- Excellent IPS display
- Great backlit keyboard
- Solid performance for most tasks
- Good speakers
- Average battery life
- All plastic chassis
- Fan has a slight whine
The Satellite Fusion series is Toshiba’s hybrid 2-in-1 series. The Fusion 15 we’re reviewing has a 15.6-inch touch display with IPS technology, a fifth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a speedy though small 128GB SSD. We enjoyed most major aspects of this notebook, including its outstanding display to its comfortable keyboard and quality speakers, but found ourselves wishing for better build quality and more than just average battery life.
Build and Design
The Fusion 15’s black and silver exterior has an upscale look compared to a traditional budget notebook, though it’s not in the same league as a notebook using real brushed aluminum. This notebook is constructed of all plastic; the silver surfaces have a glossy finish with a faux brushed aluminum pattern underneath. Despite the glossy surfaces, we didn’t find they showed fingerprints. If you’re willing to pay a little more, the higher-end Satellite Radius 15 offers a brushed aluminum exterior.
The fit and finish is mostly good with the exception of the back corners of the chassis, which are sharper than the other corners. Our major complaint about the build quality, however, is that the Fusion 15’s chassis flexes with little effort. This is easy to demonstrate by pressing down on its palm rest, keyboard, or surrounding areas with little more than average pressure. We were furthermore able to get ripples to appear in the display by pressing in on the lid from behind. These are areas of concern; we were hoping to see a considerably stiffer chassis and a better protected lid. It should be a non-issue provided the notebook is treated with care and not casually tossed around.
The Fusion 15 supports four other modes in addition to notebook: the A-frame presentation; a tabletop mode where the screen is folded back 180 degrees; audience mode with the screen folded back 270 degrees and the keyboard facing down; and of course, tablet mode. The two display hinges operate smoothly. We found presentation mode the most useful as the notebook is relatively stable in this position. Tablet mode is a mixed bag – it goes unsaid that a 15.6-inch tablet is a handful, especially considering the Fusion 15 weighs 5.1 pounds. On the other hand, it feels relatively slim at only 0.9 inches tall. Tablet mode can be especially useful in the back of a car, an airline coach seat, or other situation where it would otherwise be impractical to unfold and use a standard 15.6-inch notebook. Therefore, while it isn’t practical to use the Fusion 15 as a tablet replacement, the convertible abilities have their advantages.
Upgrading the Fusion 15 is no small feat; this notebook wasn’t designed to be user-serviceable. As a matter of fact, Toshiba explicitly lists the memory (RAM) as non-upgradeable, though we found that it was possible. Accessing the two memory slots, M.2 SSD, and the 2.5-inch drive bay requires the removable of 10 Phillips-head screwdrivers in the base of the chassis. This allows the top of the chassis to come off, but you’ll need to use a credit card or small piece of plastic to gently pry the halves apart. It’s not a procedure we recommend, so you’re best off getting the Fusion 15 configured the way you like from the outset.
Input and Output Ports
The Fusion 15 has the essential ports most users will need. Along the left edge is the AC power jack, USB 2.0, headphone and microphone combo jack, volume rocker, and Windows button. The right edge has the rest: an SD card reader, two USB 3.0, HDMI, the power button, and a lock slot. The cooling exhaust vents are along the backside of the chassis. The front edge of the chassis has only the power and battery charge indicator lights.
Screen and Speakers
The highlight of this notebook is its excellent 15.6-inch touch display. It has unlimited viewing angles thanks to in-plane switching (IPS) technology, a necessity on a convertible notebook since it will undoubtedly be used without always looking at the display head-on. The brightness is very good, enough for use outdoors. The only problem using the Fusion 15 outdoors is the reflective display surface, which acts as a mirror and produces blinding reflections.
The display otherwise has plentiful contrast and an overall great picture. The FHD (1920×1080 pixels) resolution is perfect for watching 1080p video or multitasking with two windows side-by-side. Note the base Fusion 15 includes only a 1366×768 resolution display which isn’t as high of quality as this upgraded model.
Two Skullcandy-branded speakers reside beneath a narrow grille above the keyboard. They have good volume though don’t qualify as loud. The sound has good detail and measurable bass. We found the included DTS Sound app had useful settings that improved the overall sound quality, including a bass and a volume booster. There was little distortion even at 100% volume; that’s impressive considering the size of the speakers.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size tile keyboard features white backlighting with one level of brightness; the latter can be toggled on and off by pressing the Fn and Z keys together. The keys have an engaging feel with a light and quick up-and-down action. They make little noise when pressed. There’s no perceptible flex using normal typing pressure. The keyboard has a desktop-like layout and includes a dedicated numeric keypad on the right; its two-thirds size keys take some minor adjustment but are quite usable.
The Synaptics clickpad is the right size for a 15.6″ display. It has a smooth surface that’s easy to track fingers across. It’s slightly easier to produce a click by pressing at the bottom of the pad as opposed to the top, but the difference is minor. The clicks are, to our relief, borderline inaudible. The slight play in the surface is beneficial for tapping to click, as it adds a perceptible amount of feedback.