Toshiba L735-S3220RD all-purpose laptop

If you’re looking for an all-purpose laptop that’s relatively easy to fit in your backpack or satchel, Toshiba’s $779 (as of September 24, 2011) L735-S3220RD is well worth considering. It’s lighter and smaller than a typical all-purpose notebook, yet the unit doesn’t feel puny in size, screen dimensions, or power. On the other hand, its battery life is poor (3 hours, 10 minutes), and its input ergonomics are only so-so. Though the unit may seem a bit pricey, too, the Blu-ray drive and its accompanying software are partly responsible for that.

Because of the stickers plastered all over the keyboard deck, the L735-S3220RD’s looks don’t impress out of the box. But after you remove them, this red-and-black laptop’s appearance grades out as above average. Designed around a 13.3-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel display and weighing 4.3 pounds, the L735-S3220RD is significantly smaller and lighter than garden-variety 14- to 15-inch all-purpose laptops and will appeal to users seeking something a little lighter. If it were half an inch thinner and half a pound lighter, it would qualify as an ultraportable. Some of savings in weight, however, are due to a rather small 48 watt-hour battery, which is partly responsible for the short run-time. 

Our test L735-S3220RD came equipped with a Core i5-2410M CPU; 4GB of DDR3 memory; and a 5400-rpm, 640GB hard drive. These components helped drive the laptop to a WorldBench 6 score of 114. Though 1080p video playback was as smooth as we could wish for, the gaming frame rates that the Intel HD graphics delivered topped out at around 30 frames per second, and even then only at low detail and resolution. Audio heard through the headphones was fine, but heard through the speakers it’s as tinny as I’ve endured in a long time–a surprising shortcoming from a company that takes the trouble to put a subwoofer in some of its Qosmio models. 

The input ergonomics on the L735-S3220RD are a mixed bag. The keyboard has a nice feel, and the layout is top-notch with no undersized keys, but the keys aren’t sculpted. The smallish, textured touchpad is as red as the keyboard deck and distinguished only by a slightly textured coating. Even with the buttons on the front edge of the keyboard deck, cursoring and buttoning feel slightly cramped.

Connectivity options on the L735-S3220RD include three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA video output, audio-in and -out, and a Kensington lock port. You also get an SD/MMC card reader, 802.11b/g/n wireless, and 10/100 ethernet. Toshiba’s decision to offer only fast ethernet is a bit surprising in an age when gigabit ethernet is readily available–and considering that the unit also has Bluetooth. Gigabit ethernet can be quite handy when you’re backing up to a network.

The L735-S3220RD’s software bundle consists of a standard array of utilities and trial software, including Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, Norton Internet Security, and the Google toolbar. Among the other apps are Toshiba utilities ranging from the useful (such as hard drive protection via a motion sensor) to the redundant (duplicating functionality already present in Windows). The laptop’s performance perks up a bit when you remove the chaff. The laptop runs Windows 7 Home Premium. Included to handle Blu-ray and DVD playback chores is Corel WinDVD. 

The L735-S3220RD is part of Toshiba’s L730 series; and if you’re willing to settle for lesser (though certainly competent) performance and no Blu-ray, you can get the basics for considerably less. Cheaper CPU options include an older Intel Pentium B940 and an i3-2310M processor. How much lower you can sink the price depends on when you shop, but the low-end model was available for $479 at this writing from Toshiba’s own website.

The more you carry the L735-S3220RD, or any L730 series laptop around, the more you’ll appreciate Toshiba’s smaller, lighter design. It doesn’t wear on you as the day progresses, and for most users the smaller screen won’t be an issue. If it weren’t for the short battery life and slightly subpar input ergonomics, this laptop would have earned a higher overall rating.

-PCWorld (US)

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