nice granular surface, which means tracking accuracy does not depend on whether your fingers are moist or dry. The two shiny buttons have a hollow sound but are overall solid and relatively quiet.

Touch Buttons

Above the keyboard are a series of touch-sensitive buttons. There are keys for multimedia playback, muting the sound, shutting off all the lights, opening the camera, and a sound control panel launcher. By far the best two features are the ability to mute the sound and shut off the lights.

Input & Output Ports

This calls for a picture tour – all descriptions are left to right


Right side: Volume control knob, headphone + SP/DIF output, microphone, 2x USB 2.0, and (behind flap), 5-in-1 media card reader and 56k modem jack


Left side: eSATA/USB combo port, USB, ExpressCard/54 slot


Back: Kensington lock slot, IEEE 1394 mini-Firewire, power jack, exhaust vent, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet


Front: Wireless on/off switch, optical drive

There is a huge variety of ports here. The most notable ports are the HDMI, DisplayPort, and eSATA. The volume control knob is especially nice, and makes adjusting the volume a cinch.

Wireless

The Atheros wireless card provided problem-free wireless Internet. I was able to connect to a number of different wireless networks with no problem. The internal Bluetooth wireless works as expected.

Battery

A unique feature of the X305-Q708 is Nvidia’s hybrid SLI technology. This notebook actually has three graphics cards – yes that is correct, three graphics cards. On battery, the integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics take over and the dual 9800M-GTS cards shut off, greatly reducing power consumption. The included 8-cell, 47Wh battery provided one hour and 48 minutes of life, which is reasonable for a machine of this caliber. This seems to be an odd feature to implement in a notebook like this, since users of the X305 most likely do not have battery life high on their list of requirements.

Operating System & Software

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit is pre-installed on the Q708, with an unfortunately large amount of bloatware. Trial software, useless games, and other unwanted bits of software litter the main drive. Seeing this kind of bloatware on a $4,200 notebook borders on offensive. Toshiba also includes an inordinate amount of utilities.

Customer Support

The X305-708 comes with a one-year warranty. On a $4,200 notebook, this is also a disappointment. Notebooks with a pricetag higher than a down payment on a car should have a more extensive warranty. I had some issues with Toshiba’s support site as well. I went to the site to get new video drivers for this notebook, but to my surprise, no drivers for any device are even listed under the X305. On the positive, the support site was easy to navigate.


Conclusion

The Toshiba Qosmio X305 is the most uniquely-designed notebook I have tested. This notebook is unlike any other and anyone who carries it will get looks wherever they go. It has good gaming performance and an effective cooling system. The sound system is the best on any notebook, and the variety of ports is impressive. Unfortunately, there are too many cons for me to give this notebook my recommendation, at least in this configuration at this price point. It simply does not measure up to the competition. Lower-priced versions of the X305 around the $2,000 price point are available and a far better value than our top-of-the-line Q708 model.

Pros:

  • Unique design
  • Mobile quad-core power
  • Plays modern games well
  • Excellent cooling system
  • Fantastic sound system
  • Port variety is outstanding

Cons:

  • Poor value
  • Display is nothing special, not full HD resolution
  • Keyboard is a mess
  • Slow 128GB SSD
  • Intel Extreme processor not overclockable
  • Competitor’s notebooks at this price point have superior gaming performance
  • Build has weak points
  • Only one-year warranty standard
  • Bloatware on a notebook at this price point!?

Performance and Benchmarks

A complete analysis of system performance and benchmarks can be found on the benchmarks page.


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