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Toshiba Satellite C855-S5233 – C B820 / 1.7 GHz – Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit – 4 GB RAM – 320 GB HDD – DVD SuperMulti – 15.6" TruBrite wide 1366 x 768 / HD – Intel HD Graphics – satin black trax –
This is my second Toshiba laptop, the first purchased over a decade ago and long since gone. I intended to buy a netbook because portability was my primary concern, but after going through two or three of them because they were woefully underpowered for even simple tasks (waiting 5-10 seconds for web browsers or mail clients to load, and noticing delays of a second or more just to recognize keystrokes or mouse clicks), I grabbed this laptop at a great clearance price from an office supply retailer.
For the money, it packs a punch. Plenty of RAM and HDD space, and the Pentium dual-core chip is surprisingly zippy. WEI ranks everything over 5.0, which, for the money, is impressive.
What’s not impressive is the overall build quality. There’s a “cheapness” to the unit that’s difficult to quantify. Most all laptops/notebooks have a plastic chassis, so this is expected, but there’s a hollowness here that’s disconcerting. There’s a pocket of empty space in the lid, behind the screen itself, so when gripping the laptop to pick it up, the shell of the lid flexes slightly inward. This strikes me as poor engineering.
The rubber bumpers on the inside of the lid, which protect the screen when closed, are also ever-so-slightly loose, and can rattle at times. Hardly noticeable, but at the same time something that should have been easily done properly during design and assembly.
The RAM/HDD access panel on the underside of the unit, which must be removed to upgrade RAM or replace the drive, appears to be easily removed, but in fact is ridiculously difficult. One must take extreme care not to break any hidden plastic tabs when removing it — a task made exponentially more difficult because until you’ve done it once, you have no way of knowing where these tiny tabs are located. The user’s guide, which must be obtained from Toshiba’s website, includes a diagram of this panel that simply does not match the unit. It’s apparently from a previous model, and as such is of no help whatsoever.
The unit is also somewhat lighter than expected. Heavier than a netbook to be sure, but for it’s size there’s clearly quite a bit of empty space inside. This is problematic when opening it, because there’s no weight to keep the base down while raising the lid. So opening the laptop for use is always a two-handed job.
Despite these issues, this laptop has some nice qualities. The textured palm rest and trackpad are unusual, but they feel good. They’ll be prone to catching dust or crumbs, but I now prefer them to a smooth surface. Track pad sensitivity is adjustable and nicely responsive right out of the box.
The full-sized keyboard is pleasant and exhibits minimal flex, providing a firm typing experience. Having not previously used a laptop with the additional 10-key pad, I’m finding it indispensable for navigating with the arrow keys. (There are independent arrow keys as well, but they’re awkwardly small and poorly placed. Given the choice, I’d trade them for a wider space bar.)
Battery life is surprisingly good. Marketing materials claim about 5 hours, and while that will vary widely depending on use, I’m finding it about right for light use — web browsing, email, modest file management, etc. The firmware appears to activate the CPU fan very conservatively, which conserves a lot of battery energy, yet still keeps the CPU temperature safe. Note that my experience with the battery reflects the absence of pre-installed software (see below); with most of the junk applications running, the CPU works harder and longer, thus draining the battery significantly faster.
Even more impressive is standby time. Previous laptops and netbooks I’ve had would drain the battery after about 24 hours of sleeping, but I’ve approached two days of standby with this unit, and I think it might go even longer.
The unit includes a DVD/CD combo drive, which is a nice touch but pretty obsolete these days. Tray-loading laptop optical drives are notoriously fragile by design (thus prone to breakage), and the only use it will ever likely see by me is the system’s initial O/S reinstall (which I would otherwise accomplish with an external drive). I’d rather have seen the space it occupies go to use as increased battery capacity or an additional route for exhausting CPU heat.
Screen image quality is good from a typical usage angle, but deteriorates fairly quickly as you stray from dead-on. Given the cost of this unit, I can’t criticize this. If I wanted a screen with perfect viewing from any angle, the cost would easily triple.
Overall, not a bad laptop, and I’m willing to give Toshiba another try after all these years, but I’m doing so only because I got a great deal on it. At original retail price, I would hesitate due to the build quality.
Finally, a note on the pre-installed software (bloatware). This laptop is a particularly bad offender. There are no less than 58 programs installed on the system, as viewed from the Programs and Services section of Control Panel.
As a tech expert, this is inconsequential to me because the first order of business is to wipe out the HDD and install a fresh copy of Windows. But for anyone not comfortable (or able) to do this, the system is rendered almost unusable by the crippling amount of junk installed.
I’m a free lance writer, so I wanted something that would be portable, easy to use and reliable. I got all that in this product.
The computer came packaged ready to go. All I had to do was turn it on and start things up. So far I haven’t experienced any glitches like I have with other brands such as HP. I also liked that it has a DVD player, which some newer Apple laptops lack for some reason.
Here are some pros for this product: low price, Windows 7, good storage space, fast, simple, and large enough to watch movies on but portable.
Cons: Can’t think of any for now, but I will post if that changes.