The A350 series notebook is the latest 16" notebook from Toshiba and the successor to the 15.4” A305. This new model offers the same look and feel of its smaller brother as well as the same system configuration. In this review we take a look at the Intel configuration of the A355 and find out if it performs as well as its smaller brother.
Toshiba Satellite A355-S6943 Specifications:
Build and Design
The A355 is nearly identical to the older A305 notebook, even sharing the same overall design and paint job. The plastics are glossy or even mirror-like over much of the notebook. The cover has a pinstripe metallic silver and chrome pattern, changing to a chrome and black pattern on the inside. The keyboard shares the same high gloss look with black paint and white lettering. The lower half of the chassis is standard plastic with a matte finish, with removable covers for each user-replaceable part.
The Toshiba A355 feels very durable through the use of good plastics and the scratch-resistant Fusion finish. Chassis flex is minimal if you are holding the notebook from a side corner. Screen protection is pretty good with only mild screen distortions when pressing on the back of the display cover. The glossy Fusion finish holds up well against day to day abrasions ... which might include slipping it in and out of your backpack as you take it to class.
Access to system components is easy through three panels on the bottom of the notebook. None of the panels have “warranty void if removed” stickers to inhibit upgrades. Two panels give access to the dual hard drives and the third panel allows you to swap out the RAM and wireless card.
The 16” TruBrite display features a 16:9 ratio and has good color saturation and contrast thanks in part to the glossy polarizer layer. Compared to other notebooks this panel falls into the middle of the ground with average viewing angles. Vertical viewing angles are limited to a sweet spot that ranges about 15 degrees up or down before colors start to invert or wash out. Horizontal viewing angles are better, staying accurate at steep angles from both sides. Backlight levels are great for viewing in bright conditions, but aren’t bright enough for outdoor viewing.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The glossy keyboard is comfortable to type on, but not the easiest to read in bright rooms. The keyboard surface is firm with minimal flex under hard typing and individual key action is smooth with a mild click when pressed. The glossy surface reflects glare from overhead lights, which depending on the angle completely wash out the white lettering on each key. Smudges are another problem with the glossy surface which needs to be wiped down frequently to keep its clean fingerprint-free look.
Toshiba included an ALPS touchpad on the A355, which after some tweaking became very usable. Out of the box the cursor was very twitchy until I ramped up the sensitivity and lowered the speed. The touchpad surface is a matte overlay on the palmrest with the color scheme slightly showing through. The surface was easy to move across under most conditions, but the flush surface made it hard to stay within the boundaries. Scrolling took a while to get used to since I kept moving off of the touchpad surface.
The A355 also supports disabling the lights for the media keys and around the touchpad. This can help reduce all the distracting illumination “features” when watching a movie with the lights out.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the A355 is great, with four USB ports, FireWire, eSATA through a USB combo port, S-Video, HDMI, VGA, LAN, and audio jacks. This notebook also features a 5-in-1 multicard reader, ExpressCard/54 slot, and a FM Tuner. In this day and age the S-Video port is somewhat of a mystery, but at least they didn’t take away something else to fit that on the side. The FM Tuner is great if you don’t want to be connected to the internet to listen to streaming music, but it does require a whip antenna attached to the side to function.
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