Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T review: A 17.3in beast designed for gaming

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T review: A 17.3in beast designed for gaming, this power laptop needs taming

A 17.3in beast designed for gaming, this power laptop needs taming. Find out why in our Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T power laptop review. Also see: Best laptops 2015.

As with desktop PCs that are groomed for gaming, laptops for playing Windows games will come equipped with a dedicated graphics processor from either AMD or nVidia.

The best choice between the two graphics-card brands seems to oscillate over time - these graphics specialists have tended to leapfrog each over time with the best combination of performance and value. Right now, nVidia is the most popular choice but that didn’t stop Toshiba from selecting an AMD solution for the Qosmio X70-B-10T, a 17.3-inch gaming laptop with Intel Core i7 quad-core processor. With its AMD Radeon R9 M265X it should be capable of taking on any current fast-paced game at the screen’s native full-HD resolution.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Build and design

Toshiba has long been making large desktop-replacement style laptops suitable for enjoying Windows games, aimed more at the mass market where keen pricing is important. While the specifications will look good, we’ve historically seen compromises taken in build quality, typically with bulky and cheap-looking plastic casework; but here Toshiba has included more metal components around the Qosmio’s large 2.9 kg chassis.

It’s not a full metal jacket as we might find with Alienware and Aorus specialist gaming notebooks for instance, but the thin metal veneer that covers the lid back and top deck is a welcome departure from the more plasticky overall construction usually found here.

A deep plastic underbelly has chamfered edges that blend almost seamlessly into an eye-catching anodised aluminium edge. This red trim encircles the notebook, giving a sporty black-and-red effect.

This red detailing is complemented by a matching thin red border around the trackpad, while the Qosmio badge on the back of the display follows the same metallic red theme. Also see: Best gaming laptops 2015.

With such a large frame, measuring 412 x 268 mm and 34 mm thick, there’s space for plenty of ports and connections. On the left we find a tray-loading optical drive – not your basic CD/DVD writer but a fully fledged Blu-ray drive that can write to erasable BD discs (BD-RE). That includes the latest BDXL format, which in its current top spec has three layers that can store 100 GB on one disc.

Alongside the Blu-ray mechanism are two USB 2.0 ports, DC power inlet and Kensington lock slot. As with many higher-performance laptops built for gaming, the mains adaptor is a chunky brick, here rated at 120 W in order to deliver the necessary GPU current.

On the right are two more USB ports, these thankfully of faster v3.0 specification, plus gigabit ethernet, and two display ports. There’s an old analogue VGA connector for not sure what purpose in this digital video world; and HDMI that’s billed as supporting Ultra HD 4K. We didn’t test this but it is likely to be based on HDMI version 1.4, which means the refresh rate maximum with 4K-class video is no more than 30 Hz and ill-suited for computer use.

Also here is a long vented output for the laptop’s internal cooling fans. In use these could be heard and felt pushing out plenty of hot air from inside. During gaming benchmark tests the laptop would maintain a loud noise as it worked hard to keep the graphics processor cool. See all laptop reviews.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Components

Inside the Qosmio X70-B is a new quad-core processor from Intel, although based on its fourth-generation 22 nm technology of 2012, codenamed Haswell. It’s clocked at 2.6 GHz and has a short-term Turbo mode good for 3.6 GHz bursts. This chip incorporates an Intel HD Graphics 4600 graphics processor, which drives the display when running from battery.

On mains power, AMD’s Enduro switching technology routes video through the main Radeon R9 M265X graphics engine, with its 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory.

The laptop itself is already running with its maximum memory allocation of 16 GB, and for storage there is a new combination disk/flash drive known as an SSHD. This hybrid of solid-state and hard-disk drive carries the bulk of its data on a 1 TB disk based on regular 2.5-inch SATA drives, while adding a limited 8 GB of flash storage to help accelerate performance.

For wireless connectivity there’s the now-standard Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and the most basic 11ac adaptor available in the form of an Intel Wireless-AC 3160 card. This single-stream solution can connect to 802.11ac wireless routers, albeit with only one stream rather than three, so misses out on any MIMO technology that aids range and throughput from multiple antennae.

To help promote the laptop’s sound system, Toshiba has printed Harman Kardon’s name behind the perforated speaker grill by the screen hinge, while cinema-sound specialist DTS gets a namecheck in marketing materials for its software-based audio signal processing. As with any pseudo-surround processing, results were clumsy and unnatural but the effect can be easily turned off from the DTS Sound program, once you’ve found it in Windows 8.1.

Volume Max and Bass Boost are other available effects from DTS which try to enhance the sound of tiny speaker drivers, but there’s still no such thing as a free lunch; or in this case, software to make up for shortfalls in hardware quality. That said, the sound from the HK drivers was no worse than many other Windows laptops, in fact better than most, notwithstanding the tinny midband and abrasive treble.

As with just about all modern laptops, the keyboard takes the square tile form, although the keys themselves are less typically hard plastic with a semi-gloss finish that we found easy to type upon. The trackpad is not so accomplished, a large buttonless type with poor responsiveness to light finger touches. It also proved flakey and unreliable, breaking down entirely on several occasions, forcing us to plug in a mouse just to reboot to get it working again.

Other irritations include the installed crapware and sponsored services such as Amazon, Evernote and eBay, while we also noticed the Windows built-in zip program was demoted in favour of commercial WinZip. These kickback deals that try to earn more revenue for Toshiba at the expense of you, the customer, seriously undermine the overall user experience.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Lab report

With its fast quad-core processor, the Qosmio ploughed easily through tests of raw processor and memory performance. Geekbench 3 rated the laptops with 3559 points in single-core mode and 11,877 points in quad-core mode (with Hyper Threading Technology emulating eight cores).

