At the moment, 3D is the hottest thing in Hollywood, with most action and animated flicks coming out in both 3D and 2D versions. Game-makers have been a little slower in embracing the technology, but there are dozens of games that have been written for 3D viewing, including Activision's Call of Duty, Electronic Arts' Need for Speed, Prince of Persia from Ubisoft and Valve Corp.'s Portal 2.
So it's natural that 3D-capable notebooks should now be hitting the market, with the kind of specs and graphics capabilities necessary to handle fast-moving 3D animations and videos. (See our sidebar: "The basics of 3D".) Two of the most recent are the Asus G74SX and Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78, which I've run through their paces for this article.
These aren't systems meant for those who are looking to watch the occasional YouTube video. They are high-end systems with price tags that run close to $2,000. Still, if you're a 3D gaming or video enthusiast -- or if you plan to wow your clients with 3D presentations -- they could be worth it.
The Asus G74SX and Toshiba Qosmio X775-3D78 are like monster twins from the laboratory of an evil genius: They are big, powerful and fast. And they are stretching the definition of what a notebook can do.
One thing is for certain -- no one will confuse either of these with a MacBook Air. At 0.9 x16.5 x12.7 in., the Asus system is wider and longer than the Toshiba, which measures 1.2 x 16.1 x 10.8 in. The Asus is a bit thinner in the front, but at the back, the system widens to 2.5 in. thick; the back of the Toshiba measures slightly less at 2.3 in.
While the Asus tips the scales at a hefty 10.2 lb., the Toshiba keeps its weight somewhat under control at 8.0 lb. That's still roughly twice the weight of the typical notebook. With their large AC adapters, the Asus and the Toshiba have travel weights of 12.1 lb. and 10.0 lb., respectively.
Price as tested: $1,950
Pros: Adjustable performance levels, good test ratings, good detail rendering, includes mouse and backpack, two-year warranty
Cons: Large and heavy
As you can imagine, getting to your next gaming party with either of these systems can be a chore. Neither will fit onto an airline table tray nor into the typical notebook case. Asus provides a black backpack with its system, while Toshiba sells several cases big enough to handle the X775 for between $60 and $90.
When I lugged each out for a day trip, I found that the bulk and extra weight was an annoyance (but on the other hand, these gamer-oriented systems were natural ice breakers at Starbucks).
I like the Toshiba's aggressive silver and red color scheme, rounded corners and striated skin, although its shiny surface was a bit too slippery for me (I actually dropped it once and put a nice dent into a brand new desk.) The bold speaker grilles look like they might be worn as jewelry by somebody with questionable taste.
By contrast, the Asus' case is flat black, has a more angular design and the company's Republic of Gamers logo prominently displayed. The surface has the feel of a rubber wet suit, which provides a more secure grip.
3D notebooks: Features
|Asus G74SX||Toshiba Qosmio X775|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||0.9 x 16.5 x 12.7 in.||1.2 x 16.1 x 10.8 in.|
|Weight/travel weight||10.2/12.1 lb.||8.0/10.0 lb.|
|Processor||2.0GHz Core i7 2630QM||2.0GHz Core i7 2630QM|
|Graphics/VRAM||Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M/3GB||Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M/1.5GB|
|Display/resolution||17.3 in./1,920 x 1,080||17.3 in./1,920 x 1,080|
|Hard drives||Two 750GB 7,200rpm drives||500GB 5,400rpm drive/750GB 7,200rpm drive|
|Ports||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, VGA, HDMI, headphone, microphone||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, VGA, HDMI, headphone, microphone|
|Communications||802.11b/g/n, Ethernet, Bluetooth||802.11b/g/n, Ethernet, Bluetooth|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Warranty/Upgrade to three years||2 years/$100||1 year/$149|