Toshiba Satellite M40 Review (pics, specs)

by mbrandall Reads (121,752)

by Mathew Randall, Victoria Australia

Toshiba’s promotional guide explains the Satellite M40 as a “stylish, lightweight notebook that comes in two enhanced models for advanced mobile computing.” With the M40, this statement certainly seems true as it fulfils the role of both a desktop replacement as well as a portable personal computer.

Toshiba Satellite M40 Specifications (as reviewed):

  • Intel Pentium-M 760 (2.0Ghz, 533Mhz FSB)
  • 1GB RAM (2x 512MB DDR400)
  • 60GB (ATA 100 5400Rpm, 8mb Cache)
  • 15.4″ Widescreen TruBrite’ Glossy display (1280×800 native)
  • NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 128mb PCI-Express
  • Intel Pro 2195 a/b/g Wireless
  • Matshita DVD-RAM UJ-8315 (DVD-RAM, +R / + – RW)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional (SP2)
  • Toshiba 6.1 Hour Li-Ion Battery (6 cell; 4300mAh)

Reasons for Buying

I have just completed high school and will be moving interstate to attend a university next year that will involve me living on campus in very small personal quarters, but also moving around the large campus from class to class. It was a minimum requirement that I own a computer but with living in a room the size of most people’s bathroom this doesn’t really allow for a full sized desktop computer. Also, the need to move around campus isn’t something that can be achieved by a desktop.

After looking at offerings from HP, Sony, Asus and finally Toshiba, I settled on two final notebooks, the HP dv4220TX and the Toshiba M70/S00. Both had relatively the same specifications. However upon visiting the store to buy the notebook, I noticed the M40 that was on display was down to the last in stock and going even cheaper than the Toshiba M70/S00 that I had originally chosen.

Where and how purchased

I purchased the M40 from an Australian shop called Dick Smith Electronics’ for $2,489 on the Managers Special’ which was pretty lucky as its stock price was $2,999.

Design and Build Quality

Toshiba Satellite M40 (view larger image)

The M40 is a large laptop. While not as cumbersome as the 17″ desktop replacement models available today, it is a 15.4″ widescreen notebook which rules it out for usage in economy class on a plane. The external case design is silver with black finish. The top of the lid is silver, as is the casing around the keyboard including the trackpad and palm rests. The keyboard is black coated, as is the screen edges. This look makes the laptop look professional and quite stylish.


Toshiba Satellite M40 lid (view larger image)

The Toshiba M40 screen is a solid framed glossy screen that shows no obvious signs of flex when pushed in any of the sides. A note that is very much worth mentioning is how easy it is to open the screen. It is by no means insecure and loose, but the latch mechanism to open the screen can be used by one hand.

The main body of the notebook is where you see a severe let down in build quality. While for every day usage, the body is well built and will survive most bumps and knocks, when one side of the body is lifted the flex of the main body is obvious. The plastic used to construct the body appears to be of a rather fragile nature, which is a shame because the laptop itself is so good.

Build quality: 3 out of 5

Screen

Toshiba M40 screen front view (view larger image)

Toshiba M40 screen angle view (view larger image)

As mentioned earlier, the Toshiba Satellite M40 screen is a glossy covered screen which in my personal belief makes it excellent for DVD Movies and even games. It is a low glare screen which is excellent for users who are often outside, or in the sun. The screen is a model that features Toshiba’s well known TruBrite’ technology.  In a word, the image quality of the screen is superb. The brightness of the screen is simply an example of how high quality the screen itself is. It is a WXGA screen with a native resolution of 1280×800 which while very nice looking, has a bad habit of screwing with traditional square shaped wallpapers. Even the Windows XP Professional windows flag’ desktop looked seriously bent out of shape.

Toshiba M40 light leakage (view larger image)

Light leakage doesn’t seem to be a huge problem, but is noticeable around the bottom and right hand sides of the screen.

Screen: 5 out of 5

Speakers

The Toshiba Satellite M40 features Harmon Kardon speakers which appeal to the potential buyer when they first see them. Unlike most laptop speakers, these appear to be rather high quality for their size. Most musical pieces (or songs to the modern person) play well, however as the pitch gets higher and higher, the limitations become very visible – not that there are any people who can see sound.

