Toshiba Satellite A70 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (211,522)

by Amrit, New Zealand

 

Overview and Introduction

The Toshiba Satellite A70 system I purchased is the model number PSA70A — 0WJ00W (New Zealand/Australian version, English language), with Windows XP Home. This is a desktop replacement style machine.

Toshiba Satellite A70 Specs

  • Processor: Pentium 4 552 – 3.46Ghz with Hyperthreading, 1MB L2 Cache
  • RAM: 1 x 512 MB
  • Hard Disk: 60GB, 4200 RPM
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon 9000, up to 128mb shared
  • Optical Drive: DVD Supermulti Drive supporting 24x CD burner / 8x DVD +/- R, +/-RW and RAM
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g
  • Display: 15.4″ widescreen WXGA TFT 1280×800 with Super Bright technology
  • Battery: 12 – cell Lithium Ion
  • Ports: 3 x USB, 1 x Headphone, 1 x Microphone, 5 in 1 card reader, Infrared, 1 x PC card slot, IEEE 1394, 1 x Parallel, 1 x External monitor, 1 x S-Video, Built-in 56k modem, 10/100 Ethernet

Included in the Box

  • Satellite A70 Notebook Computer
  • Power adapter
  • Telephone cord (6 ft)
  • Recovery DVD, MS One Word, MS XP Home
  • Manual and documentation

Machine Layout

Right hand side view of the Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W (view larger image)

From the left to right on the right hand side of the A70 there is present: 1 USB port, Volume adjustment, Headphones jack, Microphone jack, Wireless switch and Security lock port

Rear view of the Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W (view larger image)

From the left to right on the rear of the A70 there are: Power adapter port, S-Video output, External monitor output, Parallel port, 2 x USB ports, Ethernet and Modem ports

Left hand side view of the Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W (view larger image)

From the left to right on the LHS of the A70 there are: Infrared port, Optical drive, PC card slot, 5 in 1 card reader, IEEE 1394 firewire port

Toshiba Australia and New Zealand (NZ) offers two other configurations for the Satellite A70 besides the one that I have, these configurations differ only in the terms of the Processor, which are the P4 3.20GhZ or 3.33Ghz (my configuration is 3.46GHz P4), both of these other offerings have a 40GB Hard Disk and 256MB of RAM. Due to the lower specs, the cost of the lower end A70 is about $500 (NZ) cheaper than mine

Reasons for buying the Satellite A70

When I was researching what notebook to buy, I looked at several models and read extensively in the forums at notebookreview.com. I wanted a system that was capable of meeting my needs as a fulltime working professional and part-time student.  I also simply needed a separate machine for myself without the need to share with the rest of the family.  Now I’m not being selfish, it’s just that the Desktop computer I have has been taken over by the kids needing study time on it. I also wanted a notebook computer that would have enough capacity for my large MP3 music collection (a few thousand files in number), the ability to play DVDs, store photographs etc. The price limit for me was set at about $ 3000 (NZ). Being my first notebook computer and knowing I’d be using this at home quite a bit, portability and battery life was not a priority.
Where and How purchased

I researched both Noel Leeming and the Harvey Norman chain of electronic stores here in New Zealand. Settling on Noel Leeming (www.noelleeming.co.nz) the first notebook I bought was the Hewlett Packard DV1123 — Centrino 1.7GHz, 60GB HDD & 512MB RAM for $ 3000 (NZ) (Link)

The DV1123 is a beautiful machine, really mobile and light and very nice to work on. Until I showed it to some workmates in IT who immediately wrote off the machine saying it was too wimpy with a 1.7GHz processor and instead recommended a Toshiba. One of them made the allusion to HP machines being similar to a Hyundai car and the Toshiba like a European car!

This saw me back in the computer store the next week and forking out an additional 200$ (NZ) for the Toshiba Satellite A70 for $3000 (basic machine + negotiated a free Norton’s Antivirus, a Targus Carry bag and a 16-month Interest free payment plan) I also spent an additional $399 (NZ) for a 3-year extended warranty. The machine comes with a standard 1-year warranty. Not a bad deal I thought when I compared the price to what other stores in New Zealand such as Harvey Norman were offering.

