Toshiba Satellite A70 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (39,465)

by Mike Ball

The Satellite A70 is one of Toshiba’s newest desktop replacement systems, featuring a powerful 3.06Ghz Pentium 4 Mobile processor, 512mb of ram, and a surprisingly long-lasting 12 cell Lithium Ion battery. This system’s hardware configuration is plenty for any current application. However, hardcore gamers will find the shared graphics card somewhat lacking. This is an excellent notebook for general use with room to run tomorrow’s software and play most of today’s games.

Toshiba Satellite A70

Configuration

The exact system I purchased is the PSA70C-TS100E (Canadian version, English language)

  • Processor: Pentium 4 Mobile 3.06Ghz
  • RAM: 1 x 512 mb (expandable to 1.5GB with a 1GB SO-DIMM)
  • Hard Disk: 60gb, 4200 RPM
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon 9000, up to 128mb shared (user configurable)
  • Optical Drive: 24x CD burner / 8x DVD reader
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g
  • Display: 15.4″ widescreen WXGA TFT 1280×800
  • Battery: 12 – cell Lithium Ion
  • Ports: 3 USB, headphones, microphone, 5 in 1 card reader, infrared, PC card slot, IEEE 1394, parallel, external monitor, s-video, 56k modem, 10/100 Ethernet.

Included in the Box

  • Satellite A70 Computer
  • Power adapter
  • Telephone cord (6 ft)
  • Recovery DVD
  • Manual and documentation

Machine Layout

Right side view of the Toshiba Satellite A70

From left to right on the right-side of the A70 we have: 1 USB port, volume adjustment, headphones jack, microphone jack, wireless switch, security lock port

Back view of the Toshiba Satellite A70

From left to right on the back of the A70 we have: power adapter port, s-video output, external monitor output, parallel port, 2 USB ports, Ethernet and modem ports

Left-side view of the Toshiba Satellite A70

From left to right on the left-side of the A70 we have: Infrared port, optical drive, PC card slot, 5 in 1 card reader, IEEE 1394

Further information about my configuration is available on the Toshiba Canada website.

Toshiba Canada Website Link

Toshiba currently offers another configuration differing only in it’s  2.8 Ghz processor, 40gb hard disk, and 8 cell battery. This model is priced at $1800 C / $1370 US. Also, according to my manual, various other configurations are available, with processors up to the Pentium 4 538 and DVD burners, but I have yet to see these for sale anywhere with the A70 model number.

Why I Chose the Satellite A70

When I was researching what notebook to buy, I looked at several models and read extensively on the forums at notebookreview.com. I wanted a system that was capable of meeting my needs as an engineering student(music, DVDs, Internet, assignments, programming), but also able to play the occasional 3D video game. My maximum price was $2000CDN / $1500US. Portability and battery life were not a priority. Other notebooks I looked at included the Compaq R3000 series with the ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card. I liked this system a lot, but the systems sold in Canada only included a basic 32mb graphics card and not the 9600. I also looked at the eMachines m6805, featuring an AMD 64 bit processor and again the Radeon 9600 graphics card. In America this machine is periodically on sale at Best Buy, but in Canada they don’t even carry it. At Future Shop however, they do carry it, but for $2200 C, which is out of my price range. Other models from HP also struck my fancy, but because I live in Canada, I couldn’t get the exact model I wanted.

Thus the largest problem I encountered in my notebook search was finding the exact system I wanted in Canada. I spent many hours searching for laptops available here, but none fit the bill, until I found the A70. It’s hardware is exactly what I was looking for, except for the graphics card. However, being the closest match, I jumped on a sale at Future Shop offering the computer with a wireless router for $1900 C(Regular $2000). The sale also offered a free wireless router. I could also have purchased the laptop from my university for $1870 C (regular price), but without the router. Needless to say, I thought a $30C router was a steal.

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. 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 bear legs and experienced no discomfort. (However, there is a sticker on the bottom of the machine warning against prolonged skin contact due to possibility of burns, but I’ve played strategy games for hours with no problem)

The A70 weighs in at 7.98 pounds without the power adapter. This isn’t as heavy as it sounds, although you wouldn’t want to carry this in your backpack. Remember, this is a desktop replacement system and not designed to be light-weight. Also, while many people complain about the size of the power adapters with other notebooks, I have found the adapter for this machine to be fairly reasonable in size. It does become quite hot, however.

The Toshiba Satellite A70 power adapter is a reasonable size, not as big as a brick like some other desktop replacement sized notebooks

A minor annoyance I have found is the placement of the headphones jack. Placed at the middle right of the machine, I find it interferes with external mice when speakers are plugged in since the cord gets in the way of my mouse. I also plug my mouse into the rear USB port instead of the one located beside the headphones jack for the same reason. Maybe my desk is just too small!

Screen, Keyboard, Touchpad and Speakers

The screen is bright, crisp, and clear with no dead pixels. Via function keys or software, the brightness can be set at one of 8 levels. The widescreen is a nice bonus, but I wouldn’t suggest letting that be the selling point of a notebook, there’s really not that much more space in my opinion. 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. The Control key is positioned in the proper place, below the left shift key. There are also dedicated home, pageup, pagedown, end, and arrow keys. The touchpad features a scrolling ability like a wheel mouse. This is accomplished by sliding your finger along the right extremity of the pad. You can also scroll laterally by sliding your finger along the bottom. If you use an external mouse, the touchpad is easily deactivated by hitting FN + F9.

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 apparently associated with the configurable button located directly below it, but I have yet to see it turn on. 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. They probably work with other players, but I haven’t tested this.


Toshiba Satellite A70 keyboard view from above

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 quite loud. That said, if you plan to listen to much music at your desk, you’d be wise to invest in a pair of external speakers. I personally connect my computer to a mini hi-fi stereo system.

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