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Toshiba Satellite A300-177 Notebook - Satellite A300-177
The 1,280 x 800 high-gloss screen is fairly standard for a notebook in the A300's class. Though it showed no obvious artefacts in DisplayMate, viewing angles are slightly poorer than one might expect from a laptop TN, with dramatic loss of contrast when moving even slightly off-angle. As long as you're in the sweet spot though, it's perfectly acceptable for entertainment use - just keep in mind that thanks to the lack of a discrete graphics card, you can forget about all but the most undemanding games.
The rest of the A300-177's specifications don't leave you wanting, however, with 2GB of RAM and a generous 200GB hard drive providing ample storage, while the T5550 Intel Core 2 Duo zips along at 1.83GHz. Thanks to this, the Toshiba is fast enough in most scenarios. Naturally, there is also a DVD writer on hand, which can handle most media on the market (including DVD-RAM), while its weight is again average at 2.9kg. The only weak point for portable use is its unimpressive battery life, lagging up to 30 minutes behind the HP Pavilion dv6750ea (which has a dedicated nVidia 8400M graphics chip) despite also using a six-cell battery.
The A300-177 did come with an English-only safety manual, which is far more extensive than most (even covering typing ergonomics), a clear Quickstart guide, support leaflet and universal manual for the whole Satellite range. Software of note includes a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Student Edition and full version of Microsoft Works 8.9, Ulead DVD MovieFactory and 30 days of updates for McAfee Internet Security Suite 2008.
Finally, having left the best till last, are the speakers. They're two small, circular units positioned on both sides of the laptop just above the keyboard. The drivers are deeply seated beneath a transparent cover, though I wish Toshiba had made these chrome to match the touchpad buttons. As is, they merely add to the inconsistency of the Satellite's design - but on the other hand I can understand Toshiba wanting to show them off, since the sound they produce is nothing less than stunning for their size.
They're Harman Kardon units, and while in the technology world brand names are not necessarily a guarantor of quality, Harman Kardon has consistently produced notebook speakers that have exceeded rival efforts. Thankfully, it doesn't break its tradition of excellence here. With hardly a hint of distortion even at maximum volume levels and deep, rumbling bass that shakes the whole chassis, their only (minor) weakness is that treble can come across as the slightest touch strained. But make no mistake, these are easily the best notebook speakers we have heard at this price point, even beating some smaller standalone systems.