Toshiba Satellite P200 Review

by lewdvig Reads (110,216)

by Perry Longinotti, Canada

Toshiba’s P200-MB105C is a 17" desktop replacement model targeted at the mainstream PC user: small office/home office and students.

Unlike last year’s P100 that came in several performance configurations, this year’s model in Canada only comes in a single configuration with an MSRP of $1299 (CDN). It is a pretty conservative computer as the specs reveal.

The specifications:

  • Intel Core Duo T2350 (1.86GHz, 533MHz FSB, L2 Cache 2MB)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Standard Memory: 2x512MB DDR2 (667MHz) – Maximum 4GB
  • Hard Disk Drive: 160GB, 9.5mm height, S-ATA, 5400rpm
  • Optical Drive: DVD Super-Multi Double Layer Drive
  • Display: 17" Wide XGA+ TFT with TruBrite 1440x900x16.7 million colours
  • Graphics Controller: Mobile Intel 945GM Express with 8MB-256MB
  • Sound System: Realtek ALC861
  • Communication: V.92 56K Data/Fax Modem, 10/100 integrated Ethernet LAN, Intel Wireless LAN (802.11a/b/g)
  • Integrated 1.3 Megapixel Web Camera for Video over IP
  • Express Card Slot
  • Ports:
    • 5-in-1 Media Adaptor (SD Card, xD picture card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Multimedia Card)
    • Four USB 2.0
    • Modem/phone line
    • Ethernet
    • IEEE1394
    • external microphone port, headphone port, RGB, S-Video Out

First Impressions

The unassuming box conceals a very robust notebook. Despite its dimensions (1.8" thick, 15.7" wide and 11.3" deep), it is not as heavy as it looks. Weight comes in at 3.27kg (7.2lbs).


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Toshiba’s design department has been trying to differentiate their notebooks based on color. The overall look is reserved, but a "blue onyx" lid gives the P200 a bit of flair. It is generally sharper looking than your average budget desktop replacement notebook.


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The P200 is solid feeling with minimal chassis flex (hand rests or lid). The keyboard base has a slight amount of flex. The keys are light with short travel. Overall I would rate the keyboard as pretty good if it were not for a questionable design decision: a very funky key layout.


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Specifically, the shift, space and enter keys have been radically truncated to accommodate a numeric keypad. This might be a reasonable compromise for accounting professionals or people in accounting academic programs, but for many people this could be a deal breaker. I thought that last year’s P100 keyboard struck a better compromise and required fewer adjustments to the way that I type. Try before you buy.


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A great looking high contrast 17" display utilizing Toshiba’s TruBrite technology eases the disappointment of the unusual keyboard. This notebook is great for movie watching. Native resolution for the screen is 1440×900 pixels – not quite full HD, but 720p content should look OK. Without a dedicated GPU 1080p decode might overwhelm this machine so the screen is a good match to the overall system capabilities.


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Another aid to portability is the P200’s dainty power brick. It is one of the smaller 75watt units that I have seen.

The more I use Vista, the less I like it. In addition to all sorts of gaudy chotchkas plastered all over the interface, Vista features a truly intrusive authorization system and an abundance of error messages the likes of which I have not seen since Windows ME. Combine this with the increasingly heavy and intrusive utilities that come on these machines – drawers spring open any time you mouse-over a screen edge – and you will be longing for XP in short order. I think Dell has the right idea making XP available as an option.

I am no retro-grouch. I love progress and innovation. In my opinion Vista represents neither.

Toshiba’s software is fine, although it is starting to get to the point where it is clearly hogging resources. The slick graphical user interface of Toshiba’s Config Free utility stutters a bit and Toshiba’s helpful function key on screen display also struggles to stay responsive.


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The latter utility is neat, when you depress the function key (FN) a drop down menu appears on the screen indicating the function and choices. However, since these choices are already listed on the keys, I have to wonder if this is an answer to a question that isn’t being asked.

Toshiba’s web cam software also sits in a hide-away drawer on the left side of the screen. It has a few fun effects but it is no Photo Booth.


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In rushing to make Vista-fied utilities and drivers, software companies are creating an artificial need for more memory and faster processors. A 1.8GHz dual core PC with 1GB of RAM will run Windows XP very nicely. Running a light load of three open browser windows and Config Free, the P200 was using 80% of its physical memory.

A clean Windows install with careful and well-chosen re-introduction of some of the P200’s standard utilities would be a good idea.

