3-D video without the glasses: It’s the Great White Hope of the consumer electronics world, but early attempts at commercializing the technology haven’t completely panned out. For example, the most visible glasses-free 3-D product to date, the Nintendo 3DS handheld, has sold only 4.5 million units in the United States.
Where’s the love for glasses-free 3-D? The problem isn’t just that people remain largely uninterested in home 3-D at all (glasses or no), but that glasses-free 3-D still looks pretty shoddy, especially when compared to the active, glasses-based version. That’s pretty much the case with Toshiba’s Qosmio F755-3D150, not the first glasses-free 3-D laptop, but a vanguard in this newly growing niche.
Let’s talk first about the 3-D performance. The F755 supports 3-D Blu-ray discs and can upgrade 2-D DVDs to 3-D (but not 2-D Blu-ray discs). There is no support for other 3-D content, just optical discs, so you won’t be glasses-free 3-D gaming on this system. Quality is exactly what you think it will be: decent with 3-D Blu-ray, iffy with 2-D conversions, and never much better than mediocre even at its best. The F755 uses the webcam to track where your eyes are and adjusts its stereoscopic display accordingly, but this is just not that effective. The slightest movement of your head introduces a disorienting screen door effect to the video, and moving away from dead center causes the 3-D to break down. Things look better the further you get from the screen, but then glare becomes a real challenge — and the immersive illusion of 3-D becomes pointless.
Unfortunately, the Qosmio F755 doesn’t exactly impress on other fronts, either. Though it’s packed with a 2.5GHz Core i5, 6GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive, its benchmark scores were significantly depressed versus other machines in its price and size class. The Nvidia GeForce GT 540M GPU included just isn’t up to the task of modern gaming. Frame rates are fine on older titles, but it struggled with newer fare like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. Graphics aren’t switchable, either, so even if you don’t need the GPU juice, your battery still takes the hit.
Speaking of batteries, the F755’s longevity is paltry to the point of laughability: A standard 2-D optical disc playback gave me just 50 minutes of running time, something I’ve only ever seen on 13-pound gaming beasts that aren’t really meant to be unplugged, ever. I didn’t think this was possible, so I ran the test more than once, with the same results. It’s not every day you can completely charge and drain your laptop’s battery twice before lunch.
At 7 pounds even, the F755 flirts with portability but has at least a pound on other 15.6-inch laptops on the market. For this you do gain a very high-res (1920 x 1080 pixels) display and, of course, the 3-D technology. The numeric keypad is a nice addition, audio is nicely loud, and even the fan is reasonably quiet. On the downside, the strangely shiny, ziggurat-esque keyboard keys are tough for touch typing, and there’s a strange looseness in the touchpad buttons: When you tap on the pad, the buttons rattle around, inspiring a bit of worry.
Other 15.6-inch laptops with similar specs cost considerably less — $450 or so – making that a hefty premium just for a 3-D system with which you just aren’t likely to be satisfied.
Note: Toshiba this week announced the Qosmio X875 — a high-performance notebook outfitted with a new Ivy Bridge processor and a 3-D screen as options — but it won’t be available until the end of June. Look for our review when that machine hits shelves.