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On the outside it shares the familiar classy looking glossy navy blue finish that's common across Toshiba's Satellite range, though the big bold 'TOSHIBA' lettering is a little over the top. Still, it has its charm and doesn't look anything like as cheap as it actually is. Opening up the notebook provides a similarly positive impression, with an all silver keyboard framed by glossy black panels above and below.
There are some nice touches dotted around too, particularly the blue backlit 'Satellite' lettering and status lights on the front. Another plus point is the keyboard layout, which is nicely proportioned and free of any of the common irritations. Indeed, it's as close to a full-size keyboard (sans a number pad) you're likely to get on a notebook of this size, with a proper sized Return key and slightly withdrawn Cursor keys.
Unfortunately, the decent layout is let down somewhat by the feel of the keyboard. It's not awful by any means, but they're definitely some issues. When typing it's immediately obvious that the key travel isn't quite as deep as is ideal, lending the keyboard a slightly spongy and unresponsive feel. This is compounded by a significant amount of flexing, a problem also encountered in the sadly disappointing but nonetheless ingenious Toshiba Portégé R500.
This problem is also found on another part of the notebook, specifically the right edge of the notebook that houses the optical drive and ExpressCard slot. Unlike the M1330, where the drive is neatly integrated into the chassis, in the U300 it seems almost tacked on. This, combined with the ExpressCard slot being housed in the same area, means this section of the notebook is quite hollow, allowing for some flex when put under pressure.
This is obviously a sign of how Toshiba has saved money on construction, since the design means the optical drive can simply be slotted into the space provided. However, this is the only overt piece of cheap construction on show, with the U300 otherwise feeling fairly sturdy. Pressing against the back the screen reveals that the pressure is distributed evenly while, with the exception of the flex on the right side, the whole machine feels compact and tightly put together.
Indeed, so confident is Toshiba about the reliability of its notebooks, that if you purchase one if its notebooks before the 24th of December and it develops a fault in the period of your warranty, it'll not only replace the notebook but send you cheque for the purchase price of the notebook. Oh, and before you ask, chucking your notebook down the stairs doesn't count!