by Chris Wintle
Toshiba M30 Overview & Reasons for Buying
After 2 years of questionable computer services at my local College, I decided a laptop would be useful in University. I set a price limit of about $2000 Canadian and the search began.
I wanted a Centrino for the extra battery life. Portability was also important as I would be carrying it around. I considered some models with Integrated Graphics, but after reading some reviews a separate video card was definitely required. So it seemed I would have to sacrifice some portability for better performance, but as long as it didn t weight too much it wouldn t be a problem. Widescreen wasn t really that important, but if it had one all the better.
The choice came down to the Toshiba M30 or the Acer 2012-WLMi. I personally preferred the look and ergonomics of the Toshiba, but for the same price the Acer had more features. But when the Toshiba M30-YSJ with similar, if not better features than the WLMi was accidentally priced at 1999.99 at Best Buy (the same price as the lower M30-710), I couldn t resist and picked one up.
This is first notebook and first review, so I will try to cover as much as possible. If there is anything I missed, feel free to ask me via the discussion boards.
Toshiba Satellite M30-YSJ
Toshiba M30 Image Gallery
To save bandwidth and reduce download time the following review of the Toshiba M30 includes direct links to pictures associated to each section. To see the entire image gallery associated to this review click the following link:
The specifications for this notebook as tested are as follows:
- 15.4 WXGA screen (1280 x 800), with TruBrite
- 1.6 GHz Pentium M 715 CPU (1Mb L2 cache)
- 512Mb DDR PC2700 ram (1x512Mb), expandable to 2048Mb.
- 80 GB 4200 rpm HDD (Toshiba MK8025GAS)
- 64Mb DDR NVIDIA GeForce FX GO 5200
- Intel 2200bg wireless, 100/10 built-in wireless and internal V.92 data/fax modem
- Super-Multi drive (MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ-820S)
- Harmon/Kardon speakers
- Windows XP Home Edition
Out of the Box:
Straight out of the box, the Toshiba M30 came with several accompanying papers and information booklets, an RJ-11 phone cable, an AC Adaptor, an adaptor for the monitor-in feature (which will be discussed later), a Toshiba software restore DVD and restore CD for the Express Media player (also to be discussed later).
Design, Build and Weight:
I think the Toshiba M30 is very cool looking but the design of a notebook is very subjective. Its dimensions are 360mm (W) x 270mm (D) x 25 mm (H) in the front and approx. 35mm (H) in the back. It weighs 2.86kg (6.3lbs) and the power adapter adds 370g. It s just at the extreme of a thin-and-light notebook, but with a 15.4 screen it can only be so small. Nevertheless it is small enough to carry around without being too much of a nuisance.
The case is entirely plastic, but still sturdy. When closed, the top is metallic-silver, and the bottom is black. When opened, the trim around the monitor is black, and the keyboard surround (including a 3mm strip around the sides) is metallic-silver. I don t believe it would survive a drop from too high, but could take a bit of a beating.
On the back, you can see the AC Adaptor in, the RJ-11 and RJ-45 jacks, and the VGA-out.
On the front left side, there are media-keys which help control the Express Media Player and other media in windows. Just below, there is a wireless ON/OFF switch, a volume control dial and the FIR. To the left, there are some media-related indicators. To the right, there are indicators for AC power, power-on, and if the battery is charged or charging.
On the left side, there is a firewire port, an S-Video in, a PC-Card slot and an SD card slot. Behind a small flap, there is a USB port and the monitor-in port. On the right, there is the mic-in port, a headphone-out port, 3 USB ports, and the Super-Multi drive. I will restate all the connectivity ports in a convenient list later.
[click to view image of left-side]
To the left of the keyboard, you can find the power switch, indicators for the hard-drive, the SD slot, the CD-ROM and the wireless network. There are also buttons to activate the Express Media Player, to switch to monitor-in, and for S-Video out. There is also a microphone which records very clearly at a comfortable sitting distance from the laptop, and with a bit of noise at longer distances.
On the bottom, both RAM slots, the wifi-adapter and the hard drive are easily accessible by removing some panels.
One aspect that does concern me slightly is the latch. It is made of plastic and if treated too roughly it would probably snap off.
Some people on the forums have said they do not like the TruBrite screen, but I find it very bright and crisp. The brightness can be set from 1 to 8. I find 2 or 3 good if you re not using where there is sunlight. There were no dead pixels out of the box, and there still is none.
