Toshiba Satellite A500 review
Toshiba's latest portable boasts all-new design and a keen price, but it's when playing movies and games that it shines
Review Date: 17 Sep 2009
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £565 (£650 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
With budget laptops offering more and more for ever-diminishing prices, mid-priced models are having to work pretty hard to justify their existence. After all, when you can get a perfectly capable portable for under £400 exc VAT, then there seems little reason to spend more on the likes of the new Toshiba Satellite A500.
Skim through the A500's specifications and, at first, such cynicism would seem to be well-placed. With an Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor, 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard disk, there's precious little to set it above the morass of budget-priced portables. Look closer, however, and there is one crucial difference: this Toshiba boasts one of the more capable mobile graphics chipsets around - the ATI Radeon HD 4570.
Indeed, gaming is where budget laptops so often stumble and, if you like nothing better than kicking back with a game at the end of the day, you'll find Toshiba has put the extra budget at its disposal to good use. It's still no match for the likes of the Asus G60Vx, but fire up Crysis and it puts up a valiant fight. Our medium Crysis test runs through a test level at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 and medium detail - a challenge which saw the A500 manage a very reasonable average frame rate of 19fps.
Design and build
It's not just games that look good, though, as Toshiba has gone right back to the drawing board with the A500. There's something unmistakably familiar about the rounded edges and the combination of glossy black with silver trim and pinstripes. In fact, it's almost as if Toshiba has been taking some fashion tips from the excellent HP Pavilion DV6. That's no bad thing, though; it marks a definite improvement on its somewhat frumpy predecessors.
Meanwhile, it may not be the lightest laptop - weighing in at 2.94kg (3.48kg with the power adapter) - but the A500 feels strong and sturdy in all the right places. The base, for example, is impressively rigid, and while the lid and hinge feel a touch more flexible, it feels like a laptop built to last.
Unfortunately, that's not the case when it comes to battery life. It's unlikely that anyone will want to carry around a 3kg laptop on a regular basis, but light use battery life of just 2hrs 23mins puts paid to all but the briefest of jaunts away from the mains. Even the HP Pavilion dv6 outlasts the Toshiba, stretching to a more reasonable three hours.
And, once you get over the excitement generated by the ATI graphics, the Toshiba doesn't have a great deal to shout about. Performance is pretty modest - the Core 2 Duo and 4GB memory managing a middle-of-the-road 1.01 in our benchmarks - and the rest of the specification is simply par for the course.
Sometimes, however, just looking at the raw numbers isn't enough to give you the true measure of a laptop. Fire up a DVD or a game, for example, and the Toshiba relishes the challenge. A superb pair of harman/kardon speakers quickly get the foot tapping, and the 16in display raises the heart rate just a little higher.
- Music and lights could trigger malware
- Apple vs Samsung battle moves to suppliers
- Outgoing Intel CEO: we could have powered the iPhone
- Google Glass draws attention of US Congress
- Yahoo seeks "cool" with Tumblr purchase
- Dell profits slide 79% amid buyout talks
- Forget cloud subscriptions: users prefer standard licences
- McAfee: cloud storage could help spread viruses
- LulzSec hackers saw themselves as "latter-day pirates"
- 4G doesn't interfere with TV
- Hands on with the new Google Maps
- Nokia Lumia 925 review: first look
- Why I won't subscribe to Creative Cloud
- GoPro camera strapped to a remote-control helicopter: the ultimate boy's toy
- Acer Iconia A1 review: first look
- Acer Aspire P3 review: first look
- Acer Aspire R7 review: first look
- How we produce the PC Pro podcast
- Google Now draining iPhone battery
- The government website that doesn't work with IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Macs or smartphones
- iPhone apps for business travel
- How to get a job as a mobile games developer
- 25 best Windows 8 apps
- Introducing Arduino - a simple Raspberry Pi alternative
- The tweeting spaceman
- Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One
- 30 best web apps
- Getting started with HTML5
- The fall and rise of PC gaming
- The Dynabook is everywhere, but affordable internet isn't
- How to fix Facebook: Social Fixer
- Taking the stress out of WordPress updates
- Where to download free web fonts
- Turn your tablet into a Sky+ remote control
- How to measure the success of a new IT system
- Three years on: the state of the tablet market
- Windows 8: what works and what doesn't
- Yes, I write down my passwords
- How to make money from apps
- Hack your own radio transmitter
There are dozens of exciting prizes up for grabs on PC Pro Competitions. All our competitions are free to enter. Try your luck.ENTER NOW