Toshiba Qosmio G40

I recently received an interesting offer from TalkToshiba; they offered to lend me a laptop on the condition that I write an honest review of it. I get to play with a nice toy for a few weeks, you (and they) get to hear how I got on with it. Sounds fair to me. Let me make that perfectly clear: if the offer had been on the condition that I write a positive review, I’d have said no. The fact that they asked me to “post up your thoughts about the laptop on your blog … whether they be good or bad” and being able to tell the truth about the machine is the only reason I even considered it.

Unpacking it (from a big, heavy box that I’d assumed would be mostly packing material. Oh no, it really is that size) my first reaction was that I had never seen a bigger, heavier laptop. Opening it, I was struck by the distinctive design. Shiny, intricate and odd. Over time, that wore off and I now think of it as odd, and more than a tiny bit irritating. That’s partly because this isn’t the right laptop for me. Commuting every day means I value portability. Don’t expect this to be portable. It truly is a desktop replacement. In fact, you’ll want to plug in a mouse and keyboard too, because the layout is pretty dreadful.

On the plus side, it is quite powerful, has every connection you’d ever need, and the sound quality is amazingly good. When it did sometimes feel sluggish, I blamed the fact it was running Windows Vista. Oh, how I hate Vista. That’s not Toshiba’s fault though, and I should have installed Linux really.

Here’s what it looks like. The speakers vents are huge, and the visual aesthetic here seems to be ‘turbine’.

Speaker (which looks like a turbine)

It’s big. Here it is stacked up against my wife’s MacBook and my MacBook Pro. The two put together are almost exactly the same height as the G40.

Width Comparison

And here it is up against my MacBook Air. Perhaps not a fair comparison, but look at it. Insanity.

Width Comparison

It’s covered in unnecessarily bright and numerous blinkenlighten. Not very soothing on the eyes.

Controls

The biggest problem, especially given the machine’s generous proportions, is having a teensy-tiny trackpad with two teensy tiny buttons, with a fingerprint device right in the middle, just in the way. The design is, frankly, dreadful.

Trackpads, compared

The MacBook Air, despite being a much smaller laptop, makes room for a good-sized trackpad. There’s no excuse for a monster like the Qosmio G40 to have me scratching around on a surface half the size.

Size Comparison

Good points

  • I liked having a fingerprint reader to log in. Probably my favourite thing about it, and the one feature I now miss on my MacBook Pro and Air
  • Having 5 (!) USB ports, and good connectivity generally. HDMI, s-video, SD/Memory Stick etc, even coax TV-antenna, I was almost expecting to see a SCART socket on this thing
  • Good speakers, nice and loud with the best and most sound quality I have ever heard on any laptop
  • Reasonably powerful

Bad points

  • Unnecessarily ugly with lots of wasted space. 17″ inch screen feels small
  • The screen seemed quite dim too. Certainly dimmer than the Pro or Air, even when powered by mains and turned up all the way
  • Dreadful layout: tiny little trackpad with tiny little mouse buttons and a fingerprint reader plonked in the middle of it making it even more uncomfortable to use. I like the fingerprint reader, it’s just in the wrong place. The whole layout somehow manages to feel sprawling and cramped at the same time; I kept pressing the navigation wheel thing on the right when reaching for Return (pressing the soft touch ‘back’ button)
  • No way (that I found) of dimming the enormous numbers of decorative lights
  • HD-DVD. Seriously. I think the battle between BluRay and HD-DVD has been decided, hasn’t it?

It’s doesn’t really matter though because, being over a year old now, Toshiba no longer sells this laptop. The G50 has an even bigger (and I hope brighter) screen, but I don’t think I’ll be buying on. I like my laptops to be something I can put on my lap without fear of injury, and I returned the G40 without being terribly sad to see the back of it. Thanks to TalkToshiba for the loan though.

(More photos on Flickr if you’re interested.)

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