Performance

Core Duo performance is still good, but with 667 and 800MHz front side bus Core 2 Duo processors common in this price range the P200’s CPU is dated and a bit pokey. This CPU is faster than the Pentium-M and Turion X2 CPUs that you will find in less expensive notebooks.

RAM and storage is dropping in price. The P200’s 160GB HDD is great, but the stingy 1GB of RAM is a disappointment (more so given the OS’s voracious appetite for RAM). At this price point 2GB is becoming common.

SuperPi results for the P200 are inline with what I have seen from other Core Duo notebooks with similar specs. A score of 1 minute 27 seconds is respectable. The PCMark05 score of 3083 PCMarks is also what we would expect from this combination.

Unplugged, the P200 lasted 1:18:15 during the Battery Eater test. About an hour and twenty minutes is average for this type of notebook. The dual core processor and big screen hurt Battery performance. A small capacity 4000mAh battery does not help either. With all this space, surely Toshiba could fit a larger capacity battery pack.


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DVD viewing away from a power plug was better, I created a power profile with full LCD brightness that I used for this test and the P200 managed to get through 1:37 of Stranger than Fiction with no problems. With less tortuous settings you should be able to get through the entire movie.

Excessive heat was never an issue with the P200. It also ran quietly.

Hard drive performance is good. The Fujitsu MHW2160BH 160GB has a spindle speed of 5400rpm and an 8MB buffer.


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A relatively quiet DVD burner handles your optical storage needs. The dual layer DVD burner is compatible with a multitude of disc formats, but burns DVD-R or DVD+R discs at a maximum of 8x. Toshiba bundles InterVideo WinDVD Creator 2 Platinum and Sonic Record Now!

You know you won’t be playing the latest 3D games on the P200. Intel’s video system just is not up to the task. You also won’t get any help from this system if you plan to decode HD content downloaded from the Internet.  

Audio reproduction is a bit disappointing. The speakers produce a tiny sound with poor frequency range. There is a lot of treble, not much mid-range and zero bass. If you plan to blast your MP3 collection out of this notebook for the benefit of your dorm, invest in some external speakers.

Use a good set of headphones and the experience is better, but it still won’t replace a dedicated audio player – or a notebook with a better audio chip. Realtek’s ALC651 is the culprit. My experience with the Taiwanese audio chipmakers has been universally bad with only a few exceptions. I am pretty sure that an Analog Devices chip would have delivered better results.

Networking is bullet proof. Intel’s Pro Wireless 3945 ABG solution works great and covers all of the common wireless LAN standards. It would be nice to have 802.11n support too.

Unfortunately the P200 lacks Bluetooth. I am not sure that this is a feature most home users really want or need. Personally I can’t live without it as I have numerous devices that require it (such as cell phones).     

A Built-in multinational 56K V.90 modem, and 10/100 Ethernet are provided in case you have to revert to wired mode. Regular Internet worked well, but I did not test the modem/fax.

The P200 includes an Express Card. Hardware makers have not really exploited this standard yet, but there is hope that we might start seeing good products that really exploit this expansion slot. Personally I am hoping for some type of external video card along the lines of the HIS VTBook for the sufferers of Intel integrated graphics solutions.

A 5-in-1 Multimedia port (supporting SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MMC, xD-Picture Card) makes it easy to download pictures from digital cameras.

Ports include four USB 2.0, Firewire, external microphone port, headphone port, and VGA (sorry, no DVI). 

Final Thoughts

Toshiba’s P200 series is a decent home computer. It lacks the oomph and pizzazz that I normally associate with Satellites. This is a brand that is as old and as storied as ThinkPad or PowerBook. I think the spec should be more inspired and innovative.

Value is a little tougher to measure. If you are willing to accept the slower performance of AMD’s Turion X2 processor you can buy an HP Pavilion (DV9317CA) with similar specs except for the superior Nvidia 6150 GPU and 2GB of RAM for about $100 less.

It might seem like I am rendering a negative verdict against the P200, but that is not really the case. This is a solid notebook, with a decent spec and performance. Were it a bit less money I think it would be easier to get excited about.

My advice would be to think long and hard about whether you need all that screen real estate. For the same money, you can find better performers in the 15” screen notebook category (including models from Toshiba).

Pros:

  • Nice looking notebook
  • Good 17" screen
  • Quality HDD and optical drives
  • Good build quality
  • Does not feel bulky
  • Toshiba 1 year warranty

Cons:

  • Funky keyboard
  • Could use a bigger battery
  • At MSRP, there are better deals to be had


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