by Perry Longinotti
Intel's dominance of the notebook market the last few years has made reviewing a little less interesting. There are only so many ways to heap praise on Centrino. As we near the end of our wait for AMD's long overdue response to Centrino, Intel has fired another salvo; Centrino 2. This Toshiba Satellite A300-02C is my first notebook using Intel's latest bits and I am giddy like a school girl to test it out.
First the vital statistics (detailed descriptions further down):
Fancy notebooks get loud packaging; the A300-02C gets a conservative brown box. Inside the notebooks and accessories are packed in cardboard. There is still some plastic wrapping, but give Toshiba credit for using easily recycled materials where other vendors use foam. In the accessory box you will find a disappointing 4000mAh battery, manuals, and power adapter.
Build and Design
Every year or two Toshiba revises the look of its notebook chassis. The styling is consistenat across much of the line from 13" to 17" scren models. This year I think Toshiba got it right. Although it comes down to personal taste, the look of the new Satellites is easy on the eyes. Mercury Silver with 80's style horizontal black line motif (reveresed when you lift the lid), these notebooks will pop out from the rest of the crowd on your local big box store shelf. Toshiba has not managed to create a gloss finish immune from fingerprints. PC makers will probably get a better results trying to figure out cold fusion.
Handling the A300-02C you will notice its sturdy construction. Like most notebooks these days, hinge tension works in place of an LCD latch mechanism. Mechanical hinge latches are not something that I miss as they were typically the first part to fail.
Its 15.4" display is bright with good contrast and color saturation. I find the screen quite usable at the lowest brightness setting but most people will probably settle on 50%. The market has adopted 1280*800 for most 15" panels. Text size and the amount of usable screen real estate is good. For example, there is room for one page (web or Word) with the Vista Sidebar still visible. Horizontal viewing angles are good as you would expect. Vertical angles were typical of all TN panels with inversion of colors past a certain point - but that's what the hinge is for. Lavalsys Everest lists the display as an LP154WX5-TLA2 - which is an LG Philips I suspect.
A robust lid protects the LCD panel. Pressing fingers firmly against the back did not cause ripples in the LCD display. Above the display is a webcam and microphone.
At only 6.0 lb. even and just 1.5" thick you won't find carrying this unit around taxing. Width is 14.25" and length is 10." - not a thin and light but not a brick either. In my opinion something that can play games well and still be this portable is a very good thing.
The massive power adapter adds about 1.4 lbs to the travel weight. Yikes! I thought Montevina was going to use less power.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Like the rest of the notebook, the A300-02C's keyboard is finish is glossy. It looks good but the keys are a little slippery. The keyboard is pretty good. The base flexes a bit but the long key travel makes this less of an issue. Key clicks are loud, but touch typists should be quite happy with the keyboard. On the right side of the keyboard you find dedicated Home, PgDn, PgUp, and End buttons. This keyboard takes very little getting used to (unlike the vile, tortuous keyboard on my Acer 6920). Above the keyboard and centered between sharp looking Harmon/Kardon speakers are media control buttons (exactly where they belong - Acer I am talking to you).
Toshiba's touchpads often need a bit of twiddling to get them setup the way I like them (fast with a light touch). The A300-02C arrived and was perfect right out of the box. Unlike in past years, Toshiba has elected to keep the touchpad simple and uncluttered with chotchkas - a smart choice. Buttons are firm and rattle free but they make a strange bubble-wrap popping sound. It may get annoying if absolute silence is something you value but you can always enable tapping on the pad. There is no Apple-like two finger tapping or multitouch. The top of the pad glows white while the notebook is on.
Turn the A300-02C on and go watch a movie. It does not come ready to boot out of the box instead running through a Norton Ghost like setup routine. I timed this at 45 minutes. Checking performance monitor, the A300-02C uses about 1.09 GB of RAM after startup. That's a lot.
The installation is relatively clear of junk. Toshiba's utilities are present, but in some cases they are redundant with Windows offering the same functionality. There is no point having two programs that do the same thing running in memory - a good example being the Wi-Fi configuration.
A novelty is the Toshiba face recognition feature. A cynic might say that this is just a cheap way to add biometric authentication to a notebook without the added cost of a fingerprint reader. After all, even the most basic notebooks have an integrated webcam these days. I was not able to get this working but there are many reports of people using this successfully.
Toshiba also includes a voice recognition and command utility and it works incredibly well. This is a very good accessibility feature. You launch programs, perform tasks and navigate the web. It does a good job of isolating out background noise, but watch out if you have a talkative 5 year old in the room because the results can be pretty funny (or scary if you are working on anything important).
A Norton 360 three month trial is included too. This is a pretty resource intensive antivirus solution - I prefer the Windows firewall, defender, malicious code updates and a freebee like Avira. Norton is so 1980s (trust me I was there).
Lack of an included Vista disc is a disappointment. This notebook is not a $399 door crasher and Gateway provides a disc with less expensive models. Also, unlike Acer which has an obvious restore disc set maker that they bang you over the head with the A300-02C only has a desktop shortcut.
Catalyst Control Center was not present. This is AMD/ATI's excellent software suite that enables access to the RADEON HD's features. Such an omission warranted a correction so I installed the latest ATI driver suite - 8.8.
more than 100 focused websites providing quick access to a deep store of
news, advice and analysis about the technologies, products and processes crucial
to the jobs of IT pros.
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2000 - 2013, TechTarget | Read our Privacy Statement