Toshiba Satellite Pro A300 review

31 Mar 2009

A workman-like business portable let down by a below-par display, leaving others to take the accolades.

Price when reviewed: 
440(£440 inc VAT)
4

Like HP's 6735s, Toshiba's Satellite Pro A300 is a budget laptop aimed at business users. And, yet again, it isn't half as dull as its installed copy of Windows Vista Business might suggest.

It might not boast the pristine gloss of Dell's Inspiron 1545, for instance, but that's no bad thing. Finished all in silver with just the odd dab of matte black here and there, the Toshiba in fact looks rather smart. This is matched by solid build quality, with hardly a hint of flex in the base. The screen hinge feels stiff and resilient too.

That strength does come at the expense of portability. The Satellite Pro A300 tips the scales at 2.73kg, and its heft is matched by merely average battery life. Just 3hrs 21mins of light usage saw the Toshiba run out of juice, a figure that dropped to a fraction over an hour in intensive conditions.

While we're focussing on the negatives, we weren't impressed by the display, either. The glossy 15.4in panel and native resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels are all par for the course, but image quality was poor. Our test photos looked pale and skin tones were cold. Poor contrast made highlights overblown and bleached fine detail from photos.

The speakers are a different matter entirely. Despite the conspicuous absence of any hi-fi manufacturer endorsements, music was reproduced with ample volume and clarity was astounding given the budget price.

Ergonomically, there's nothing seriously amiss. The narrow Enter key and the light, plasticky keys take a bit of getting used to and the flexible base doesn't help matters. But it isn't unusable and the trackpad - complete with large, clicky buttons - worked well.

An Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3200 processor and 2GB of memory provide ample performance. A result of 0.90 put the Toshiba firmly in the middle of the pack. Graphics performance, as expected, was no great shakes with the Intel's GMA 4500M graphics achieving a mere four frames per second in our Crysis benchmark.

The A300 is a solid business laptop, but that's where its appeal ends. Ultimately, there's nothing that stands out, and it's bested in most areas by our award winners this month.

Details

Price ex VAT £383
Price inc VAT £440
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 362 x 267 x 39mm (WDH)
Weight 2.730kg
Travelling weight 3.2kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3200
Motherboard chipset Intel GL40
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500
Graphics card RAM 128MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Toshiba MK1652GSX
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Matshita UJ880AS
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem yes
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 1
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? no
Integrated webcam? no
Camera megapixel rating N/A
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 21min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 7min
Overall application benchmark score 0.90
3D performance (crysis) low settings 4fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business 32-bit
OS family Windows Vista
Recovery method Recovery disc
Software supplied N/A