I was quite interested when Toshiba as announced earlier this year their 3D laptops using autostereoscopic 3D displays with face-tracking technology – the Qosmio F750 in Europe and Qosmio F755 for North America. Toshiba is among the first companies that release consumer-oriented 3D products with 3D displays that do not require the user to wear special 3D glasses in order to perceive the depth of the stereoscopic 3D image displayed on the screen. Toshiba’s solutions use Active Lens technology together with webcam-based Face tracking technology to re-adjust in real-time the stereo 3D image displayed for the best user experience. So far everything sounds really interesting, especially if it is performing really well as you’d normally expect. Fortunately, I was recently able to get for testing a sample of the European version, the Toshiba Qosmio F750, so I was able to play with it for a while and test the stereo 3D capabilities and performance of the laptop. Below you can read what are my findings as well as some additional useful information for owners of Toshiba Qosmio F750 and F755 laptops and of course my personal opinion based on the experience I’ve had with the laptop.
As I’ve mentioned I’ve received the Toshiba Qosmio F750 which is the European version of the F755, in terms of specifications both series are very similar and of course they use the same type of stereo 3D display. The exact Toshiba Qosmio F750 model I’ve tested here is F750-10M with the specifications that you can see below.
Toshiba Qosmio F750-10M 3D laptop standard specifications:
– 15.6″ Toshiba TruBrite 1080p autostereoscopic 3D display (1366×768 in 3D mode)
– Intel Core i7 2630QM 2.0GHz (2.9GHz with Turbo)
– NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M with 2048MB VRAM
– 8GB DDR System Memory (4GB + 4GB)
– 500GB Hybrid HDD with 4GB NAND flash
– Blu-ray Read/Write (BD-RW) Optical Drive
– Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS
First I want to talk a bit more about the GPU in this laptop, before moving on as it is something important regarding the stereo 3D-capabilities that the laptop offers. The GeForce GT 540M video card in this model is clearly not the best choice for gaming, the laptop is actually a multimedia solution and is not intended to be used as mobile gaming solution. The GT 540M is not a great solution for gaming in 2D mode (non stereo 3D mode), especially considering that the laptop comes with a Full HD display, and thus it is even worse if you’d want to play games in stereo 3D mode with it. Now, regarding the ability to play games in stereo 3D mode, you don’t yet have such an option out of the box with this Toshiba laptop and the reason for that is in the autostereoscopic 3D display. The laptop comes with Nvidia-based graphics, but at this point there is still no support for 3D Vision with the autostereoscopic 3D display and such support may or may not become available. There was already some information that Toshiba and Nvidia are working together to provide 3D Vision support on the F750 and F755 for a while now, but up until this point is hasn’t happened. The good news is that you have alternative options for being able to play games in stereo 3D mode even now, but more information on that in a bit. I’ve seen a Toshiba Qosmio F755-3D350 3D laptop that comes with GTX 560M video card and that would be a significantly better solution if you plan to play games on this system, so you may want to keep that in mind.
Moving on to the autostereoscopic 3D display. The image above shows up the pixels of the screen from very close (two different magnification levels) when operating in normal 2D mode at 1080p resolution. The arrangement of the pixels seems pretty standard and the microscope does not find any obstacles in front that can lead to the distortion of the image in any way, although on top of the LCD panel there is the so-called Active Lens technology which essentially is a a special layer that can be activated and deactivated on demand in order to activate the stereoscopic 3D capabilities of the screen. When in non-active state it is apparently completely transparent and thus allows for the normal use of the display in 2D mode with the full resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, just like as if it is not there at all.
When you activate the 3D mode of the display however things change completely. As you can see from the two very close photos of the screen with different magnification levels above the pixels look very different now as compared to when the display is in 2D mode. You should know that although the normal resolution of the display is 1080p this only applies to the 2D mode, because when in stereo 3D mode the usable resolution is lower – 1366×768. You get lower resolution in stereo 3D mode, but the screen actually uses all the pixels it has in the 1080p resolution together with the Active Lens technology in order to create two separate images, so that each eye of the viewer sees slightly different image in order to get the feeling of volume. As you can see on the images above the Active Lens change the arrangement of the pixels, so now instead of horizontal RGB arrays of sub-pixels you actually see them in a diagonal way. And there are some weirdly shaped larger patterns on the lens that cover multiple sub-pixels and while I’m not exactly sure what is their purpose I suppose that they have something to do with the Face-tracking and adjustment of the 3D image based on the viewer’s position.
