Off the back of reviewing two AMD-based 15.6in laptops, the Acer Aspire 5551 and Aspire 5553G, in the Toshiba Satellite L650 we're back in more familiar territory - an Intel powered laptop of identical proportions. Its £629 asking price puts it right in the middle of mainstream, desktop replacement market, which demands good performance at an affordable price.
Without doubt the L650 has the hardware for the job. Its Intel Core i5 processor, whose two cores run at 2.26GHz, should provide ample performance for most users, as will the included 4GB of RAM. A 500GB hard drive is capacious, too, though the choice of an ATI Mobility Radeon 5145 graphics card (a low/mid-range chip) is unlikely to offer too many opportunities for gaming.
There are one or two other disappointments in the spec, too, such as the lack of Bluetooth and the use of the slower 10/100 Fast Ethernet standard. In the latter case you do get Wireless-N Wi-Fi to compensate, but Gigabit Ethernet is so cheap it seems stingy not to include it. We also take umbrage with Toshiba's standard warranty, which is a one-year carry-in policy as opposed to the collect & return services offered by most manufacturers. This means you're responsible for sending your laptop to Toshiba in result of failure, and all the liabilities that entails.
Toshiba is typically fairly conservative in its laptop design, and the L650 continues its fondness for the dreaded glossy black plastic. It's better handled than in the past, though, featuring an attractive imprinted pattern that extends across the lid and body of the machine. Most importantly the keyboard, unlike previous Toshiba laptops, retains a matt finish that doesn't result in greasy fingerprints or reflections. There's nothing special in the L650's design, but it has curves in all the right places and is generally well co-ordinated.
Toshiba's famed build quality is also in evidence here. There's nary a hint of poorly fitted panels anywhere in the machine, while the plastics used throughout are of an exceedingly high quality. There's a sturdy quality to the L650 we rarely see in laptops at this price.
It also features a decent set of connections. Highlights include HDMI and a USB/eSATA combo port, which are joined by VGA, two standard USB ports, Ethernet, two audio jacks (1x headphone, 1x microphone), and a memory card reader that supports up to 64GB SD cards. There's a standard, tray-loading 8x DVD-Rewriter drive on the right edge, and a 0.3-megapixel webcam with integrated microphone above the screen.