The 13-inch Toshiba Satellite T135 is an Intel CULV-powered ultraportable boasting long battery life, a thin chassis, and a very low weight. Powered by the 1.3GHz SU4100 and Intel X4500 integrated graphics this notebook is a big step above netbooks but still offers many similar features that are attractive to people who don't want to lug around a full-size notebook. In this review we see how well the Toshiba Satellite T135 performs in our tests, and if it is really worth the price premium over a standard netbook.
Toshiba Satellite T135 Specifications:
Build and Design
The Toshiba Satellite T135 is a stylish ultraportable that looks like a standard notebook from up top, but is much thinner when you see its side profile. Toshiba keeps the profile only a fraction of an inch thicker than the ports on the side of the notebook, though this is done in large part by cutting out things like an ExpressCard slot and optical drive. For the average user this notebook has all the advantages of a standard computer--a 13.3" display and full-size keyboard--but none of the bulk. The color scheme looks nice, although the red is more of a slight purple or pink than what a deep red should look like. Toshiba offers multiple color schemes for this notebook, so if the red doesn't tickle your fancy there are other options like white or black to choose from as well.
Build quality is very nice despite the very thin chassis. Flex and squeaks are kept to a minimum on the lower half of the body, and a metal plate over the hard drive helps keep the vital components safe. The screen cover feels durable as well, although it has just a hair of flex near the section next to the screen hinges which creaked if you gripped it over that spot. If you don't have a death grip over the notebook, it shouldn't present any sort of problems. The glossy finish on the body holds up very well to scratches, which is a must since you will probably be wiping it down frequently to keep it clean of fingerprints and smudges. The pattern does a good job of hiding small prints, but it will eventually hit a critical mass that will need a microfiber rub-down.
Users looking to upgrade internal components shouldn't have any problem getting to the system memory or hard drive as long as they have a good set of precision screwdrivers. The Toshiba Satellite T135 is unique in that it uses Torx screws for the hard drive plate ... which aren't always kept in the average person's arsenal of tools. The memory slot cover used standard Phillips screws, so that can be opened even with very common tools. No warranty void if removed stickers were found anywhere, so it should be safe to swap out components without risking your support contract.
Screen and Speakers
The 13.3" LED-backlit screen rates about average compared to other similarly sized screens. Color saturation appears to be above average, but the weaker contrast ratio doesn't help with really deep black backgrounds. Viewing angles rate slightly below average, with colors quickly inverting both vertically and horizontally. Vertical viewing angles start to show color inversion about 15 degrees forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles start to show color distortion at about 45 degrees, mostly in the darker colors. Viewing brightness is adequate for viewing in bright conditions, but outdoor visibility is limited from the amount of reflections off the panel surface.
Speaker quality seemed below average, with a very low peak volume level. Even with the system volume and application volume maxed, it didn't sound much louder than most systems at 50-60%. My best guess as to the reason behind this is the super small speaker drivers and location underneath the palmrest. Sound quality was average for a notebook of this size, with weak bass and midrange audio. Headphones should be a required accessory for this notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard is comfortable to type on and offers excellent support even under very strong pressure. I found the palmrest size to be just perfect to rest my wrists without causing any stress points while typing. The individual keys had a reasonable springy action and, while not as stiff as other keyboard, is still very responsive. Each key had a non-cupped flat surface, similar to a Chiclet-style keyboard but without the sharp drop-off between each key. Typing noise was minimal, with very little sound emitted when each key was triggered. Consumers who are thinking about buying this notebook for typing long documents should have no problems whatsoever.
The Synaptics touchpad was a slight disappointment in that it had a very slow refresh rate. Compared to other touchpads where you can draw circles quick enough to the point where the cursor starts to test the refresh rate of the panel, this particular version reminded us of those old mouse trails. Replacing the drivers with the latest ones offered on the Synaptics website was of no use, since it exhibited the same problem with those as well. The good news though is with the drivers uninstalled, the slow refresh speeds were gone, meaning that it is entirely a driver problem. Going without the drivers isn't the best option for most uses though, since you lose helpful features like scrolling, and corrective features that equalize movement on the X and Y axis. Not counting the driver problems, the touchpad wasn't that bad to use with a great surface texture that allowed you to glide your fingertip effortlessly across the surface. The touchpad buttons could have been improved, as they are part of a single span that pivots at the center. If you normally center your finger by feel alone, you might accidentally click on the middle (which doesn't move) or click on the wrong side.
Ports and Features
Port selection is fairly good when compared to ultraportable notebooks, but without an ExpressCard slot it is lacking compared to regular notebooks. The T135 includes three USB ports, VGA and HDMI-out, LAN, audio jacks, and a Kensington Lock slot. Expansion slots include just the 6-in-1 SDHC-compatible card reader.
Left: Kensington Lock slot, VGA, HDMI, one USB
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