I’ve mentioned that the laptop has a Face-tracking (Head-tracking) feature that uses the built-in webcamera to track the user’s position and adjusts respectively the 3D image displayed on the screen apparently for providing the best experience. The laptop uses the built-in webcamera, but when you activate the stereo 3D mode aside from the camera two infrared LEDs on both sides of the camera are also being activated. This could either be needed in order to make sure that the tracking will work properly even in dark conditions, but the IR light could also be used to make sure that the position of the user’s head is tracked not only in left/right and up/down, as well as closer/further from the display. The tracking functionality actually works quite well in most conditions and is relatively quick responding to the movements of the user, but the respective adjustment of the 3D image on the screen is what kind of puzzles me a bit.
Toshiba is apparently using a solution from company called SuperD for providing the autostereoscopic 3D capabilities with the face-tracking functionality, but during the time of testing and writing this review I was still not able to access any of the SuperD’s websites (they may as well have disappeared). Now, a very important thing regarding the use of the stereo 3D mode on this laptop is that the tracking will only work for a single person, so the laptop is not recommended to be used by multiple people at the same time for watching 3D content. Even if a second person appears in front of the camera his face will not be tracked and although he might still be able to see the stereo 3D image is quite likely that he won’t have the best experience. According to Toshiba (and SuperD for that matter) the best position for viewing 3D content on the laptop’s display is to be in front of the display and your head to be about 60 centimeters away from the screen. This recommendation is actually sounds quite reasonable in order to get the best stereo 3D experience, but may not be the best advice to follow, so I’ve done a bit of testing…
Considering the size of the laptop’s display that is with 15.6″ diagonal, for me personally the most comfortable distance for normal use of the laptop is about 50 centimeters, so not that different from what is recommended. At 50 centimeters however I’m seeing the 3D image on the screen a bit pixelated as I’m able to easily distinguish between the pixels that create the image and that is not very comfortable as the 3D image seems like it is with a much lower resolution that it actually is. The same pretty much happens if I move my head a bit further to about 60 centimeters, a bit better result, but still not the best experience. Furthermore at a distance of 50-60 centimeters if I quickly move my head to some direction I get to see an uncomfortable 3D image readjustment that seems like a wave passing inside the screen. I’ve tried recording this strange effect with a camera, but it is much more apparent and easier to see live. Moving a bit further away from the display or just moving slowly your head there is no such problem visible, or it is very hardly noticeable. I’ve found that at about 1 meter away from the display of the laptop I’m getting the best stereoscopic 3D experience – don’t notice the different pixels of the 3D image anymore and the image looks smoother and very detailed and head movements do not lead to easily noticeable momentary image adjustments. The only problem of being about a meter away from the 3D display of the laptop is that the screen looks quite small and at that distance, it is only usable for watching 3D movies. So this is a bit disappointing for me, as it is apparently hard to get the right balance for the best stereoscopic 3D experience and in the end you need to compromise a bit. Going thought the SuperD X-Tune software that you’ll find in the Start menu and adjusting the 3D settings to be more suited to you can help a bit, so you should try it out, but in my case the improvement as compared to the default settings was very slight and did not help enough.
Ok, so no option to play games in stereo 3D mode out of the box, but what stereo 3D capabilities do the Toshiba Qosmio F750 and F755 3D laptops offer out of the box? As we are clearly talking about laptops intended to be used mostly for multimedia with 3D capabilities, Toshiba has apparently focused on making them work with 3D video content. Therefore, you get the ability to play videos and movies in 3D out of the box and that is pretty much it for now. And you have to use the “Toshiba Blu-ray Disc Player for DVD” for playing back 3D movies that you get pre-installed on the laptop, a bit limited in terms of functionality solution, but that does the basic things it is intended for – playback of Blu-ray 2D/3D movies, DVD video and 2D/3D videos. The review unit of the laptop that I’ve got had three movie trailers on it for demonstration of the laptop’s 3D capabilities, they were all in Side by Side format in MP4 file containers and they all actually worked quite well, especially the Step Up 3D trailer that had really nice looking depth. Of course, I’ve wanted to try it with some more stereoscopic 3D videos and then I was surprised that the player has quite limited file container support: MP4, MPG, MPEG, DVR-MS and WTV only. The rest is DVD and Blu-ray video playback that of course work quite well and playing back a Blu-ray 3D movie also looked very nice in stereo 3D on the laptop’s display, even though it was not displayed with Full HD resolution in 3D mode. So movies in 3D are well covered, although there is more to be desired in terms of support for different file formats, but another problem is that there was not even software that could play stereoscopic 3D photos on the laptop. So with the Toshiba Qosmio F750/F755 3D laptops you are covered for movies and video in 3D, but not 3D photos or games in stereo 3D out of the box. A bit limiting in what you can do with 3D content, especially considering the fact that the most attractive feature are the glasses-free 3D capabilities of the laptop, features that are apparently still a bit limited. But there is a solution that can help you overcome some of these limitations, a solution that does not come from Toshiba, but from a user of their 3D laptop that was not happy with the limited things he could do with the laptop in stereo 3D mode…
The solution I’m talking about is the free software called 3D Screen Activator written by Kevin Cox (previously known as Screen Mode Changer). With the help of this useful utility, you can easily switch any application in a window or in full-screen into 3D mode accepting either Side by Side or Row-interleaved input. This means that any application that can output stereoscopic 3D images can be used to display the result in stereo 3D mode using the autostereoscopic 3D display of the Toshiba laptop. And this practically opens the doors for viewing 3D photos as well as 3D videos in various applications that may not have been even designed with stereoscopic 3D use in mind. An example is to use the very flexible and powerful Media Player Classic software for playing back pretty much any video file that is in 3D format in stereoscopic 3D mode on the screen of the Qosmio F750 or F755. And since the you only have Side by Side and Row-interleaved support, you can for example resort to the use of the Stereoscopic Player as a means for automatically converting from an unsupported 3D video format into a supported one and still playing the video on the screen of the laptop in 3D format. This is very welcome functionality considering the fact that the standard video player that the Toshiba laptop ship with is quite limited in support for file formats. With the help of the 3D Screen Activator you can be able to even play games in stereo 3D mode on the laptop, even though 3D Vision is still not supported.