The speakers are adequate for most, except most audiophiles will want to find a replacement by the way of headphones very quickly. External speakers are an option, however the single Audio-Out port located at the front is not what you would need for surround sound, and on some audio systems produces a tinny sound that you would actually expect from the speakers themselves, not from the audio port.

Speakers: 5 out of 5

Processor and Performance

The performance of the notebook is where the M40 really shines. It is powered by the Centrino bundled Intel Pentium-M 760 which runs along at a zippy 2.0 GHz. Windows XP loves the processor in combination with the 1GB of RAM that comes with the machine as XP boots from Power on to Log-in screen in a super quick 13 seconds flat. Once you log in of course, depending on programs you have set to run at start up can make the notebook seem slow. However like all computers, you just need to give it time.

The computer easily handles many of today’s applications and games and will comfortably encode Windows Media 9 video files without a serious degradation to overall performance. However I believe the 5400rpm hard drive also assists with this speed.

Gaming Performance

This notebook is ideal for most of today’s games including the regulars: Doom 3, Half Life 2, Quake 4, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Battlefield 2. The combination of Pentium-M 760 and the NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 allows the M40 to play most of the games at high settings. It is worthy to note that some games seem to perform better in the notebooks native resolution rather than lower resolutions – an example of this is Call of Duty 2.

Processor and Performance: 5 out of 5

Heat and Noise

The M40 has a rather large air-vent on the left hand side as well as the processor fan vent located on the bottom. Both of these vents put out quite a large amount of heat when under full strain, but in day to day usage with music playing and a few programs open, the heat is simply a warm breeze. The notebook can be used on a lap, however this is not recommended for more than twenty minutes at a time as the heat becomes very noticeable.

Toshiba M40 bottom view (view larger image)

The DVD Burner drive can be quite noisy when first spinning up a disc, but that quietens down quickly. For general use such as DVD watching or CD listening the drive is nice quiet but when you start using the drive in a more active manner — i.e. DVD burning it can become loud.

Heat and Noise: 4 out of 5

Benchmarks

Below are the results gained from running Super Pi, a program that forces the laptop’s processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:

Notebook Time
Tosihba Satellite M40 (2.0GHz Pentium M)  1m 43s
 Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 41s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

Below are the results gained from running PCMark04 and 3DMark05 on the Satellite M40 (Pentium M 2.0GHz, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600), the numbers are compared to the Dell XPS M140 (Pentium M 1.86GHz, Intel integrated graphics).

Futuremark PCMark04 Scores
  Dell XPS M140 (1.86GHz Penitum M, Intel graphics) Toshiba Satellite M40 (2.0 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600)
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 3.32 MB/s 3.8 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 26.66 MB/s 29.7 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 23.46 MB/s 25.5 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 10.87 MPixels/s 11.8 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 1866.81 MB/s 2136.4 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 2.85 KB/s 3.0 KB/s
 File Decryption 53.74 MB/s 59.4 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 2478.85 KB/s 2746.9 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 5.53 Pages/s 5.8 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 50.35 FPS 54.9 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 98.57 FPS 202.6 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 479.95 FPS 1012 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 274 3DMarks 2470 3D Marks
CPU Score 2281 CPUMarks 4006 CPUMarks
Gaming Tests
GT1 – Return To Proxycon 1.1 FPS 10.8 fps
GT2 – Firefly Forest 0.9 FPS 7.0 fps
GT3 – Canyon Flight 1.4 FPS 12.7
CPU Tests
CPU Test 1 1.3 FPS 2.3 fps
CPU Test 2 1.8 FPS 3.1 fps

As you can see above, the video card really helps the M40 perform better in the graphic tests.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Toshiba M40 keyboard (view larger image)

The M40 keyboard is solid and sturdy with no keyboard flex (downwards) at all. The keys are quick to bounce back to position, yet the depth at which the keys move down seems very shallow.

Toshiba M40 media keys (view larger image)

On the left side of the keyboard, in its own little position is the notebooks main power button and media keys. The top two keys are to open an internet browser and a media player. The bottom four keys are used to control the media application once it is open. The media keys however, seem to only work for Windows Media Player which is a shame for iPod/iTunes users like me. Overall the keyboard quality is rather high, and it is the type of keyboard that can be used for hours at a time with no real complaint by the user.

