- Good overall value for family PC
- Decent keyboard and touchpad
- Good speakers
- No touchscreen for Windows 8
- "Wobbly" screen
The Satellite S875 is a solid "traditional" PC but it falls short in terms of the Windows 8 experience.
Our first review of a notebook with Windows 8 already installed is here. Is a traditional 17-inch Toshiba Satellite laptop still a good choice with Windows 8?
The Satellite line of notebooks represents the core of Toshiba’s consumer PC sales worldwide. You can find a Satellite to meet just about any need ranging from budget-priced laptops that are sure to be a common sight in Black Friday sale promotions, to high-performance configurations aimed at users who want powerful processors and graphics at a fair price. The Satellite S875 (and its build-to-order cousin, the Satellite S870) is a 17-inch laptop targeted at consumers who want a big screen without paying big bucks.
Build and Design
On the surface there is little to separate the design of the Satellite S875 from the previous generation of 17-inch Satellite notebooks. The Toshiba design team has “flattened” the screen lid and chassis to help this massive 17-inch notebook look thinner than last year’s more rounded Satellite laptops, but overall this PC still has a very traditional look.
The entire machine is constructed of relatively thick plastics and thin plates of aluminum alloy with flat edges and rounded corners. The screen lid and palm rests are covered in brushed aluminum with an “Ice Blue” finish. However, the quality of the aluminum and finish make it easy to mistakenly identify the material as plastic.
The bottom of the chassis is covered in matte black plastic that is reasonably thick and should provide adequate protection in the event of a fall, but the keyboard surround and the screen bezel are covered in glossy black plastic that acts like a magnet for fingerprints and dust. In other words, your new laptop won’t look clean for very long.
Getting back to the screen lid for a moment, the display has a strong backing which prevents any distortion from showing on the screen when pressure is applied to the lid. Unfortunately, the hinges either have slightly too much tension or not enough because the screen “wobbles” for several seconds every time you move the screen forward or back. It’s not uncommon for most laptop screens to wobble slightly after you move the screen but this particular screen lid seemed to do it more than others.
On a more happy note, the Satellite S875 is simple to upgrade thanks to a single access panel on the bottom of the chassis. Remove one screw and you can replace the RAM, hard drive, or wireless card with very little effort.
Ports and Features
The S875 includes a reasonable number of ports but doesn’t take advantage of the extra space provided by a 17-inch screen size. This notebook includes two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports, and one additional USB 2.0 port, but that’s the same number of USB ports you’ll find on a 13-inch or 14-inch laptop. The S875 also includes HDMI and VGA out as well as a memory card reader for editing the images from your digital camera. This basic configuration comes with a DVD drive but more expensive configurations are available with a Blu-ray drive. All image descriptions are listed from left to right.
Front: Status lights, card reader
Back: Battery pack
Left: AC power jack, 1x USB 2.0 port, DVD drive
Right: Headphone and microphone jacks, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA, heat exhaust, Kensington lock slot
Screen and Speakers
The Satellite S875’s 17.3-inch HD+ (1600 x 900) display looks pretty average and in this case first impressions are pretty accurate. The glossy surface helps deliver good contrast and color saturation but also creates reflections/glare from nearby lights or bright sunlight. The LED backlight is reasonably bright; it’s certainly good enough for indoor use but not quite bright enough to overpower reflections from the sun when you use the laptop outdoors on a bright day.
Viewing angles are narrow as expected for a TN-type panel like this one; colors wash out quickly when viewed from above and appear inverted when viewed from below.
A bigger issue with this particular notebook is that Windows 8 practically SCREAMS for a touchscreen interface and this notebook uses a standard screen. Granted, you can use the gesture-enabled touchpad or an external USB touchpad if you want to use various gestures to control Windows 8 … it’s just that unless you can actually touch the tiles on then screen the Windows 8 interface just feels “a bit” out of place. Our attitudes might change after a few more months using Windows 8 on production-level machines, but right now we prefer Windows 8 on touchscreen PCs.
The two stereo speakers located above the keyboard and beneath the hinges deliver loud and clear sound and are better than what you get with most laptop speakers. There is little bass since the S875 doesn’t have a built-in subwoofer, but the frequency range is still good. We’re glad that Toshiba puts the speakers on the top deck of the chassis so that sound is directed up and toward the user … most notebook manufacturers put speakers in the bottom front edge of the chassis which creates muffled audio when the notebook is used as a “laptop.”
Keyboard and Touchpad
The S875 has a nice full-size keyboard with separate numeric keypad. This keyboard is a “Chiclet” or island-style keyboard which has added space between each key to help prevent typos. The keys are completely flat and have a matte surface which doesn’t show fingerprintsor dust like the glossy plastic which surrounds the keys. The keys have a light cushioned feel with quiet key action and key travel (the distance between pressed and un-pressed positions) is very good. The support frame under the keyboard is very firm and there is minimal flex under heavy typing pressure.
The S875’s touchpad is big with a smooth, matte surface providing good traction for fingertips. The two dedicated touchpad buttons have a metalic finish and a texture with a pattern similar to the pattern printer on the touchpad surface. The buttons produce a faint “Ca-Chunk” sound when you press them but it isn’t as loud as some of the touchpad buttons on older Toshiba laptops. There is no dedicated touchpad on/off button located directly above the touchpad but the F5 key is setup to function as a touchpad on/off key if you want to use an external mouse or multitouch touchpad.