Toshiba A665-3DV: 3D or Not 3D?

Let's start by getting this out of the way: to the naked eye—outside of some stickers on the palm rest informing us otherwise—the A665-3DV is identical to the A660D we reviewed last month. It has the same chassis, speakers, keyboard, touchpad, etc. We'll simply refer back to that review for our extended discussion of the aesthetics and design, because we've already got plenty to talk about. Of course, while the exterior is the same (outside of a switch to a 120Hz LCD, which we'll cover in a moment), the internal components are a different story.

Toshiba Satellite A665-3DV Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-740QM
(4x1.73GHz, up to 2.93GHz Turbo, 45nm, 6MB L3, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
(Samsung DDR3-1066 @ 7-7-7-20 1T)
Graphics NVIDIA GTS 350M
(96 CUDA Cores, 450/1080/1580MHz Core/Shader/RAM)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 120Hz 768p (1366x768)
Chi Mei (CMO) LCD—unknown model
Hard Drive(s) 640GB 5400 RPM Hard Disk
(Toshiba MK6465GSX)
Optical Drive Blu-Ray Combo Drive
(Matshita UJ240ES)
Networking Broadcom RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet
Broadcom 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Harmon Kardon stereo speakers
Headphone (shared with optical) and microphone jacks
Battery 12-Cell, 10.8V, ~8300mAh, 98Wh battery
Front Side MMC/SD/MS/xD Reader
Left Side ExpressCard/34 slot
USB 2.0
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port (with Sleep and Charge)
Ethernet jack
Exhaust vent
Right Side Microphone/headphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
AC jack
Kensington lock
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.98" x 10.0" x 1.18-2.31" (WxDxH)
Weight ~6.6 lbs (with 12-cell battery)
Extras NVIDIA 3D Vision Kit
101-key LED backlit keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD/xD)
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $1599 MSRP
Online starting at $1400(9/28/2010)

This is actually quite interesting on one level. We complained about the 450MHz GPU clock on the HD 5650 GPU in the A660D, and here we have much hotter and higher performing parts in the same basic chassis. Obviously, the lower GPU clock on the A660D wasn't a matter of heat, because the A665-3DV manages to cool a GTS 350M along with a far more power hungry i7-740QM. (Note that the GTS 350M in this notebook also appears to have a lower clock than normal; NVIDIA specs the chip for 500 Core/1250 Shader, but CPUZ and GPUZ report the above 450/1080 instead. I guess Toshiba has a habit now of downclocking GPUs—or buying cheaper units that can't run at the normal speed perhaps?) But we're not here to lament the decisions made on the A660D, are we? Besides the CPU and GPU, we have the obligatory 2x2GB DDR3 memory, a large 640GB 5400RPM Toshiba hard drive, and a Blu-ray/DVDR combo drive. The backlit keyboard is still a welcome addition, even if we're not so keen on the feel (i.e. glossy keys). Better than average speakers and a webcam round out the package. Of course, we're here for the 3D Vision, right?

This is a first generation 3D Vision notebook. What's that mean? It means the 3D emitter is a separate USB device just like on desktops. There are next generation 3D Vision notebooks coming this fall (Acer's recently announced Aspire 5745DG for example, scheduled for availability later this month) with the 3D emitter built into the LCD bezel. If you're ready to buy into the whole 3D experience, integrating the emitter is definitely the way to go. Right now, if you want to take your laptop on the road, you'll need the power brick and cable, your 3D glasses, the 3D emitter, and possibly an extra USB cable to charge your glasses (though you can use the cable for the emitter). That's quite a bit of extra "stuff" to carry around, and you'll also need space to set the emitter when in use.­­ If you have an NVIDIA desktop GPU and a 120Hz LCD, you can use the same 3D Vision kit that comes with the A665-3DV on both systems, but that's about the only positive for the separate emitter.