For reference, the Aorus X7 Pro with its ‘slower’ 2.4 GHz quad-core processor returned higher figures of 3670 and 13124 points respectively, in part probably helped by faster memory.

Cinebench 15 scored the Qosmio with 137 points single-core and 607 points multi-core (1.54 and 6.53 points in v11.5), which are all in the typical area for this generation of quad-core chip.

PCMark 7 showed a good result of 5104 points, although the more recent PCMark 8 benchmark test gave poorer figures of 3424 points for the Home conventional, rising to 3881 points when using the GPU to accelerate some tasks with OpenCL assistance. The Work module of this benchmark showed even clearer gains with acceleration rising from 3312 to 4288 points.

We tested the storage speed with a CrystalDiskMark test of the C: drive, but saw speeds only in line with the disk component of the hybrid storage, rather than the flash section. Sequential reads and writes reached 106 and 94 MB/s, while 4k random transfers languished at typical notebook disk speeds of just 0.36 and 0.55 MB/s. It’s not clear if the NAND flash in Toshiba’s hybrid drive are to cache reads or reads and writes, but in this simple test at least we saw no sign of the benefits.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Graphics

The AMD Radeon R9 265X graphics processor includes a healthy 5 GB of fast GDDR5 video memory, although overall the laptop struggled with some games tests.

We tried Batman: Arkham City at the screen’s native 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, and set to High detail it could average a useful 55 fps, never falling below 32 fps. Very High played at 48 fps (27 fps minimum) and even at the maximum Extreme setting still averaged 34 fps (if with a 17 fps minimum).

The Tomb Raider 2013 results were less emphatic, recording 42 fps at native screen res and Normal detail, falling to 32 and then just 23 fps with High and Ultra settings.

Metro: Last Light has the scope to test performance further, but even just 1920 x 1080 and High returned unplayable framerates of 12 fps, and a 5 fps minimum. To reach a more usable setup we had to drop resolution down to 1366 x 768 and only Medium detail to experience an average of 25 fps. Lowering our sights still further to 1280 x 720 and Medium detail only raised the rate of frames to 28 fps, and still with a minimum that dropped to 10 fps.

In comparison, the nVidia GeForce GTX 860M with 2 GB GDDR5 RAM used in Acer’s V Nitro laptop with 4K display could still manage 28 fps at full-HD and Very High details settings with all extra graphics features enabled. And a welcome 84 fps at lower settings (1280 x 720, Medium).

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Display

Toshiba fits a regular twisted-nematic (TN) display to this Qosmio, without any distracting touchscreen capability. It’s marketed as TrueBrite, and even though it wasn’t unusually bright at its maximum of 270 cd/m^2 it had good colour accuracy for its budget technology type. We measured a peak deviation of 5.68 Delta E, and an average of just 1.57 Delta E across 48 tones.

It’s gamut was also slightly better than the cheapest panels at 87 percent coverage of the sRGB colour space, or 64 percent Adobe RGB. But contrast ratio was a consistently poor 100:1 – we would expect better from a £1200 laptop. Viewing angles were also slightly wider than is normal with TN technology, from the side at least. But viewed from below the image quickly lost all colour and clarity.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Battery

While it’s true that gaming laptops will always be leashed to the mains adaptor because of the extreme power demands from traditional graphics processors, bypassing the GPU and using integrated graphics ought to restore conventional laptop running times.

In our standard video rundown test over Wi-Fi, the Qosmio lasted just over 3.5 hours (3 hr 31 min) from its removable 48 Wh lithium-ion battery. So there is some scope for use away from the mains, long enough to watch a couple of feature films, for example.

Toshiba Qosmio X70-B-10T: Specs

  • 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080) 127 ppi TN gloss glare display
  • 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (3.6 GHz Turbo) 4C, 8T
  • AMD Radeon R9 M265X (4 GB GDDR5) & Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3L RAM
  • 1 TB + 8 GB Toshiba SSHD, 5400 rpm
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 1x1 MIMO (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • tray-load BD-RE optical drive (Matshita BD-MLT UJ272)
  • 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • HDMI, VGA
  • Kensington lock slot
  • SDXC
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9 Mp webcam, built-in mic
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with number keypad, red backlit
  • 107 x 68 mm buttonless trackpad
  • 48 Wh lithium-ion, removable battery
  • 120 W mains charger IEC C13
  • 412 x 268 x 34.0 mm
  • 2930 g
  • 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080) 127 ppi TN gloss glare display
  • 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (3.6 GHz Turbo) 4C, 8T
  • AMD Radeon R9 M265X (4 GB GDDR5) & Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3L RAM
  • 1 TB + 8 GB Toshiba SSHD, 5400 rpm
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 1x1 MIMO (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • tray-load BD-RE optical drive (Matshita BD-MLT UJ272)
  • 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • HDMI, VGA
  • Kensington lock slot
  • SDXC
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9 Mp webcam, built-in mic
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with number keypad, red backlit
  • 107 x 68 mm buttonless trackpad
  • 48 Wh lithium-ion, removable battery
  • 120 W mains charger IEC C13
  • 412 x 268 x 34.0 mm
  • 2930 g

OUR VERDICT

The Toshiba Qosmio X70 in its ‘B’ form with Haswell processor is a relatively powerful quad-core laptop with some gaming potential. But our games tests suggest the AMD solution here is not as fast as older nVidia graphics processors, let alone the rival firm’s latest 800 and 900 series GPUs made for mobile gaming. Our experience with a flakey trackpad may be isolated but serious enough that we would hastily return this laptop for a refund if we were a paying customer. Laptop build is improved over earlier Toshiba models, but at this price we would like to see better screen quality and a real solid-state drive for storage.

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