by Bryan Lam, Canada
The Toshiba Satellite U200 series notebook is a consumer version of their Tecra M6 series. This model is also sold under the U205 nomenclature in the USA. The model that is under review is a Canadian model that was pre-built and specified by Toshiba Canada. Unfortunately, Toshiba does not offer a customized to order (CTO) option for us. Through my research the only difference between the M6 and U200/U205 series is the fact that the M6 is geared more towards business use so the warranty reflects this and lacks multimedia control buttons. Since the introduction of the U200 series in Canada, they have always been very similar configurations. Each new model would only offer an incremental change in CPU speed and HD capacity. The retail price has always been between $1499.00 and $1599.00. Looking at the specs it is obvious that this unit packs a lot of performance and features in a small and affordable package. The U200 series is available at most big box stores and generally a special order at smaller computer suppliers. With origins from a business oriented Tecra model the U200 is not meant for gaming as you gather from the specifications. The U200-PT7 is the newest model in the lineup and differs from its predecessor with a faster processor, larger HD, and Vista Home Premium pre-installed.
Toshiba Satellite U200-PT7
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For More Detailed Specs Please go to: Toshiba U200-PT7
Reasons for Purchase:
It took me a lot of time searching NotebookReview.com and reading reviews to finally settle on this unit. I had a hard time deciding on exactly what I wanted. I had started my search because of the need to replace my DV2020CA (dv2000z). Nothing was wrong with it but I wanted a change. Having two other Toshiba laptops that I had nothing good experiences with told me I should look at what they had to offer. I have two other Toshiba laptops that are still running like champs so I have a weak spot for Toshiba products. I was torn between either a 17? desktop replacement, or an Ultra-portable. The idea behind this was either go big or small, not in between, as my other laptops would fit in that category. I ended up deciding to go with something smaller. I am in sales and more often than not like to take my laptop with me to work. In the end I had narrowed it down to three possibilities.
There were various reasons why I eliminated the other two. After configuring what I wanted with the Dell it was going to cost about $500 more and I couldn?t justify it. Another thing is when I saw it in real life at my local Dell Direct Kiosk, I really didn?t like the finish and feel of it. Dell had also really upset me too. I called in to order originally, and got tied up so I told the guy I would call him back within a few days. During the next 2 days I got 10 phone calls from other sales reps trying to sell me a laptop. That in my mind was way too pushy. The reason why I didn?t buy the Lenovo was mainly because I couldn?t touch or feel one before purchasing one. Every Lenovo dealer in my area had to order one in. In the end I bought the U200-PT7. I ended up buying from London Drugs, which is a great company to deal with. The guys that work in their computer department are generally pretty knowledgeable and they have lots of different models on display for you to play around with. I was able to touch and feel and actually play with the actual unit I wanted to buy. My initial impression was good as it had the typical Toshiba fit and finish I was accustomed to and it felt solid too, more on that later. At the time of my purchase, they had the previous model, U200-PT6, on sale for $100 dollars less. I decided that I would take a gamble on Vista so I preferred one with it pre-installed so I wouldn?t have to deal with drivers and such. Plus it had a faster processor and hard drive.
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The packaging was on par with any other laptop I have seen. Well centered in a thick corrugated cardboard box, nothing fancy. Everything was packed and padded nicely. Before I cracked the box open I didn?t notice anything floating around or rattling around either. Once opened, I made sure everything was complete. There were the manuals, software, power brick, powercord, battery, and the laptop. The only disks that Toshiba provided with this system were a system recovery disk and a Vista Anytime Upgrade disk. I really like the fact that they also provided a printed copy of the user?s manual as well as an actual recovery disk. Other companies now, force you to make your own recovery DVD?s which is a time consuming process. Most laptops only come with a .pdf copy of it. One of the most interesting things I noticed when I opened the package was the fact that there was a thin piece of plastic attached to the cover with four adhesive tabs. It wasn?t your typical plastic wrapping that protects the laptop during shipping. It seems as if it was meant to be left on the cover if one chose to. Nice feature as it will definitely protect it from scratches.
Software and OS:
Well just like every other consumer laptop, the U200 came with its fair share of bloatware. Some of it was nice, and some of it was junk. Toshiba has a utility that helps you setup or connect to a wireless network. If you are new to wireless it will definitely come in handy. The fingerprint recognition software is really nice. I have setup a few sites where I can automatically log in by just swiping my finger. It works quite well and I have no qualms about it. Another useful utility is a hard drive monitor that alerts you if it senses shock or vibration. I had to tweak it a little bit as the factory setting was overly sensitive. The only thing I didn?t like about the software packages was the fact that most of it couldn?t be removed using the Add/Remove feature in Control Panels. I still haven?t had time to remove all the bloatware, but the system seems to be pretty snappy as it is. I might just leave well enough alone.
Windows Vista running on the U200 (view large image)
The model I am reviewing had Vista Home Premium pre-installed which was great. I didn?t want to deal with an upgrade so having it pre-installed eliminated the headaches of downloading drivers and having any compatibility problems. My friend bought a copy of Home Premium to install on his laptop and he still doesn?t have it running properly. I was initially worried about how well Vista would run on this machine but after having used it for the last couple weeks I can tell you I am 100% satisfied. Aero is great on this machine and is as smooth as silk.
Build Quality and Design:
Top view of Satellite U200 (view large image)
The build quality is amazing for this size and class of machine. I was very impressed at how solid it was built. Once you pick it up for the first time you will instantly notice the heft and solid feel. As far as materials used, the U200 features a magnesium frame to withstand the bumps and bruises of today?s laptop user. According to Toshiba, the U200 has an air cushion around the hard drive to resist shock. Twisting the LCD cover will produce the typical rippling effect, however, not as bad as some of the other units I have seen. There aren?t any gaps or loose fitting parts anywhere on the unit. The hinges are very sturdy and provide the screen with more than enough support. The keyboard has a great feel and has plenty of feedback and key travel. I did not notice any flex in the keyboard whatsoever. The finishing is beautiful and is the same as any other Toshiba Satellite. It has a matt grey finish that will not wear down like other materials that are used. All in all, I would say it is one of the better built laptops I have seen in this price range or higher.
