Stereoscopic gaming goes mobile with the Toshiba Satellite A665.
By TAN KIT HOONG
With 3D hitting the market in a big way this year, it was inevitable that a 3D gaming laptop would eventually make an appearance and now it has.
The laptop in question is the Toshiba Satellite A665, the first laptop to arrive at our desks fully 3D-ready.
It has all the prerequisites for a proper 3D gaming experience - an nVidia graphics chip, a pair of 3D LCD shutter glasses and a 15.6in LED-backlit LCD display with the required 120Hz refresh rate.
Is this the ultimate 3D gaming rig? Well, that's what I'm here to find out.
Larger than life
The Satellite A665 is definitely in the desktop replacement class because it's a hefty beast with specifications that will put some desktop gaming PCs to shame.
Just chew on the specs - the machine comes with an Intel Core i7 Q740 quad-core processor running at 1.73GHz, 6GB RAM, nVidia GeForce GTS 350M graphics chip and a Blu-ray drive thrown in for good measure.
The keyboard itself is a full-sized affair with a number pad and, like most new keyboards these days, has chiclet-style keys.
It's also backlit, which should please gamers and people who like to work in the dark.
The Satellite A665 is also supplied with a pair of rechargeable nVidia 3D Vision shutter glasses and an emitter which plugs in to the laptop's USB port.
The emitter wirelessly syncs up the shutter glasses with the laptop's display so you get the correct left/right images in the corresponding eye.
As a desktop replacement, the Satellite A665 does the job very well - not only is it powerful enough and has a large screen, but the speakers that come built-in actually sound very good.
I was surprised at how good the speakers were. The bass and volume were so good that I often forgot that they were coming from the laptop.
With so much power under the hood, it's not a surprise that the A665 runs very hot, especially when gaming. After an hour or so, the tabletop right next to the vent was not just warm, but downright hot to touch.
On the upside, though, if you're a professional gamer with sweaty hands, you could always utilise the nice warm air from the vent to dry your hands :-)
Battery life isn't all that great though - on a single charge you probably won't be able to play games for much more than an hour or two before the machine will run out of juice, so this is definitely a machine you want to leave plugged in most of the time.
When not gaming, you can probably manage about three hours, but not much more than that.
In your face
So we come to the crux of the matter - just how does 3D perform on the Satellite A665?
Well, first off, you need to connect the nVidia 3D transmitter to a spare USB port on the A665, and if you have the appropriate nVidia 3D drivers installed, just enable 3D on the laptop.
Obviously, you won't see any difference with the Windows desktop, but once you start a game or play a 3D movie using the supplied nVidia software, the laptop will automatically render it in proper 3D.
The transmitter itself can be used to adjust how pronounced the 3D effect is - just like the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, you can dial up the effect or down all the way till it's essentially 2D.
I found the highest settings a bit tough on the eyes and settled on a middle setting to get the best effect that didn't give me a headache.
The shutter glasses are rechargeable (via a mini USB port) and are possibly the most uncomfortable 3D glasses ever made. Unlike the other 3D glasses I've tried, these nVidia ones are comfortable enough if you don't already wear glasses.
If you do have prescription glasses on already, the nVidia shutter glasses do not fit properly on your face at all.
Generally, the 3D works with almost any existing 3D-modelled game - this includes games not specifically made to be displayed in 3D.
I tested games such as Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Devil May Cry 4 and Just Cause 2 and all of them worked fine in 3D mode, although with a few minor hiccups in display (such as the aiming reticle in Tomb Raider not positioned right spatially).
There is a major hit to performance in 3D mode compared with 2D mode however - in our tests, there's about a 40% performance penalty in 3D mode.
For example, in an older game like Devil May Cry 4, I could get about 70fps to 100fps in 2D mode, but once I turned on 3D, framerates fell to about 30fps to 60fps.
Of course, for Devil May Cry 4, those framerates are more than satisfactory, but for a newer game like Just Cause 2 for example, framerates would fall from an average of 27.47fps to just 14.5fps with 3D turned on.
The implication is clear - if you have a graphics intensive game, you might want to just revert to plain old 2D mode to get a better experience.
The Toshiba Satellite A665 is a nice machine no doubt - even if you discount the 3D as a gimmick, you can't fault the raw performance you can get from the machine.
As a desktop replacement, it will seriously give a lot of desktop PCs a run for their money and you also get the added advantage of 3D.
Of course, expect to pay a premium for it - at RM6,999 it certainly isn't cheap.
Pros: 3D; great peformance for a laptop.
Cons: Relatively short battery life; 3D glasses uncomfortable for spectacle wearers.
Desktop replacement laptop
Processor: Intel Core i7 Q740 quad-core processor (1.73GHz)
Memory: 6GB DDR3 RAM
Display: 15.6in LED backlit, 120Hz
Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTS 350M with 1GB DDR3 SDRAM
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.1
Optical drive: Blu-ray/DVD burner
Ports/slots: One eSATA/USB combo port, 3 USB 2.0 ports; HDMI out 5-in-1 memory card reader, headphone port, microphone jack.
Battery: Six-cell lithium ion
Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Other features: Backlit keyboard, harman/kardon stereo speakers
Dimensions (w x d x h): 38 x 25.4 x 3.75cm
Review unit courtesy of Tele Dynamics Sdn Bhd,(03) 5568-7788