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Toshiba Satellite A200-1DN

If you're after quality at a low price, Toshiba is always a good bet. The Satellite A200-1DN is available for just under £500 and as with the other notebooks we've featured it has a 15.4in display with a native resolution of 1,280 x 800. Under the hood it features an Intel Core Duo T2350, which is clocked at 1.86GHz. This may be one of older dual-core CPUs, but it still managed the highest CPU and Overall scores in PC Mark with 4,215 and 3,172 respectively.

In addition there's 1GB 677MHz DRR2 RAM, an 80GB SATA hard drive and a DVD Re-writer drive. As ever there's 10/100 LAN and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, but unlike our other two test subjects there's Bluetooth as well – which is always a bonus. Overall, connectivity is similar to those previously tested, with four USB ports, 4-pin FireWire, a card reader, D-Sub, component S-Video and an Express Card slot. It's a tidy package, though the 80GB hard drive is small beer in comparison to the 160GB provided by the Acer. Moreover, considering Vista Home Premium and the other pre-installed software takes up 22GB of that space there isn't an awful lot leg room to spare.

It doesn't help that Toshiba seem to have loaded the system with an inordinate amount of bloatware. Take Toshiba Flash Cards for example; this rather tedious pop down shortcut menu takes up a whopping 35MB of system memory when running. It's always worth checking for such programs, especially on cheaper models that are often subsidised by third party applications.

This silliness aside, for the price this is a very decent notebook. That this is a fairly modern chassis is quite evident, with a smart navy blue exterior and silver and glossy black interior and build quality to match Toshiba's generally high standards. This is particularly evident with the keyboard, which is a joy to use. The layout is nigh on perfect, and the keys have a very nice crisp and light feeling to them. It's certainly the best out of the three we've tested, and considering the usage it's an important benefit.

As previously noted the A200-1DN was also the best performing notebook, thanks primarily to the higher clock speed of its processor. However, this improved performance also extended to battery life, where it lasted two hours and 45 minutes – almost half an hour longer than the Evesham. This is an encouraging result, and any gains in this area are always welcome.

Its display was also very pleasing. Though it still doesn't quite match the Acer for vibrancy, it's pleasingly bright and sharp while the glossy coating insures decent contrast levels. Just above the display is a 1.3 megapixel camera as well, though it's simply mounted into the bezel and can't be adjusted without moving the screen.

Verdict

Overall the Toshiba Satellite A200-1DN is a good little notebook, though the small hard drive is a perfect example of the sort of the compromises one has to make when money is tight. If storage capacity is low on your priorities then this is a good bet, and even then an affordable external hard drive could offset the lack of internal capacity.

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