Front side of Satellite U200 (view large image)
Left side of Satellite U200 (view large image)
Right side of Satellite U200 (view large image)
Satellite U200 under side (view large image)
Touchpad and Keyboard:
The touchpad works very well albeit a little small and the buttons are very responsive. I really don?t care much for touchpads as I use a mouse anyways. However, it is nice to know that a good touchpad is there if I ever need it. As I said above, the keyboard didn?t have any noticeable flex. I felt very comfortable touch typing on it. You do have to get used to the location of certain keys like Page Up/Down, Delete, etc. There is plenty of travel and feedback and a very assuring click with every key stroke is great. The multimedia keys work as they should and make it easy to watch DVD movies, listen to CD music, and use Windows Media Player.
Screen and Speakers:
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The screen on the U200 is wonderful with its 1280 X 800 pixel resolution. I know one thing for sure, is that I love widescreen displays. It is obvious that it won?t provide the highest resolutions because of its size but it definitely resolves tons of detail. The default font size is very comfortable and easy on the eyes. Even with multiple windows open I still found that the screen showed enough information that I was not constantly switching between windows. I did notice some light leakage on the bottom of the screen. However, it is only noticeable when you look down at the screen from an angle. From a head on view it is barely noticeable. Otherwise, I am not that particular about it though. As with all glossy screens, the viewing angle is quite narrow. However, the video quality is super. I have been watching DVD movies and am totally satisfied with the quality. The screen brightness can be adjusted and is very bright at the maximum setting. Even at the lowest brightness, everything is still crystal clear. The speakers are not great as is expected with a machine of this size. Sound quality is ok at low to medium volumes. As soon as you crank it up, the sound becomes quite tinny and the quality drops. However, you can turn the volume quite high so volume is not the problem. Bass is non-existent!!! I have tried the onboard audio system with a pair of Shure headphones and the sound quality is actually quite good so I expect a good set of external speakers will provide some nice tunes.
Heat and Noise:
I have been using the U200 quite extensively for the last couple weeks. I normally use it plugged into the wall. This unit doesn?t seem to produce too much heat. Even running SuperPi and Pcmark05, when the processor and system were under stress the heat was barely there. You could feel some hot air coming from the heatsink vent but that was about it. There was very little heat on the handrests in front of the keyboard. I was quite impressed with how quite the U200 was. Even when the fan turned on it did not prove to be a nuisance. It very rarely comes on and only came on a few times while running the benchmark tests.
Power adapter size comparison (view large image)
For the most part, I run the unit plugged in. However, I did have an opportunity to run it on battery a few times and was quite happy with its performance. I was able to work continuously for just under 3hrs. This was done in Power Saver Mode, using Performance Mode would net around 1.5hrs from my experience. I have not tried Balanced Mode but I would estimate a battery time of close to 2hrs. This numbers aren?t bad for a 6-cell battery. However, I wish there was an option for a 9-cell for extended use away from a wall outlet.
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Processor and Performance:
The U200 I bought came equipped with a T2250 Core Duo processor. It is not the fastest processor out there but isn?t the slowest either. I am really happy with the performance numbers it posted with the benchmarks I ran. If Toshiba offered custom built systems in Canada I might have opted for a faster Core 2 Duo processor but I am quite pleased with what?s in it right now. Since this system came with Vista Home Premium pre-installed I checked my experience index as soon as I opened the box. My overall score was a 3.1. Nothing impressive, however I was really surprised by the Processor, Memory, and Hard Disk scores. I wasn?t expected any smoking scores because of the Intel GMA 950 graphics but I wasn?t expecting high scores in three of the categories. Overall, the U200 is very quick and snappy when it comes to using Vista while multitasking. I normally have about 10 windows open at a time and the system never experienced a hiccup. Vista Aero runs smooth as silk and I did not experience any choppiness. Very satisfied with the fact that Aero runs so well on this system. I was very skeptical of its performance on the Intel GMA 950 before I experienced it myself. As you can see from the benchmarks I ran, this system keeps up with systems with higher and faster specs.
|Toshiba Satellite U200 (1.73GHz Core Duo, Intel Integrated graphics)||3,113 PCMarks|
|Fujtisu Siemens Amilo Xi1554 Review (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1900, Windows XP)||5,066 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600)||4,621 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600)||4,739 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
SuperPi tims the processor to see how long it takes to calculate the number Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:
|Toshiba Satellite U200 (1.73GHz Core Duo)||1m 23s|
|MSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo)||1m 11s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 29s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
HDTune measures the hard drive health and performance
Windows Experience Index:
When at home, all my laptops run wirelessly. I use a Linksys Wireless G router and the performance of the U200 wirelessly was good. I did not run into any problems with connectivity. At the office I do use the wired network adapter. It would have been nice to have a 10/100/1000 Network adapter but I am sure 10/100 works great for my needs. I did not have a chance to try the internal modem as I don?t use dial-up anymore.
I am very happy with my purchase of the U200. I have no regrets about getting this unit and not choosing one of the other systems I looked at. The only one thing I would have changed was the fact that the only processor available was the T2250. I just wish Toshiba would offer us Canadians the ability to build our own systems. Speed and performance freaks won?t find the U200 fast enough but for the average user looking for an ultra-portable notebook I would not hesitate to recommend the U200-PT7.
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