Looking for a desktop replacement PC? Then a good 17-inch widescreen laptop should be top of your list. This screen size in laptops is dominated by the gaming market and the Toshiba Satellite X200 is aimed squarely at that audience. It features dual Nvidia GeForce 8600M graphics and a Harman Kardon 5:1 speaker system with Dolby Home Theatre – and that’s just for starters.
Unfortunately, this laptop doesn’t quite have the "cred" of the Dell XPS or Asus G1 to make it as a serious gaming portable, leaving it as a beefy multimedia desktop replacement. Indeed, its size and weight (two inches thick at the back and weighing a hefty 3.8kg) are big drawbacks when other manufacturers are releasing much more streamlined products in the same calibre as the X200. Yet there’s plenty to like about this big powerhouse of a laptop.
SLI in portables is still a new feature and it’s showcased perfectly here. Granted, this is a gamer’s paradise, but if you’re into video or photo editing the extra power will mean you see peak performance from all your apps. Running Call of Duty 4 on full detail options, we were knocked out by just how hard we could push the graphics and a score of 3,728 in 3DMark confirmed that we were dealing with a serious piece of kit. We also ran Cinebench 9.5, which resulted in high multiprocessorand graphics scores.
For the non-gamers, this laptop has high-definition video as its big draw and we were impressed by the playback and sound from the 5:1 speakers. Whether you really benefit from a high-definition picture on a 17-inch screen is debatable, but it’s a bonus nonetheless.
The multimedia angle also stretches to the touchpad. It acts as both an ordinary touchpad with scrollbar and as an interface for shortcuts. Simply use the switch button on the pad to alternate between modes.
Blue LEDs light up when using the secondary shortcuts function, enabling you to open email, wireless and documents, change volume and add custom shortcuts for your favourite apps. It works well, but the touchpad itself could be larger, especially as there’s so much space around it.
The heat is on
As you’d expect from a desktop replacement device, performance is good – even with the clock speeds as average as 2.2GHz on each core. The amount of heat generated is quite excessive, although not unsurprising, because it’s dealing with twin GPUs in its housing. The battery lasted just 75 minutes on Vista’s high-performance setting and even under power saving only lasted just over 90 minutes.
Typing is comfortable and the keyboard quite sturdy , we felt little of the "keyboard bounce" experienced with other machines.
Although not really a portable, the X200 is still more versatile than a traditional desktop and delivers scintillating performance. As always, laptop upgrades are hard to come by, but that’s why you’ve got twin graphics cards, a large hard drive and 2GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB) to play with.