Toshiba Satellite M70 Review (pics, specs)

by cbrviper Reads (168,471)

by Jason Vickery, Australia

“Available in three feature-rich models, the M70 meets the demands of all multimedia needs. Burn DVDs and watch them on the super-bright widescreen, wirelessly connect to the Internet or gaming and work network, enjoy life-like gaming with awesome graphics and cinematic sound reproduction, and run today’s sophisticated applications with ease.”

That’s the blurb from the Toshiba Australia website about the Toshiba M70 model, this is the highest specced model in this range.

I’m a university student about to start my second degree, after 4 years of electrical engineering, I now move onto applied science in physics and astrophysics, and with that comes the need for a laptop with enough grunt to run 3D applications, such as CAD work, math work, 3D rendering etc., as well as multimedia capability for the road.  I have a 2 hour train ride to university each day, so battery life must exceed 2.5hours while using 3D apps (not games).  I also like to get away and play games at times too, as well as watch DVD’s. So this was also an important consideration. Weight had to be sub 3Kg (6.61 lbs) at least as I will be moving it around a lot. My budget was $2,500 AUD.

This is a pretty hefty range of requirements; I looked at the HP DV4000 range, the LG-65 range and this Toshiba range. The reason I went with the Toshiba was simply price, I got an awesome deal from my local Harvey Norman dealer (Australian retailer).  In the end I got the machine, an extra battery, $250 in store vouchers, a bag and 512mb USB key all for $2,276 AUD (approximately $1,300 US)

My apologies for the state of the pictures in this review, they were taken with my camera phone.

Toshiba Satellite M70 under review (view larger image)

The specifications for the M70 being reviewed are as follows:

  • PM-750 1.86 GHz — Dothan Class
  • 512mb DDR2 533 MHz RAM (In 1x512mb stick –I straight away bought another 512mb) to bring it up to 1 GB
  • 80GB 5400rpm SATA Hitachi HDD
  • 256mb dedicated MRx700 GPU…stock clocks of 358/331 — my stable overclock of 370/380
  • Intel PRO/Wireless — 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth 10/100 LAN, 56k modem
  • 15.4″ TruBrite widescreen WXGA
  • Toshiba DVD SuperMulti Double/Dual Layer drive
  • 6 Cell Battery
  • Harmon/Kardon Speakers with “Trusurround” Technology
  • Windows XP Professional
  • 2.71kg as configured with 6cell battery
  • Dimensions: 359(W) x 262(D) x 38.5(H)

Ports:

  • (1) 6-in-1 Digital Media Reader slot
  • (1) IEEE 1394 port
  • (1) S-video port
  • (1) VGA port
  • (1) Headphone
  • (1) External Microphone
  • (1) AC power connector
  • (1) RJ-11
  • (1) RJ-45
  • (3) USB 2.0 ports (1x left side, 2x rear)
  • (1) Type I/II PC Card Slot with support for 16-bit PCMCIA and 32-bit Card bus
  • (1) Expansion Slot for express card

There are plenty of ports and connectivity with this machine is no problem, there are a couple of grips though. Having the USB ports on the left/right is WAY better than on the rear, I use the USB mouse like a lot of people and having to plug it in the rear is annoying. Also a proper 6 pin fire wire would have been nice, but the 4 pin is fine.

Right side view of the Satellite M70 (view larger image)

Rear view of Satellite M70 (view larger image)

Front, Indicator Lights, 6in1 Card reader, Wi-Fi Switch, Headphone & Lineout Jack (view larger image)

Build & Design:

The only extra buttons are on the right side of the keyboard, leaving an uncluttered look
 
A rather interesting color choice for the lid, it is a nice blue/aqua finish. Really quite well done, it’s made entirely of plastic and the lid flexes a little bit, but even with the flex u can push down quite hard on the screen without it becoming distorted. At 2.71kg it is no lightweight and it feels reasonably solid, with a rather “squarish” front design, it looks professional but also friendly. Basically its middle of the pack in build quality, which surprised me as lately I have been hearing some bad things about Toshiba, I think this model is a good start to getting back to how they were. The only thing im not totally convinced about is, the hinges, they are good, but just don’t look like they will take much of a beating, keep that in mind.

 

Satellite M70 keyboard (view larger image)

The Keyboard is a standard black color, with a non clutted look unlike some of the current designs. The keys have a light to middle stroke which is perfect for me. To the right of the keyboard is the power button, with a couple of media buttons underneath.
The left and right click buttons underneath the touch pad are built into the wrist rest, looks very good, I like it. The 6in1 card reader (which came in handy for transferring the pictures I took from my camera phone for this review showing how versatile such features are) and Wi-Fi switch are on the front of the machine.

