Toshiba Satellite A500-11U – 16.4in Laptop Review

Sections

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £929.99

Convergence is a term often bandied about in tech circles, more often than not in reference to the latest smartphone. Yet, if you want a true example of convergence, look no further than the humble laptop. Modern day laptops combine a bewildering array of tasks, particularly those like the Toshiba Satellite A500-11U that are targeted at the lucrative desktop replacement segment.


Though this isn’t a particularly cheap machine, squeezing just £50 below the £1,000 barrier, it delivers a great deal of processing power and a multitude of features for the money. Topping things is the Intel Core 2 Duo P8700, a dual-core processor that runs at a brisk 2.53GHz on a 1,066MHz front-side bus with 3MB L2 Cache. This is a good start, but Toshiba cuts corners a little bit by pairing this with slower 800MHz DDR2 RAM and although it supplies 4GB of the stuff, the 32-bit install of Windows Vista can’t address it all. For those interested, should you decide to buy this system, Toshiba will send you a Windows 7 upgrade disk for a discounted £27.90 inc. VAT.


If Toshiba’s lack of 64-bit support is a tad frustrating, it at least mends some bridges with the rest of the spec. A 500GB hard drive should be ample for all but the most voracious multimedia hoarders – just as well given there’s also a hybrid digital and analogue TV tuner on-board. Particularly impressive, too, is the discrete graphics; an ATI Mobility Radeon HD4650 with 1GB of dedicated memory. Draft-N Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR mean comprehensive networking support as well.


It’s just a shame Toshiba, now embracing all things Blu-ray, didn’t manage to squeeze an HD disc spinner into the sub-£1,000 price tag. This disappointment is made more acute by the presence of a backlit keyboard. Wonderful as they might be, it does feel just a little bit ‘me too’ and given the choice between Blu-ray or a backlit keyboard, Blu-ray would be the winner in our eyes. In truth, though, this is nit-picking since you can spin things any number of ways, like using slower components to offset the cost. If it’s Blu-ray you’re after then you’ll have to look to Toshiba’s Qosmio range, soon to be updated with Blu-ray and Windows 7.


Looking more closely at that backlit keyboard, it’s a decent effort. Thankfully Toshiba has abandoned the horrific glossy finish found in the previous Satellite design refresh, replaced with semi-gloss keys that don’t reflect light from every angle. In typical Toshiba fashion it’s a good keyboard. Key actions are tight and positive and the layout doesn’t throw up any gremlins. There’s a full number pad, too, enhancing its desktop replacement credentials. We did detect a hint of flex in some segments, but not enough to have any lasting impact.


We also like the touchpad. It’s delineated by a low-friction, textured surface that’s very pleasant to use, sports the now ubiquitous multi-touch support and has two large and responsive buttons below it. And, though the touchpad is positioned so it won’t get in the way, there’s a small button above it should you need deactivate it.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.