I’ve tested the Toshiba Qosmio F750 laptop with the iZ3D Driver in Side by Side and Interleaved mode, as well as with the TriDef 3D software in Side by Side (parallel) and Line Interlaced modes and they were all working for playing games in stereo 3D mode. Of course, you need to first install and activate the 3D Screen Activator software with the respective input 3D mode for fullscreen (Side by Side mode should provide a bit better results due to the slightly higher resolution of the input image, as it is rendered at 1080×1920 and displayed at 1366×768 in 3D). But as I’ve already said the laptop’s video card is not that powerful, so don’t expect to be able to play the latest games with maximum details in stereo 3D mode without problems. You can however play less demanding games in stereo 3D mode or with lower details, but you might need to get both the iZ3D and the TriDef in order to ensure maximum compatibility as some games work better with one of the solutions and others with the other. The games in stereo 3D mode are actually looking quite nice, especially if you move a bit further from the laptop which is easily achievable with an external keyboard/mouse and or joypad (depending on the game). This is needed to avoid the unpleasant “pixelization” that you can see from closer distance while using the 3D mode as I’ve described already, and although this way the display seems smaller and the experience is not that immersive as with a bigger display, it is still enough to have fun playing.
so what is the conclusion about the Toshiba Qosmio F750 3D laptop? It is certainly an interesting 3D-capable product with quite a lot of potential, but it seems that Toshiba was not able to fully utilize this and offer a wider range of 3D-capabilities to the user initially with the release of the product. So if you don’t know how to easily overcome these limitations (thanks to Kevin Cox), then you can be left quite disappointed with the product, although you may still like the stereo 3D experience it offers. By using the 3D Screen Activator software and keeping some recommendations in mind for the use of the laptop, the Toshiba Qosmio F750 (Qosmio F755 as well) can actually be quite a useful tool to have and use for various things. Hopefully Toshiba will also start extending the capabilities of the laptop with additional software such as the addition of 3D Vision support as this will remove almost all the limitations that you need to overcome with the use of the 3D Screen Activator software.
The autostereoscopic 3D display is really nice and works well, although testing it with a few totally new to stereo 3D people had an interesting result, all of them said they liked the 3D effect a lot, but are experiencing some sort of discomfort watching it about a minute after they start. With people that have a lot of stereo 3D experience there is no such problem, and there is actually no surprise that the untrained to stereo 3D eye needs some time to adjust to this new experience. So if you happen to have such a problem, do not be discouraged, try using the laptop a bit more in stereo 3D mode and if the discomfort does not start to disappear, then probably you should consider a different technology for stereo 3D use. Also for best experience, I’d recommend you to try to be more still when using the laptop in 3D mode and not to do sudden fast movements with your head while watching the display. And do try to keep the stereo 3D separation in a low to moderate level, as high separation between the left and right image can lead to unpleasant experience in the form of crosstalk/ghosting.
In the end, I can say I’ve liked the product in overall, but there is still a lot more to be done in order to improve both the functionality and the experience that the users want to get from such a 3D-capable laptop. But it will be nice to see that Toshiba continues to develop further based on this product, improving based on the experience they’ve got with the F750 and F755, so that they can bring better and better 3D-capable laptops in the future that will not require the user to wear special glasses in order to see the stereo 3D effect. The Toshiba Qosmio F750 3D laptop is a good first try, but there is still some time before the autostereoscopic 3D solutions become better and more attractive and useful as compared to the active 3D and passive 3D products that are currently available as alternative.