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As is typical with Toshiba's consumer notebooks, this machine comes loaded with a fair amount of software - some of it useful and some just simply bloatware that could do with being removed. Naturally enough Vista Home Premium is the OS of choice, while Norton Internet Security is included with 90 days of updates available. Also included are Microsoft Works 8.5 and an Office 2007 trial, with lots of Toshiba's own and mostly decent utilities.
Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples mixed in with this lot too. Toshiba Flash Cards is a perfect example. Ostensibly it's a visual interface for the Fn keys, which is actually fairly useful when adjusting display brightness and so forth. However, it will at times use up as much as 40MB of system memory, which for a relatively minor piece of functionality seems excessive. Adding to the bloat is the inclusion of "added value" rubbish such as Desktop SMS, while both Toshiba Flash Cards and the WebCam Manager feature obtrusive hidden slide out trays.
However, provided you disable some of this bloat, performance is more than adequate. In PCMark 05 it compares favourably to the Dell XPS M1330, only losing out due its integrated graphics - which is hardly a great issue anyway. Likewise, our in-house tests showed very comparable results, demonstrating that the 2.0GHz T7250 with 2MB L2 Cache is nigh on identical in performance to the 2.0GHz T7300 that has 4MB L2 Cache. Unfortunately, PCMark Vantage refused to run on this machine, but the results garnered here tell you all you really need to know.
And, though the integrated graphics means you gain next to nothing in gaming performance, it does have a beneficial effect on battery performance. With the standard six-cell battery, the U300-134 managed a healthy three hours and 23 minutes in the Reader test under the Balanced profile and three hours and 28 minutes in Power Saver Mode.
DVD Playback results were also encouraging, with a result of two hours and five minutes under worst case conditions, where the brightness is set to its maximum. This is long enough for a medium length film, while turning brightness down just a small amount should improve things further. In real world use this should translate to in excess of three hours of battery life, depending on usage and settings.
This says much about the qualities of the Satellite U300 series and this model, the U300-134. Flashy it isn't, but it ticks all the boxes required of a portable notebook at a price that isn't prohibitive. Thus, at £650, one can forgive some of the issues such as the keyboard flex because, otherwise, it's a great value alternative to more expensive and exotic variety. Moreover, if you have a little more money to play with you could go for the U300-13V, which offers a 2.4GHz T7700 and 802.11n Wi-Fi for less than £850.
Though there are some minor issues, at the price the Toshiba U300-134 is a real bargain. It offers very competent mobile performance in an attractive chassis, which weighs just 2kg. As such, if you want portability but don't want to pay the premiums demanded by the likes of Dell and Sony, then this is your next best option.