Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

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Since the U400 sports a 13.3in screen a more traditional 1,280 x 800 resolution is used rather than a 16:9 ratio one with fewer vertical pixels. Colour fidelity and brightness are about par for a notebook of this size and price; decent, but not outstanding. Likewise, though the viewing angles aren't tremendous, neither are they bad enough to warrant any real complaint.

It's a similar tale when it comes to audio, though the U400 does have a few more things to recommend it here. While the integrated speakers are reasonable for a notebook like this, proving ample for watching video clips and casual music listening, the U400 ratchets things up by including support for Dolby Sound Room. This comprises Dolby Headphone (virtual surround for headphones), Sound Space Expander (widens the soundscape) and Natural Bass (extends the bass response). It's a useful selection of technologies, particularly Headphone, which is great when watching films and TV.

In the benchmarks we've compared the U400 against the Samsung Q310, another 13.3in machine that costs around the same and has a very similar feature set, in addition to the HP Pavilion dv2-1030ea for those that are just after something portable and care less about raw performance. In broad terms the Samsung, which uses a faster Centrino 2 spec processor, is around 20 per cent faster than the U400. This may sound like a lot and clearly there is a performance difference there, but in general the U400 puts in a decent effort. As you might expect the HP follows much further behind due to its single-core processor.

It's in battery life where the difference between the Samsung and the Toshiba is more marked. Though the U400's return of three hours in the multi-tasking Productivity test is good, the Q310 can go for over four hours between charges. This trend is continued in all the tests, so while the U400 delivers good battery life, the Q310 is in a different league in this respect.

This particular fact will swing most people in the direction of the Q310, though the Toshiba does have a few things that the Samsung doesn't. These include superior audio and Dolby Sound Room support, powered USB ports, an eSATA port, as well as dedicated playback and volume controls. If you need any of them then the U400 is a very good option but, if you'll excuse the car tech analogy, the Toshiba is the slower car with a few mod-cons, while the Samsung requires less refueling and is faster.

Verdict

As a 13.3in machine the Toshiba Satellite U400-189 is a decent effort - as far as features go it can't be reasonably faulted. However, Samsung's current Q310 offers a similar feature set at more or less identical prices, but also better performance and battery life that ultimately tips things in its favour.

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