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Ultraportable laptops

Toshiba Satellite P845T-S4310 review

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Toshiba's Satellite P845t-S4310 is an interesting mix of budget laptop and all-purpose machine. Its bigger and bulkier than most of the sleek machines on the market today, and its performance leaves quite a bit to be desired even within its class. But its not quite at the price point ($800 or less) of a budget model, probably thanks to its sturdy aluminum body and premium speakers. This laptop is a Best Buy exclusive.

Our review model, which costs $910 as configured, has a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. The Satellite also has a 14-inch touchscreen, a DVD-RW drive, and built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with WiDi capability, and it runs Windows 8.

Performance

In PCWorld's WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the Satellite P845t-S4310 scores 43 out of 100. This means that the Satellite is about 57 percent slower than our baseline testing model, which has a third-generation Intel i5 desktop processor, 8GB of RAM, and a discrete Nvidia graphics card. Its perhaps a bit unfair to compare a budget all-purpose laptop with a desktop, but the Satellite still underperforms for its category. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, for example, which is both slimmer and more flexible than the Satellite (and which has the same mobile processor), managed a score of 60 on our WorldBench 8 tests. The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 managed a score of 57. So the Satellite isnt awful, but its also not performing up to par when compared with other similarly-equipped laptops.

The Satellite does not do much better in individual performance tests. In the PCMark 7 office productivity it scored 822, well behind the Yogas score of 2115 and the TouchSmarts score of 2058. Some of the performance difference is likely due to the hard drive, as the system lacks an SSD or even a small SSD to act as a hard drive cache.

It did manage to encode video and audio relatively quickly, though, whizzing through our tests at 206 seconds and 304.9 seconds, respectively. This isnt great, but its pretty good compared to the Yoga (235 seconds and 307.7 seconds, respectively), and the TouchSmart (252 seconds and 305.7 seconds, respectively). The Satellite's lack of an SSD results in a start-up time is a bit slow at 22.7 seconds cold.

Graphics performance is slightly higher than expected on the Satellite P845t-S4310. In our Dirt Showdown test (1366 by 768 pixels resolution, maximum quality settings), the Satellite managed a playable frame rate of 47.7 frames per second. Considering this laptop has no discrete graphics card, this is pretty good the Yoga managed 30.1 fps, while the TouchSmart lagged far behind with just 17.4 fps on the same test.

We managed to eke out four hours and 22 minutes of battery life on the Satellite, using the Balanced & Eco setting. This is just around average for an all-purpose notebook, though perhaps a bit low for a notebook that has one of Intels low-voltage processors.

Design and usability

The Satellite P845t-S4300 is disappointingly bulky, considering its premium styling elements. The laptop is clad in etched silver aluminum, has premium Harmon-Kardon speakers, and feels solid and cool to the touch. But its pretty hefty for a 14-inch machine it weighs 4.3 pounds and is over an inch thick at its thickest point. In other words, its a far cry from the sexy, slim Ultrabooks that dominate the market today, but, svelte-ness aside, it looks fairly expensive. On the other hand, it does ship with an optical drive, which adds to the weight and bulk.

The Satellite's silver cover has a subtle etched pattern, along with a metallic Toshiba logo in the center. The wrist rest and the area around the keyboard feature the same etched aluminum styling, which is nice, since it feels great against your wrists. The laptop sports a full-size black island-style keyboard, a button-less touchpad, and chrome accents. Theres a small power button in the upper right corner of the keyboard deck, as well as two small speakers on either side of the laptop. The screen has a glass-to-glass bezel-less look, with a built-in webcam.

The Satellite's keyboard is comfortable to type on, with decent tactile feedback and nicely spaced keys. The keys are a little on the small side, and their stiffness takes some getting used to, but overall its a perfectly usable keyboard.

Below the keyboard theres a large button-less trackpad. The trackpad is not as stiff as the trackpads on Toshibas other Satellite models, and so its fairly easy to use. The pad is smooth and responsive, and left- and right-clicking is effortless.

The Satellite is well-equipped port-wise, with three USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI out, discrete microphone and headphone jacks, VGA out, Gigabit Ethernet, and a Kensington lock slot. Theres also an SD card slot on the front of the machine, as well as a DVD-RW optical drive on the left side.

Screen and speakers

The Satellite P845t-S4310 sports a glossy 14-inch multi-touch touchscreen with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. Although this is an average resolution for a 14-inch screen, it still looks a little pixelated to me. Images and text still look relatively crisp, but if youre used to Apples retina screens (or basically any high-pixel-density screen), youll note some fuzziness. Color fidelity is just okay, and colors look slightly washed out at the higher brightness settings. Off-axis viewing angles are average theres some loss of contrast when you view the screen from the side, but its nothing crazy.

As a touchscreen, the Satellites display works very well. The screen is responsive and accurate, and multi-touch gestures are fairly smooth, with just a few stutters. Video looks pretty good on the Satellite, with just a little artifacting in high-motion scenes.

The Satellite's harmon/kardon speakers dont disappoint theyre certainly better than what Im used to hearing on budget 14-inch laptops. That said, theyre also not the best speakers Ive heard recently, and sound can be a little thin and tinny at higher volume levels.



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