The left & right click buttons are built into the black strip that runs along the length of the laptop, classy.

Screen:

Screen in native 1280×800 widescreen resolution (view larger image)
 
Ahh what a glorious screen, Ok yes it’s a step down from the DTR Qosmio series but its clear, its bright, there is little to no light wash, colors are crisp and vibrant, it is a TruBrite screen meaning its of the glossy type, this is a personal thing but for me its great. There were no dead pixels, the native resolution is 1280×800 and that’s perfect for me. The viewing angles are good, about 45 degrees still gives perfect seeing, so maybe not good if you don’t like people seeing your work in crowded spaces.

M70 opened with a DVD case as scale; you can see just how glossy and reflective the screen is at certain angles.(view larger image)
 
Speakers:

Speakers built-into the chassis on the left and right side
 
As far as laptop speakers go, these are good, the Harman/Kardon set is clear, crisp, a little tinny but as are all laptop speakers. They are placed at the front of the unit, a good location. They don’t distort even at max levels, but the actual loudness could be a bit higher, still not bad though, I Could watch a DVD easily with good sound.

Processor and Performance:

The Laptop boots into windows in about 40seconds, quite speedy. In general tasks it’s very quick, windows open in no time, can run multiple apps at once with no noticeable slow down.

Below are the results gained from running Super Pi (ftp://pi.super-computing.org/windows/super_pi.zip), a program that forces the laptop’s processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy.

Notebook Time
Toshiba Satellite M70 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)   1m 36s
 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

 
1min36s is quite speedy for this class of processor, this means that the entire subsystem is all working well and is very efficient

Here is the CPU-Z chart


With the PM processor, 1 GB of PC4200 RAM, a 5400rpm HDD and 256mb X700 GPU, this machine is SPEEDY. So far it’s handled everything I have thrown at it, 3d work/games, everything.

Here is the result from HD Tune

(view larger)
 
Not great, but since I was running programs and on the internet with MSN open etc, I think that can account for the big dips. Probably a weakness for this machine, it’s not BAD but it’s not GREAT either, just average.

Note that the HDD temp is 55deg; it hovers between 50 & 56 degrees ALL the time, a little hotter than normal.

Gaming Ability:

It has the rather rare 256mb version of the ATI MRx700 GPU, which is a good thing for sure. It has run everything I have tried so far, battlefield 2 would benefit from more ram im sure, but all other games ran fine at high resolutions and high settings, a big bonus. With a score of 2820 (stock) and 3150 (O/C’ed) in 3dMark05 it is certainly very capable. Here is an example of settings in UT2004 (not the latest out I know, but its all I have on hand right this second) as you can see it’s on max. Gets 150+ FPS not too shabby.

(view larger)

Battery:

Probably not the strongest part of this laptop, although still quite reasonable, I get about 3-3.5hours in battery save mode, and about 120mins watching DVD’s (so enough for one DVD). Doing heavy or demanding 3d work reduces the time to around 70-80mins. Overall pretty good for a 6cell rated @ 47730 mWh.

Heat & noise:

The fan comes on every now and then, I usually don’t hear it, there is a pipe for both CPU and GPU, leading out to a copper heat sink, and the air comes out from the left hand side. It is not noisy, or intrusive. During heavy 3d work, the fan is on more of course but since it isn’t very intrusive I don’t mind. The underneath  gets warm, but I was still able to have it on my lap for extended periods. About the only heat issue would be with the HDD, idling it was @ 54deg (although this was after a few hours in use), a little high.

Power Adaptor:

A reasonably small unit, shown here with a DVD for scale
 
Customer Support:

I haven’t had to ring/use this service yet, so I cant comment on how good/bad it is.

Software:

Preloaded was XP Pro, Norton, WinDVD, Works8, Sonic plus a few other little things. I didn’t do a fresh install; I just got rid of the things I didn’t want.

You get Windows XP pro on CD as well as all the other software on a recovery disk.

Pro’s:

  • Screen is excellent
  • Fast, P-M processor/Ram/Vid Card combine well
  • Connectivity
  • Cheap for what you get/Value
  • Good Design
  • Speakers

Con’s:

  • Placement of USB ports
  • Screen Hinges could be better

Conclusion:

A fast, well featured laptop and after 2-weeks of use, I’m very happy with it. For my purpose, mobility and 3D speed was of the utmost importance and this laptop delivers. Toshiba has selected a good batch of components, put them into a quality product and still kept the price well within reach. For just $800 AUD more than a basic entry level machine you can get a machine that is capable of everything. Highly recommended


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