Satellite A70 Design

This seems to be a very well made computer. After several weeks of use, I have had no problems. The casing is made of a combination of plastic and metal.  It has two sturdy hinges holding the display to the main body. Two fans mounted on the bottom of the machine and air vents at the rear provide adequate cooling with no signs of overheating. While wearing shorts, I’ve had the laptop resting on my legs and experienced just a wee bit of discomfort.

The Satellite A70 weighs in at 7.98 pounds without the power adapter. To me this isn’t as heavy as it sounds, although you wouldn’t want to carry this with a single hand and you’d probably get tired carrying it around all day in a case or backpack. You must remember that this is a desktop replacement system and therefore is not designed to be lightweight. Also, the size of the power adapter is quite large — not unlike a small brick! The power adapter can become quite hot whilst charging too.

The Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W power adapter is as big as a brick

Minor Annoyances

A few weird annoyances I have found – The volume control dial is, ironically, hard to control — your fingers seem to slip at the end of its travel both ways and you sometimes do not realise that the dial has reached its maximum travel. The placement of the headphones jack can interfere with anything connected to the right hand side USB port (such as a mouse). Also weird is the slide control used to switch on and off the Wireless LAN connection. It takes a bit of force and  you risk snapping a nail off when using it. When you first turn on the machine for boot up the fan starts blowing very loudly for about 5 seconds, but it stops after this initial period of exhausting air.

Screen, Keyboard, Touchpad and Speakers

The screen is very nice, bright, crisp, and clear.  I was fortunate enough to have no dead pixels on my screen. Via function keys the brightness can be set at one of 8 levels. The widescreen is a nice look. The maximum resolution for the LCD is 1280 x 800, but resolutions up to 2048 x 1356 are supported for external monitors. The LCD’s refresh rate is fixed at 60Hz.

The keyboard is full size and feels smooth and returns a satisfying click when used. The Control key is positioned in the proper place, below the left shift key. There are also dedicated Home, Page up, Page down, End, and Arrow keys. The touchpad features a scrolling ability like a wheel mouse both vertically and horizontally. Sliding your finger along the right or bottom extremity of the pad activates this. If you use an external mouse, the touchpad is easily deactivated by hitting FN + F9. An annoyance with the touchpad is that, unlike the HP machine, the right and bottom extremities are not highlighted with a scroll line that straightaway tells a user about the sliding feature. There are plenty of areas where Toshiba could have made the finish or user friendliness detailing.  In fact, when compared to the HP machine I bought earlier, the user friendliness of buttons and forcing functions (such as arrows on the touchpad to indicate the scroll area) is abysmal. For a machine this expensive I would have liked to have seen the keyboard with backlighting or overhead light such as you get on the IBM ThinkPad.  It’s just hard to see the keys when using the machine in the dark.

There are several buttons located to the left of the keyboard. Topmost is the power button. Immediately below that are two indicator lights, the left being for hard drive access. The right light is associated with the configurable button located directly below it. By default, the configurable button launches Windows Media player, but this can be changed to any program you want. Underneath this there are 4 buttons for play/pause, stop, next and previous tracks. These buttons work with the Intervideo Win DVD movie player and Windows Media Player.

(view larger image)


Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W keyboard views from above (view larger image)

As usual in a laptop, the speakers aren’t the greatest. However, they do produce a reasonable sound and are clear without distortion right up to the highest volume setting, which is reasonably loud.

Media Card Reader

The 5 in 1 card reader on this system is capable of reading Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Smart Media, MMC, and XD cards. It cannot accept Compact Flash cards. This is an important note as this is one of the popular formats for digital camera cards. If you own a digital camera and want to use it with this system, make sure you have one of these formats. Otherwise, you will have to plug in the USB/Firewire cable that came with your camera to download photos.

Memory card reader slot on the A70

The logos for each of the supported formats are also embedded into the plastic, in case you forget what cards your system supports. There is also a moulded rubber cover that pops into the card reader when not in use to keep dust and debris out. A similar plastic insert for the PC card slot is also present (incidentally the HPDV1123 houses a mini multimedia remote control in the PC Card housing — nice touch!)

