Toshiba Portege M800-106 review

20 Aug 2008

A nod to Apple's iconic design from Toshiba, but perhaps the original is best

Price when reviewed 
733
3

For a long time it was only Apple's laptops that came in white, but now they're ten-a-penny. Even the sub-£200 Eee PC and its gang of low-cost netbooks are clad in white these days.

But despite lacking the exclusivity that it once brought, the finish looks stylish on Toshiba's latest laptop. Rather than just plain white, the Portégé M800's chassis is coated with thin grey pinstripes, and the screen lid is adorned with a chrome-effect Toshiba logo.

Under the lid, though, things are slightly less slick. Above the keyboard is a row of media buttons which are lit from behind by white LEDs, but this light bleeds around the icons, making them hard to identify.

Below these sits the keyboard, which is horribly spongy. When typing towards the edge of the board there's a noticeable dip in the surface, which bends the surrounding keys down towards it. In the middle of the board this effect is even more pronounced. It's not the most comfortable to type on.

Below it, the trackpad is flush with the chassis and only defined by a white strip-light at the top and a slightly roughened coating. The surface is comfortable to use, as are the mouse buttons, but the chrome-effect lends them a cheap and plasticky appearance. The very front of the case is lit by some illuminated indicator lights and a Portégé logo but, as with the indicator buttons, these bleed into the surrounding area and can be distracting in darker rooms.

Running down the side of the chassis are more than enough ports for use on all but the most peripheral-cluttered desks. Two separate USB ports are present, along with a combined eSATA and USB port. As well as this, there's a VGA and HDMI output, giving a range of options for external screens, plus a Firewire port.

Despite the HDMI port, however, the laptop is ill-equipped for viewing HD content. A DVD-RW drive is provided rather than the increasingly common Blu-ray drive so you'll need to go online to find some 720p video to watch on the 13.3in 1,280 x 800 screen. This is a shame, as powering this screen is Intel's new GMA 4500MHD graphics chipset, which is designed specifically to be able to handle the demands of HD video playback.

Its 3D capabilities are less impressive. In our Crysis benchmark, even on low settings, the M800 managed an unplayable 6fps. Older games it may well deal with, but modern titles are quite clearly out of the question.

For 2D work, though, the laptop is more than capable. With a dual-core Intel P8400 running at 2.26GHz and a generous 4GB helping of DDR2 RAM, it reached a decent score of 1.06. The impressive specification continues to the hard disk, which at 320GB is more than large enough to store a hefty collection of documents, video and music.

But it's not long before disappointment sets in once again. For a portable, 2.1kg laptop, the M800 has extrememly poor battery life. In light use, it lasted a mere 2hrs 50mins - that's well down on the best that most standard laptops or netbooks can offer.

Given the price and the design, there is an obvious comparison with the Toshiba that has to be made: the Apple MacBook, to which the Toshiba owes several design cues.

The MacBook is only slightly more expensive at £706, but comes equipped with a slightly faster 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, shares the same size and resolution screen, and is a similar size and weight. Despite having less RAM, the MacBook scored 1.20 in our application-based benchmarks, beating the Toshiba by a clear margin, and battery life is double.

Details

Price ex VAT £637
Price inc VAT £733
Overall rating 3 stars

Warranty

Warranty

Physical specifications

Dimensions 312 x 231 x 38mm (WDH)
Weight 2.1kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo P8400
RAM capacity 4GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Other Features

USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
Pointing device type Touchpad

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 170
Battery life, heavy use 72
Overall application benchmark score 1.06
Office application benchmark score 1.00
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.22
Encoding application benchmark score 1.01
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.00

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium
OS family Windows Vista