The widescreen is great for movies, word processing, excel and other general activities. However, I have found the odd screen resolution a bit of a hassle when trying to use the S-Video and VGA out, and in some games. There is an option in the in the display properties so that games not supporting the native 1280×800 resolution will display within the screen at the resolution set in the game. However, this leaves black bars on the sides and the top.
I don t know too much about laptop speakers but for the size (about that of a dime), the Harmon/Kardon speakers are great. They lack bass, but they still sound good and can be turned up loud. You might want external speakers if you want a lot of volume and bass, but for normal use the internal ones are more than adequate for me.
This notebook comes with a MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ-820S Super-Multi drive. I believe this is the same Super-Multi drive that is in the Acer 2012WLMi. It can be removed from the computer by removing two screws from the underside of the notebook. It reads and burns pretty much everything at varying speeds, which I have listed below:
- Read: CD-ROM (24X), CD-R (16X), CD-RW (8X), DVD-ROM (8X), DVD-R (4X), DVD-RW (2X), DVD+R (2.4X), DVD+RW (2.4X), DVD-RAM (2X).
- Write: CD-R (16X). CD-RW (8X), CD-RW (8X), DVD-R (4X). DVD-RW (2X), DVD+R (2.4x), DVD+RW (2.4x), DVD-RAM (2x).
I ve only burned a few things on this drive: a full CD-RW and a full DVD-R, when the computer was plugged in. They both burned in the same time as a desktop (for a full DVD-R it is about 30 minutes at 4x, and for a full CD-RW it is a bit over 10mins at 8x).
The drive is noisy when speeding up, and when running at full speed. Toshiba provides a program to slow down the speed, thus making it nearly silent. It is only useful if you want minimum performance from the drive. I tried turning it on when loading a program, and it reduced the loading time considerably. I also noticed that some applications lag a bit when the drive speeds up.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Overall, I find the keyboard and touchpad to be well placed. There is noticeable flexing in the keyboard when it is used normally, but is not too bad. There is a numeric mode to overlay a number pad on the keyboard. The touchpad works well too. Tapping on the keypad acts as the left mouse button, which I find useful. The buttons below the touchpad are also well-placed and not stiff. However, a scroll button would have been a good feature. Toshiba provides some interesting software for the touchpad. With one program, you can set it up so a motion of your finger from each of the 4 corners can open up different files, folders etc.
Ports and Connectivity:
The Toshiba M30-YSJ comes with these connectivity options:
- 4 well-placed USB ports
- 1 IEEE-1394
- SD card slot
- 1 S-Video out
- 1 Infrared (FIR)
- 1 VGA output for an external monitor
- 1 32bit type II PCMCIA Card Bus slot
- 1 speaker, headphone and line-out jack
- 1 microphone/line-in jack
- 1 DC in jack for the AC Adaptor
- 1 RJ-11 jack for the integrated V.92 modem
- 1 RJ-45 jack for the 10/100 integrated Ethernet
- 1 monitor in and audio-in jack.
There is no parallel port, but it doesn t really make a difference to me. There is only an SD card reader on this notebook. I know some other notebooks have a multiple card reader, but again this wasn t an important feature for me. My digital camera uses xD picture cards anyway, and I haven t seen a notebook that supports this format yet.
A feature I found particularly cool on this notebook is the monitor-in port. The notebook comes with an adaptor cable to connect a composite video and audio left/right input at one end, and connect it into an input port on the laptop which looks like a headphone jack.
Wifi is supported via the integrated Intel 2200bg card, which is easily accessible as I mentioned above. There is a wireless indicator by the keyboard, and an ON/OFF switch. Unfortunately, I haven t been able test the wifi yet, but I will once I start school again. I am not sure if this laptop has Bluetooth.
Battery life/ AC Adaptor:
The stock battery is a 6-cell Lithium Ion (Li-ion) 10.8V x 4400mAh capacity. The battery life on this notebook depends greatly on what you re doing, the display brightness etc. I managed about 4 hours with the long-life mode at 600 MHz, without the wifi on, doing word processing and listening to music some of the time. If you play games, run the processor at full speed etc. it lowers the life.
I don t have any programs to benchmark the battery life. However, it was suggested that a good test is to run a looping MP3 playlist with the screen brightness on its highest level. Since I find the brightest screen setting overly bright, I ran a looping MP3 playlist on Winamp 5.04 at half brightness and the battery lasted about 3 hours. Again, this test was done at 600 MHz without wifi on. These readings are decent, but could be a bit better. I recommend a second normal battery, or Toshiba s high-capacity batter (double that of the normal one) if you don t have any access to a plug for the day.