Wireless

The wireless system in this notebook is made by Atheros. Using the wireless router I got when I purchased my computer, I had no problems setting up a wireless network and transferring all my files from my old system. Since I only have dial-up Internet, I decided to “war drive” (“war driving” is the act of driving around to find a wireless network to “borrow” an internet connection for downloading files) to download my Windows and Anti-virus updates. I quickly found a network and was able to easily download my updates.
The wireless on this computer has the ability to turn on/off via a physical switch on the right side of the case (see minor Annoyances for a bit on this). A handy LED indicator next to the switch also lets you know when your wireless antenna is enabled. This prevents you from needlessly draining your battery searching for WiFi and minimizes your exposure to extraneous radio waves.

Software

The Satellite A70 comes preinstalled with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition. The software is quite measly and you are provided with only MS One Note software, CD burning software, Intervideo Win DVD, a 90-day subscription to Norton antivirus, and Toshiba utilities.
I had to load, post purchase, the following software —

  1. Microsoft Office 2004 Professional.
  2. DVD Shrink
  3. Real Player
  4. QuickTime player

However, to be fair Toshiba does include some neat utilities, such as Touch and Launch. With this utility, a user can briefly touch a corner of the touchpad to get a translucent screen similar to this:

Touch and Launch Application Included with the A70 – This allows quick access to programs, desktop icons, recent documents, or a slew of other user configurable “locations.” (view larger image)

Other utilities Toshiba includes are:

  • ConfigFree – Although I haven’t used this utility, it apparently can store profiles for various locations (i.e.: school, work, home) to configure your Internet and network connections. It can also diagnose problems with your connections and tell you how to fix them. I found it easy enough to configure settings through Windows before I realized this utility was available.
  • DVD silencer – Slows down the DVD drive when enabled so it doesn’t disturb you when you are watching a movie.
  • Modem On Hold – Quoting Toshiba, “This is an application that manages incoming/outgoing voice calls on a single phone line while being connected to the Internet. ” I haven’t used this utility either as it requires Call Waiting which I don’t have.
  • Power Management – See the section below on “battery life.”
  • Speech System – Includes a voice recognition system that will accept your commands to launch programs, and perform tasks within them. It doesn’t appear to type for you, however. I haven’t used this feature because I don’t have a microphone. There is also a text-to-speech system to compliment the voice commands, but it only works within Internet Explorer and Outlook.
    Satellite A70 Performance

With a speedy 3.46Ghz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of RAM, this machine can handle almost all applications. Windows boots to my desktop in about one minute and 10 seconds, and everything feels quick and responsive. The only time things move slow in Windows is when I copy large files, which I suspect is because of the slow 4200 RPM hard drive. CDs are burned quickly, DVDs easily played, and multitasking is accomplished with ease. I can easily run Windows Media player, a few Explorer windows, Excel, and MSN messenger all at the same time. I have also burnt a DVD whilst doing all these tasks, and found the processor used at about 55%

I have not tested the shared graphics card, as I am not much of a gaming person.

Battery Life

Poor Poor Poor!! I am lucky if I am able to squeeze 2 hours and 10 minutes. It is usually about 2-hours before the battery kicks the bucket. This is despite setting to the lowest the power profiles, which are part of Toshiba’s power management utility. This utility allows the user to configure various power profiles exactly how they want them, right down to processor speed.

Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W Power Management application (view larger image)

Operating the wireless card seems to reduce the battery life significantly.

Customer Support / Warranty

The A70 comes with a 1-year warranty. As I have not had any problems with this model, I haven’t had to make use of tech support or the warranty. However, when I purchased my computer from the store Noel Leeming, I did purchase the additional 3-year warranty for $ 399.99 (NZ)

Conclusion

Featuring a 3.46Ghz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 60GB hard drive for $3200 (NZ), this notebook is powerful and has plenty of room for the user to grow into it.

Pros

  • Powerful notebook
  • Beautifully crisp and clear widescreen
  • Sturdy construction from a reputable manufacturer

Cons

  • Shared graphics card
  • Poor Battery life
  • Memory card reader doesn’t support Compact Flash
  • Heavy for using to carry around, best used as a desktop replacement style notebook

Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W Pricing and Availability:

USA:

 

New Zealand:

The Toshiba Satellite A70 J00W is available from http://www.noelleeming.co.nz/

 


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