Toshiba Qosmio G45-AV690 Review

It's easily one of the best multimedia notebooks we've ever tested...
It's easily one of the best multimedia notebooks we've ever tested...
It's easily one of the best multimedia notebooks we've ever tested...

Highs

  • Amazing sound system
  • beautiful high-res display
  • powerful

Lows

  • Add-on digital cable requires tech visit
  • HD-DVD burner; bloatware

Summary

If you’re in the market for a desktop replacement notebook, but don’t want a glitzy gaming machine, you could do a lot worse than Toshiba’s loaded Qosmio G45-AV690. Designed to be the central hub of a digital home, it sports a lot of media-centric features including an HD DVD burner, HDMI output and it even comes with a digital cable adapter too. Sadly, it has bloatware issues and one of its primary features is its HD DVD playback capabilities, which is essentially outdated tech at this point, making it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend.

Features and Design

The Qosmio G45-AV690 comes pre-configured by Toshiba, so it’s not a computer you can customize. Its purpose in life is to be an entertainment hub for your household, and this is evident in its numerous multimedia features.

First of all, it boasts a huge 17” display that runs at a true HD resolution of 1920×1200. It has a glossy coating and a widescreen aspect ratio, and compliments the included HD DVD burner. It also features HDMI output, so you could easily connect it to an HDTV as well.

Even if you didn’t connect it to a larger home theater system, it functions just fine on its own thanks to the huge display and Harmon/Kardon speaker system that features two satellites and a built-in subwoofer. Media controls are built right into the top of the unit as well, with a volume knob on the left and media access buttons on the right, as well as a row of soft-touch keys above the keyboard.

Toshiba Q45
Built-in speakers

Powering the whole shebang is an Intel Core 2 Duo clocked at 2.5GHz. It plugs into an Intel chipset with 3GB of RAM on board A/G/N wireless and two 5,400rpm 160GB hard drives in a RAID 0 array for around 300GB of storage.

One of the more interesting features of the G45 is that it includes a digital cable receiver, which is the size of a small toaster. You must have a technician come to your house to get it installed, however.

Though the G45 isn’t billed as a gaming machine per se, it does include discrete NVIDIA graphics in the form of a 512MB GeForce 8600M GT card.

It also features a built-in 2.0MP webcam, Bluetooth 2.0, five USB ports, FireWire and a 5-in-1 media reader.

Use and Testing

The Qosmio’s a massive notebook, make no mistake about it. We’ve seen some big notebooks in our day, including the recent Dell XPS M1730, but it’s still surprising to see such a gargantuan machine. Weighing in at 10.6 lbs even without its super-sized power brick, the G45 is a substantial notebook, and it feels incredibly solid and well-built – like it’s been chiseled out of granite. The LCD frame in particular feels like it’s made of solid steel and is very rigid.

We plugged the machine in and had to wait just 44 seconds before we arrived at the Vista Ultimate desktop, which is impressively fast. Given this machine’s considerable horsepower, Windows Vista ran very well at all times, and we never experienced any issues or hang-ups. Its Windows Experience Index is 4.5 which is high for a laptop.

Once at the desktop we were dismayed to see it packed full of trialware and what Toshiba calls “special offers.” Not only does Toshiba install eight of its own Toshiba-brand software packages, such as Toshiba Disc Creator for example, but it also has installed eight third-party programs (Google Desktop), four trial software packages and 11 “special offers,” which are links to services such as LoJack, Napster, and so forth. Toshiba needs to get with the times and, yes we’re going to say it, be more like Sony, which recently announced it would begin stripping two of its notebooks of all bloatware at a customer’s request.

Naturally, a notebook with big bones like this won’t offer much in the way of portability and battery life. We performed a DVD rundown test on the G45 and it squeezed out one hour and forty-five minutes, which is actually pretty impressive considering its size.

Since it includes NVIDIA graphics we did a little gaming on it, and came away dissatisfied. Toshiba doesn’t brand this as a gaming machine so we didn’t expect much. As it turns out you can play games on the G45, but not hardcore 3D titles like Crysis. The 8600M GT will be fine for older titles though, and less demanding 3D games like Peggle obviously run just fine.

The real draw here though is multimedia content – watching movies and listening to music – and the G45 is absolutely stunning in this regard. The 17” widescreen display is gorgeous and very sharp, and HD DVD movies look amazing on it. And unlike most notebooks, the G45 has an amazing sound system; quite possibly the best we’ve ever heard on a notebook. The satellites get very loud, but music and dialogue is crystal clear at all times. It’s so good we can almost imagine kicking back a good ten feet or so from it and watching a movie on it. The built-in subwoofer doesn’t thump much, but if you’re close to the laptop you can actually feel bass, which is quite an achievement for a notebook. We also loved the spinning volume wheel on the left-side of the keyboard. Toshiba also includes Dolby simulated surround sound, but it’s not convincing.

Toshiba Q45 volume control
Just spin the dial to control volume. You can also turn on blue LEDs underneath it for nighttime use.

And finally, the G45 includes an ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner, which is capable of delivering premium channels such as HBO as well as over-the-air HD programming. Unfortunately, you will need a technician to come to your dwelling to install the service, so we were unable to test it.

Conclusion

There’s certainly a lot to like about the Qosmio G45-AV690 . It’s easily one of the best multimedia notebooks we’ve ever tested, and watching movies on its gorgeous display is a real pleasure. It’s a shame that one of its key features – an HD DVD burner – won’t have much usefulness in the future, as it diminishes the G45’s overall future proofing. That’s too bad, because this is one heck of a notebook otherwise. In fact, if it shipped with a Blu-ray drive (or HD DVD/Blu-ray combo drive) and ditched the bloatware, we’d have no problem recommending it without reservation.

Pros:

• Amazing sound system
• Beautiful high-res display
• Powerful

Cons:

• Add-on digital cable requires tech visit
• HD-DVD burner is already obsolete
• Bloatware installed