The AC-Adaptor is small and well-built. It adds 370g to the travel weight and should easily fit into a notebook carrying case.
Heat and noise:
The amount of heat and noise produced by this laptop varies greatly. If you are just doing word-processing or surfing the net on low processor power, the computer will run pretty cool. However, if you are playing games at full computer power, it can heat up quite a bit. The touchpad is one place where it will heat up, but it is normally not too bad. However, the bottom left side of the computer (where the CPU is located) can get quite hot (I measured 43 degrees C after playing SimCity 4 for a few hours) when you place a large demand on the computer. So I wouldn t want to place it on bare skin.
The fan makes a bit of noise, but only kicks in when a heavy demand is placed on the computer. It works via a small vent on the left side of the notebook, so if you place the computer on a surface that doesn t allow for venting beneath, the fan can still vent from the side.
This laptop came with Windows XP Home SP1 pre-installed. I am using XP Pro on my desktop and considered upgrading my notebook to pro, but for what I do on Windows I can t tell any difference between the two. The following software (apart from drivers, etc.) was also installed:
- TOSHIBA Networking
- Config Free
- V.92 Modem on hold
- TOSHIBA Speech System
- TOSHIBA Utilities
- TOSHIBA Power Saver
- TOSHIBA Console
- TOSHIBA Controls
- TOSHIBA PC DiagnosticTool
- TOSHIBA Touch and Launch
- TOSHIBA Zooming Utility
- TOSHIBA Picture Enhancement Utilities
- Adobe Acrobat reader
- InterVideo WinDVD / WinDVD Creator 2
- Sonic RecordNow! Basic 7 for Toshiba
- Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
By default, the hard drive was setup in one large NTFS partition. I was able to use Partition Magic without difficulty to split this up into 3 smaller partitions.
Toshiba supplied one Product recovery DVD-ROM, and one Express Media Player Recovery CD. The Recovery DVD-ROM gives you the option to either install individual drivers and applications, or to restore the original system default install.
Express Media Player:
I thought this feature, which lets you play DVD s and CD s without turning on your computer, would be worth mentioning. It functions pretty much like a home DVD player and has good functionality, in my opinion. However, I did notice that in certain circumstances the movie will jam for a few moments, or start to play really fast or really slow, both without sound. Also, the volume level is lower in the Express Media player than in Windows. Except for these issues, the player works very well.
Overall, this computer is quick. Even when at 600 MHz (for power-saving), I am easily able to use word and/or use the net, and listen to music at the same time. I have only tried a few games (SimCity 4 and Need for Speed Underground), and they worked on their highest modes without any problems. I am confident it would not have any trouble with games currently on the market.
To test and compare this notebooks processor performance to other notebooks I ran the program called Super Pi (download link: ftp://pi.super-computing.org/windows/super_pi.zip). This is a simple program that allows you to calculate the value Pi to a selected number of digits. When plugged in and running at full performance, the best time to calculate 2 million digits of accuracy for Pi was 2:17. When running on battery power (long life mode at 600 MHz), with the same programs running in the background, this time increased to 9:55. I only ran Super_Pi once under those conditions! So there is a great variance in performance, depending on how you have everything set-up in the Toshiba Power Saver program. To see how other notebooks perform when running this Super Pi application, view the NotebookReview.com forums here: http://www.notebookreview.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2657
With my current set-up, startup and shutdown are quick (about 25 seconds for startup and 10 seconds for shutdown), however these would probably vary based on how many applications you have starting up and shutting down. Running McAfee Virus Scan in the background, for example, adds greatly to the shutdown time.
Customer Support and Warranty:
This notebook comes with a Toshiba one year standard warranty, which is also International. I haven t had any experience with customer support yet, so I can t comment on it. I m still not sure if I will extend to warranty for two additional years.
Summary (Pros, Cons and Conclusion):
- Good build quality
- Excellent overall performance
- Express Media Player
- Very Bright and crisp display
- Good speakers (for a laptop)
- Battery life could be a bit longer
- Some keyboard flex
- Latch could be stronger
- Somewhat noisy optical drive (as stated in the Acer WLMi review)
- Somewhat expensive at it s normal price
Overall, I really like this notebook. Although I did mention some cons above, there is nothing serious enough to warrant a disclaimer against buying this notebook. I would recommend it to anybody who wants a good all around notebook. It is a bit pricy, however, at full cost.
Toshiba Satellite M30 Pricing and Availability