In the good old days, Toshiba used to use Trackpoint devices on their laptops but have unfortunately moved away from this. The trackpad has a cheap plastic’ feel to it however it is like all trackpads, easy to use.

Keyboard and Touchpad: 4 out of 5

Input and Output Ports

The M40 features the following input and output ports:

Front view of M40 (view larger image)

Left side of M40 (view larger image)


Right side of M40 (view larger image)


Back side of M40 (With Battery removed) (view larger image)

  • 1 mini’ IEEE 1394 Port
  • VGA Out
  • 3 USB 2.0 Ports
  • Microphone and Headphone jacks (front)
  • IrDA Infrared Port
  • RJ-11 Modem
  • RJ-45 Ethernet
  • Kensington Security Lock
  • 6-in-1 Media reader
  • S-Video Out
  • PCMCIA slot

The M40 features most of your standard I/O ports and surprisingly enough even supports IrDA which seems to be becoming phased out on most other notebook brands.

Input and Output: 5 out of 5

Wireless

The M40 is branded under the Intel Centrino package which means that it must include an Intel based wireless adapter. The Intel Pro 2195 A/B/G wireless network adapter is an excellent adapter with high signal strength even through walls. The 2195 does even better than other Intel adapters because it supports all three standards of Wi-Fi that are in usage today.

The M40 also features an IrDA port located at the front, as well as Bluetooth for all of your wireless communication needs. However the notebook also features a handy “Wireless On/Off” switch that when turned on, activates all three wireless systems. When it is switched off, all three wireless systems are turned off and not accessible by the OS.

Wireless: 5 out of 5

Battery

Toshiba M40 battery (view larger image)

Toshiba’s Satellite M40 features a 6 cell Lithium Ion Battery that according to Toshiba can last up to 6.1 hours. Of course, this is just a promotional stunt because running in battery mode with power saving’ features enabled, the notebook will run for roughly 3 hours on a full charge.  Toshiba’s included Power Saver software is an excellent way of managing the system power consumption and settings, however users should note that you cannot use both the Windows power control, and Toshiba’s Power Saver.

Battery: 5 out of 5

Operating System and Included Software

This model of the M40 came with Windows XP Professional as standard which is good for both business and home users. Being a notebook with a wireless card, the M40 is assisted in network settings management by Windows XP Service Pack 2 built in. Windows XP’s Wireless Network Connection’ control applet is superior to most third party applications.

The standard Toshiba included software included some real handy utilities, as well as some not so handy utilities. Both the Power Saver and Toshiba’s ConfigFree are useful applications, with ConfigFree being an easy way to diagnose network connection issues. However as most professional and network savvy users will know, nothing beats good old Command Prompt and ipconfig.’

The speed of system start up can be greatly improved by using msconfig’ to remove some of the included utilities, most of which are simply not necessary.

The M40 also includes a copy of Microsoft OneNote 2003 (with CD Key provided) which is apart of the MS Office 2003 suite. None of the other Office programs are provided. A Trial version of Norton AntiVirus 2005 is also included.

Product CDs included with the M40

Product Recovery is a Norton Ghost based solution and is simple and easy to use.

Operating System and Software: 4 out of 5

Customer Service

Toshiba Australia’s customer service seems to be second to none. Hold times were extremely short as I ended up being on hold for the total of 5 seconds. The assistant was friendly and had a good grasp of the English language.

Praises

  • Nice looking
  • Powerful
  • Excellent graphics performance
  • Above average speakers
  • Media reader
  • Excellent wireless adapter
  • Above average screen with Glossy finish
  • Amazing battery life
  • Some of the Toshiba Utilities
  • Widescreen

Complaints

  • Main body feels cheap’
  • Main body is a little flimsy
  • Annoying and resource hogging Toshiba Software
  • Media keys prevent a full sized keyboard
  • Trackpad instead of Trackpoint

Conclusion

On the whole, the Toshiba Satellite M40 is one heck of a laptop. Good looking, powerful and impressive, it is only marred by the slightly flimsy build quality of the main body. Bridges the gap between Ultraportable’ and Desktop replacement’ quite nicely.

Overall score:

45 out of 50

Pricing and Availability:Toshiba Satellite M40




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