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Naturally the most dominant feature of this laptop is its reflective 16:9 aspect, 18.4in screen. Unfortunately it doesn’t sport a Full HD resolution, going for 1,680 x 945 instead. To be fair this is common at this screen size, 1080p video didn’t look any worse for it in terms of sharpness, and this resolution does give you quite a bit more desktop real estate than the usual 1,366 x 768 found on many 16 and 17in machines.
As already mentioned sharpness is excellent, complemented by bright but natural colours, no sign of backlight bleed or banding (the latter of which is quite impressive for an affordable TN panel this size) and decent tonal performance that sacrifices differentiation at the bright end of the scale to give above-average dark detail – the ideal compromise for films and games.
Unfortunately, this generally good performance is marred by that ever-present TN bugbear of contrast shift and poor viewing angles. To get the most out of dark scenes especially, you need to have the screen tilted just right and sit fairly centrally. Overall though, it delivers an impressive experience.
Thankfully, the Satellite P500-12D does nothing to detract from the range’s well-deserved audio reputation. As we’ve come to expect from the partnership of Harman/kardon and Toshiba, the speakers lend themselves to a superlative audio performance. Trebles are produced with subtle clarity, bass rumbles out of the speakers with more oomph than it has any right to from such small enclosures and at no point do they loose out on warm, rich detail.
Best of all, this relative finesse and fidelity is delivered at volume levels most laptop speakers can only dream of. The only others that come close to this level of audio performance are those found in the Satellite’s smaller siblings.
Now it's time to find out what’s taking up space in the monumentally thick chassis. Well, there's no Core i7, which is not too surprising considering the sub-£800 price tag. Instead processing duties are handled by an Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 running at 2.13GHz, which should be more than fast enough to deal with the daily needs of the average consumer. Only in CPU-intensive scenarios such as video encoding will you even notice the difference.
We also find the de facto 4GB of DDR2 RAM which Windows 7 Home Premium will use to full advantage, and there’s plenty of storage space to go around with a 500GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. A great addition is Toshiba’s HDD 3D Impact Sensor that parks the drive heads whenever it detects heavy vibration or sudden movements, hopefully preventing damage to your precious data. This feature worked surprisingly well during our test time; once it even activated when I merely pulled out the laptop’s power plug. If that’s a bit too sensitive for your taste though, you can adjust the sensitivity or even turn the feature off altogether under Toshiba’s HDD Protection application.
Another noteworthy feature is the webcam, as it’s an HD model that supports 1,280 x 800. Despite the resulting video being somewhat noisy, it’s a huge improvement on most laptop webcams. It's just a shame Toshiba has opted to omit Bluetooth, though you do still get the far from optional Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet to service your networking needs.