by Andrew Baxter, New York USA
The Toshiba Satellite M45 was recently released by Toshiba. This notebook features a 15.4" XGA widescreen TruBrite display. But most importantly, it houses the latest Centrino platform from Intel, Sonoma, meaning the 1.60GHz Pentium M chip equipped with the M45-S331 has a 533MHz Front Side Bus (FSB), 2MB L2 Cache and the Intel 915GM chipset for better processor and graphics performance.
Toshiba Satellite M45 (view larger image)
Design and Build
The Toshiba Satellite M45 is a 15.4" screen notebook that weighs in at 6.2lbs and is best described as a desktop replacement style notebook, but one that won't break your back if you want to move it between home and office on a daily basis.
The casing is constructed of a rigid and durable plastic material that provides for lighter weight, but the casing is not so durable that I'd want to see this laptop dropped any distance. It's not as solidly built as say an IBM ThinkPad or Panasonic ToughBook, but the overall build feels more convincing to me than most Dell Inspiron notebooks I have used. So the construction and durability of the M45 is best described as middle of the road.
Ports and Buttons
I love shortcut buttons, providing a user with the ability to perform an oft performed task by simply pressing a button instead of dragging a mouse and drilling through menus or moving a slider with a cursor is a beautiful thing. Toshiba provides shortcut buttons on the left hand side of the keyboard to launch a browser window, launch windows media player, play or pause a DVD/CD, and skip music tracks or DVD sections. On the front of the notebook is a volume control and button to turn wireless on and off.
Toshiba Satellite M45 Front-side with buttons (show larger image)
I also happen to be a fan of pretty neon lights, it's the simple things that please. Toshiba provides bright neon LED lights on the front of the notebook to indicate power on, battery charge status, hard drive access, and media card status. Also on the front side are the headphone and microphone jacks, this location provides easy access and I personally like this spot as opposed to the left-side where most laptops have the headphone jack.
Left side of Toshiba Satellite M45 (view larger image)
The M45 comes with a generous number of ports. On the left side is 1-USB 2.0 port, a VGA out port and a PCMCIA Type-II PC Card slot. Also on the left side is a slot location for an Express Card that was apparently thought better of and scrapped. I'm baffled by this, you can clearly see that above the PCMCIA slot there is a slot and it has the "EX" designation for Express Card and on the Quick Start Guide indicates the machine having an Express Card slot. However, in the manual there is no mention of this card slot (it does mention the PCMCIA card slot) and there is absolutely no way to remove the dummy piece of plastic Toshiba has put into this "we were going to put it in, but decided not to" port.
Toshiba Satellite M45 back view (view larger image)
On the back of the notebook we have the power port, modem jack, ethernet jack, and video-out port.
Toshiba Satellite M45 right-side view (view larger image)
On the right-side of the M45 we have 2-USB 2.0 ports, a firewire port and the DVD multi-drive for playing/burning both DVDs and CDs.
Processor and Performance
So far my experience with the M45 in measuring performance has been mostly perception and not via benchmark. Perception wise it's certainly a snappy machine for using everyday applications such as Internet Explorer, Windows Media and Office Applications...but then again a budget Celeron processor can handle such things without a hiccup. The Pentium M 730 1.60 GHz processor with 533MHz FSB/915GM-chipset isn't noticeably faster than the older 1.60GHz processor with 400MHz FSB/855GM-chipset on my IBM Thinkpad T40 when using the notebook. But running a simple application that times how long it takes the processor to calcuate Pi to 2-million digits of accuracy does give away the fact the Intel Pentium M 730 is faster than the Intel Pentium M 725 in my ThinkPad T40, here are the results of the IBM Thinkpad T40 (with 1.60GHz Intel Pentium M 725) versus the Toshiba Satellite M45 (with 1.60GHz Intel Pentium M 730).
IBM ThinkPad T40 (Intel Pentium M 725): 2m23s (143s)
Toshiba Satellite M45 (Intel Pentium M 730): 2m12s (132s)
Do the math 100.00 - 100.00 * (132 / 143) = 7.7% difference
So the Pentium M 730 running at the same clock speed as the older Pentium M 725 appears to achieve, as Intel says, approximate a 5% - 10% performance edge in pure processor calculation speed. I haven't tested graphics performance yet, but Intel claims a 93% performance gain with the Pentium M 730 over the Pentium M 725.
To view other notebooks and how fast they calculate Pi to 2-million digits and post your own stats, please visit our popular forum topic "Let's measure our notebook speeds".
The screen for the M45-S331 is a 15.4" Widescreen (1280 x 800) XGA Tru-Brite display (even though on the Toshiba.com website it does not indicate this notebook as having a TruBrite display, trust me, it is). TruBrite means the screen has a glossy finish yet vivid and bright color display. Personally the reflection you get off of these glossy displays doesn't bother me, I like the enhanced brightness you gain. The widescreen display makes viewing DVDs a great experience, and the built-in Harman/Kardon speakers even provide enough volume and quality sound to provide a quality movie watching experience without having to plug in headphones. Two thumbs up on the screen, you won't be disappointed.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Toshiba Satellite M45 above keyboard/touchpad view (view larger image)
I can't deal with non-standard keyboard layouts too well, and the Toshiba M45 is not totally standard. I really dislike the fact there is no Ctrl key on the right side, the Home/PgUp/PgDn/End keys are aligned in an odd vertical way and the delete key normallly located in the upper right is instead in a hard to reach lower right position. The Tab-key on the left-side is also smaller than usual for no good reason and is easy to miss if you're expecting the larger more standard sized key. Feedback from keys is so-so, you don't get the nice solid feedback a ThinkPad gives you but at least the key travel distance is good.
The touchpad is darn awful. It's way too small for this size notebook and the cursor at times has a mind of its own rather than obeying where I think my finger is dragging it via the touchpad. Best advice I can give with the M45 is use a mouse and place the machine on your desk and you'll be much happier than trying to use the touchpad.
With a rudimentary battery drain test of going from full charge to forced shut-down and hibernation at 5% battery charge remaining, the Toshiba Satellite M45 achieved 1 hour and 17 minutes of battery life on the standard battery under the following conditions:
1) Wi-Fi on
2) Screen Brightness full and forced on
3) Machine idling with no programs being used
These results are obviously terrible, I'll try varying the screen brightness and other battery saving configurations to see how much battery life can be squeezed out of this machine and will then post those numbers in the full review.
More to Come
We'll have a full review of the Toshiba M45 in the coming weeks and more insight on how the latest Intel Pentium M processor stacks up on performance!
Pricing and Availability
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