|Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q896 Laptop Review|
|Home Theater Media Servers Home Theater/Media Center PCs|
|Written by Mike Flacy|
|Tuesday, 16 November 2010|
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I've always felt that Home Theater PCs have long been ignored as a viable alternative to physical media players in the home entertainment space, mostly because taking that next step into streaming or storing all your media in a central location seems very daunting to the average consumer; both from a technical and time consuming standpoint. It's very refreshing to see the barrage of media player / HTPC hybrids that are taking the home theater by storm as of late. Players like the Boxee, Western Digital's TV Live Hub or even the Apple TV are giving consumers new to the space an easy way to get started with playing stored media (both offsite and onsite) without moving into the serious video server arena. Adoption and more widespread use of this technology will ultimately lead to consumers wanting more from their media centers, thus seeking upgrades to a higher quality of video server (the Vidabox Slim3, for instance).
The Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q896 laptop (and I use that word loosely) isn't billed as a media center, but rather a powerhouse of a notebook that produces a native 1080p resolution, Blu-ray playback with up-scaling for DVDs and has a nifty HDMI out that send an uncompressed A/V signal to your HDTV. It's also a beast, clocking in at about 10 pounds; ideal for a desktop, but not for travel. The laptop sports an 18.4" screen (1920 x 1080 native resolution), Harman / Kardon Stereo speakers, backlit keyboard, touchpad media controls and a speedy 7200rpm hard drive for accessing all your media. It's finished in a shiny black and accented with a metallic red, probably one of the more ostentatious laptops I've seen next to Alienware products.
Diving into the more technical specs, the laptop has Intel's latest i7 quad core processor rated at 1.73Ghz, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M video card with 1.5GB graphics memory, 4GB of DDR memory, built-in webcam (1.3 megapixels), Bluetooth 2.1, wireless N capability and a 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet connection. On the front of the machine, you will find the SD / MCC / XD memory card slot for those who want quick access to their photos from a digital camera as well as a switch to turn off the Wi-Fi connection. There are also indicator lights to tell if the computer it on, if the hard drive is bring accessed, etc… On the left side of the laptop, there’s the Blu-ray / DVD drive, Firewire port, HDMI out port, a USB port, a SATA connection and the Ethernet jack. On the right side, you will find the 3.5mm headphones & microphone jacks, two more USB ports, a VGA out for projectors and the power connection jack. Different from the majority of the laptops on the market, there are no ports on the rear of the laptop; it’s reserved for the cooling fans.
Around the backlit keyboard (which is exceptional for working in low-light areas), you will find a full keypad, the track pad with two metallic red buttons for clicking, the media touchpad for controlling volume and the two HK speakers. The track pad also comes with a button to turn off access, especially handy if you are using an external mouse. One caveat to the media touchpad is there there’s no tactile feedback to pressing the buttons, thus I often accidentally hit buttons while typing. That would mute the volume, launch the ECO mode utility or bring up Windows media player depending on the button that my pinkie brushed over. Another problem with doing heavy typing on this machine is the vast amount of fingerprints and palm prints that coat the finish and the keys. It’s just as bad at the iPad in getting covered in prints, thus requires lots of wipe downs. Heck, Toshiba should have included a cloth to help us out.
Toshiba did include a few utilities though, some of which are not shockingly bloatware. ECO mode allows you to track the power consumption of this laptop and tweak your settings based on what type of footprint you want to make with this behemoth. I’d be curious to find out of the same market of people that purchased this laptop are really concerned with power use. It’s like giving a Hummer owner a gauge to throttle how much gas the car uses. Toshiba also included the Sleep & Charge feature for the USB ports, thus allowing the computer to be powered down, but still charging your iPhone or other portable device via USB. Finally, there’s a hard drive sensor on the laptop that guards the hard drive when the laptop is being moved. It’s a bit too sensitive to the occasional table bump, but anything that protects my data is a good thing.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ve been using the Toshiba Qosmio X505 as an ancillary media center as well as a standard laptop while connected to multiple displays; an HP 2310e Slim LED backlit monitor, a Sony Bravia KDL40NX700 40-inch 1080p Edge-LED backlit HDTV and a Mitsubishi HC5500 1080p LCD Projector. I also tested the 18.4 inch monitor, but found media consumption (Blu-ray / DVD / ripped media) to be vastly superior on the alternate displays; specifically the color reproduction and contrast ratio. That being said, the monitor vastly outperforms other laptop screens in its class. It’s just tough to beat the other external displays, especially in glorious 1080p resolution. The HDMI connection automatically chooses the resolution and away you go.