We also had some issues with periodic flickering of the glasses—it felt like the shutters weren't syncing up properly; usually it cleared up after going into the NVIDIA control panel and setting things up again. Several times we also got a message in red saying the display wasn't 3D Vision ready, even though it obviously is. Again, doing the setup for 3D Vision would fix the problem. Another complaint is that despite having a 120Hz panel, there are certain transitions where the LCD doesn't respond fast enough, so you get a dim "double vision" effect. This was most prevalent on sharp contrast objects like a dark brown pole/building against a blue sky. So the "2ms" response time claims seen on 120Hz panels remain suspect; they're a best-case result with some transitions obviously requiring more than 8.3ms. Having said that, the 120Hz refresh rate is definitely appreciated, even if you never use 3D mode.

Finally, let's talk about performance. 3D Blu-ray worked fine in our testing, but you'll need the appropriate software to make it work. The included free Toshiba BD Player didn't support 3D playback when we started testing, but Toshiba released an updated version last week; we tested the latest version of PowerDVD 10 for the review, along with the Toshiba WinDVD 3D update. We didn't have an external 3DTV or display for testing, but such configurations are supposed to work with the latest NVIDIA drivers, and 3DTV Play support means you can even use your HDTV's glasses and hardware if you have it. While the multimedia aspects of 3D were fine, 3D gaming is a different story. We tested all the current crop of "3D Vision Ready" titles to see how they fared. At medium details and the native 768p resolution, only Batman: Arkham Asylum and Resident Evil 5 managed to break the 30FPS barrier; drop to minimum detail and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 squeaks by. Most of the other titles start at around 20 FPS, at minimum detail, and go down from there. Obviously, much more than a GTS 350M is required if you're serious about 3D Vision gaming.

Since we've already reviewed the A660D, there's not a lot new to say here. If you thought the A660D's plastic chassis was cheap, it's even worse in a $1400 notebook. Really, manufacturers that plan to use the same basic design in a large range of laptops should build for the higher quality market and let it trickle down. We thought the A660D was somewhat overpriced as well, unless you really need the ExpressCard port, so a chassis that feels more durable would work with the lower end A66x offerings as well. While it's not a terrible design, it's somewhat reminiscent of Clevo's high-end notebooks and their frequently chintzy look and feel. With the basics out of the way, we're going to jump right in to the benchmarks and performance.

Toshiba A665-3DV with 3D Multimedia
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  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    What a horrible resolution. 1366x768 on a 15.6" display!? This res is almost usable on a 12-13" display (And thats pushing it), but on a 15.6"?? Is this machine tailored towards old people with vision issues or something?

    Ok, back to reading. Had to vent :)
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    I agree that 768 vertical pixels is not very much to work with, but the screen here is still 100dpi, which is slightly better than the standard 96.
  • nubie - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    I for one think it is the correct choice.

    How is the video card to push more pixels than that anyway?

    Buy a different laptop, or upgrade the panel yourself if it bugs you.
  • blackshard - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    Thanks a lot for the hwmonitor readings! :)
    It's really interesting to see expected temperatures and real battery capacity in such notebooks!
  • Michaelsm - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    Yes, Thanks a lot for the hwMonitor readings. As I commented the other day, my Toshiba (M645 with a 6 cell) had an initial wear of 36%!!! 3 cycles later it is down to 7%.
  • cknobman - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    until the industry gives up on the freaking 3D gimmick.
  • nubie - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    Have you tried it?

    I have made several 3D setups myself and favor passive glasses and dual monitors or projectors (1 per eye).

    In many situations the 3D is stunningly immersive. Racing games for example have a fantastic feeling of speed as the depth of objects hurtle toward you.

    Watching the apex of a corner approach and searching the distance for your braking point feel good. As does overtaking a slower car.

    Even if you personally feel it is a gimmick, how is the industry or how are you personally caused any harm?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    If you missed it in the text, we're looking to replace Peacekeeper with something that feels more relevant. Does anyone have a good "Internet benchmark" they want us to start using? Something that captures the speed of page loads, transitions, etc.?
  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    I have looked around a bit for my own reasons, and outside of the ones made by the browser makers (which are all pretty biased one way or another), there isn't much to choose from.

    I think I pretty much came up with just needing to write one from scratch using the browsers API with FireFox or the like.
  • alphadog - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    I'm getting pretty tired of the lack of properly-sized LCDs on laptops. I know the LCD is one of the more costly components in margin-thin laptops, but really? 768 vert?!?

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