Toshiba A350-12J review
A gleaming physique and a glossy 16in display, but elsewhere this Toshiba fails to excite
Review Date: 1 Jul 2009
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: (£550 inc VAT)
Choosing a laptop to replace an aged desktop PC used to be a straightforward choice of deciding whether you wanted a mid-sized portable with a 15.4in screen or a hulking behemoth with a 17in screen. Now, however, with manufacturers gradually making the move from the traditional 16:10 displays to the 16:9 ratio, you can add 15.6in, 16in and 18.4in to the list. The Toshiba Satellite A350 sits slap bang in the middle of this bunch.
It certainly looks like you're getting a lot of laptop for your money. For a price that's not much more than you'd spend on a top class netbook, you're getting a laptop with a 16:9, 16in screen. It looks and feels like a good deal.
Toshiba has opted to coat almost every inch in glossy plastic, making the A350 one hell of a striking machine. The interior is jazzed up with silver stripes against a black background, a cool, white light glowing atop the touchpad, and even the keyboard's keys are finished in glossy black.
Be warned, though, this is one big laptop. If you're looking for a budget-priced machine you can carry around now and again, this isn't it. It measures 383mm wide and 267mm deep and weighing in at a hefty 3.21kg, it's best carried no further than the garden table. And with a modest 3hrs 23mins of battery life, you'll not want to stray too far from a mains socket either.
Furthermore, while that keyboard looks snazzy, it isn't the most responsive or comfortable we've encountered. The glossy keys prove slippery on occasion and, while the keys have a soft, positive action, a slight flex in the keyboard's base plus a hollow feel don't make the best of bedfellows.
The 16in display and its 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution looks very impressive, but it doesn't improve on what 15.4in laptops have been offering for years. If movies are high on your list of priorities, the smaller black bars at the top and bottom of the screen might be incentive enough to opt for a 16:9 laptop, but there's no benefit in terms of desktop space compared to a 1,280 x 800 pixel display. Legibility is slightly improved thanks to the slightly larger pixels, though.
Image quality isn't anything to write home about, either. Brightness is ample, as is the panel's ability to differentiate between the darkest and lightest of shades. Despite this, however, the Toshiba's screen leaves images looking washed out and lacking punch. This is partly due to greyish blacks, but the gentle red push doesn't help. It's enough to make skin tones look warm and healthy, but leaves whites looking decidedly rose-tinted.
One of Intel's low-end processors provides the power. A 2GHz Core 2 Duo T6400 takes centre stage alongside 4GB of DDR2 memory and a 250GB hard disk, a combination that earns the Toshiba a reasonable 0.85 in our benchmarks. As you might expect for such a budget priced machine, the Intel GMA 4500 graphics chipset is a less than sterling performer, however, and you can forget about playing all but the most basic of titles.
Connectivity isn't bad for the price either, and we're certainly glad to see eSata as it's a great way to add high-speed storage to a laptop. Better still, the eSata port doubles as a USB port, bringing the total complement to a generous four. There's also mini-FireWire, a flash memory card reader, D-SUB, HDMI and a 10/100 Ethernet socket. Draft-n wireless makes a welcome appearance too.
All this means that the Toshiba Satellite A350 is a dependable budget notebook, but it's far from a star turn. Performance and battery life average are average, and its glossy looks flatter to deceive. When you can buy the excellent Sony VAIO VGN-NS20E/S for less cash, the choice shouldn't be hard to make.
Author: Sasha Muller
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Universal wireless charging gets a boost from Microsoft
- Amazon Phone: release date, features and 3D display
- Apple offers sneak peak at OS X via Beta Seed
- American grip on web loosens ahead of key net meeting
- Apple fixes security flaw, fingerprint scanner with iOS 7.1.1
- Heartbleed: LibreSSL scrubs "irresponsible" OpenSSL code
- Windows Cloud: should Microsoft mimic Chrome OS?
- Lytro unveils its next light-field camera: the $1,599 Illum
- Microsoft supercharges PowerPoint with Office Mix
- Hello Cortana, it's nice to meet you
- Windows 8.1 Update: an abject surrender
- The insane economics of Sky Now TV
- No such thing as a free app... so pay up if you want quality
- Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers
- Windows Phone 8.1 video: hands-on
- Office for iPad: key information
- Why every PC buyer owes Richard Durkin a debt of gratitude
- HTC One M8 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: 2014's big-hitters compared
- Windows XP end of life: key information
- How to upgrade from Windows XP to Ubuntu
- The great iPhone ripoff and how it works
- Heartbleed: what you need to know and do
- Data recovery: inside the clean room
- Best tablet PCs to buy in 2014
- How much RAM do you really need?
- News of the weird: the strangest ever tech stories
- Five hyped technologies: disruptive or not?
- Piracy's dying: why we're all going straight
- Office: should you buy it, rent it - or dump it?
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy
- Raspberry Pi and Wolfram: a must-have for every child
- Could you get by with Office Web Apps?
- The best Android antivirus apps for 2014
- Headings vs headers: how to use both in Word