Toshiba Satellite L755-S5258

The Toshiba Satellite L755-S5258 looks like a budget laptop, but it’s got a decent punch under its belt. Unfortunately, the cheap exterior and cheap construction (the Function key on our review model didn’t work) may not be enough to make up for its otherwise solid performance.

Our review unit, priced at $690 (as of 9/27/2011), comes packed with a second-generation Intel Core i5-2410M processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 640GB hard drive (spinning at 5400 rpm). The Satellite L755 also features built-in 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, a built-in webcam and microphone, and an HDMI port. It comes with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium installed.

In WorldBench 6 benchmark tests, the L755-S5258 scored an acceptable 115. That score is nowhere near the top of the charts, especially in the all-purpose laptops category to which this model belongs, but it’s still pretty good for a sub-$700 notebook, and is only two points below the scores of the HP Pavilion dv6 and the Toshiba Satellite M645-S4118X, two similar, but somewhat pricier, machines.

The L755 has no discrete graphics card–it relies on the integrated graphics of its Sandy Bridge processor. So graphics performance leaves something to be desired: In Dirt 2, for example, it manages a barely playable frame rate of 19.6 frames per second (using high-quality settings and a resolution of 1024 by 768). This is average for integrated graphics; and the aforementioned HP Pavilion dv6, which has a low-end discrete graphics card, managed only a slightly better frame rate of 24.3 fps in this test.

The visual style of the Satellite’s design is interesting, to say the least. The notebook has a rounded, shiny plastic cover that is light gray with a subtle criss-cross pattern. A large, pale silver Toshiba logo is printed in the middle, and the entire cover is smooth. The criss-cross pattern carries over to the keyboard deck as well. The interior has rounded insets for various features, including the speakers and trackpad buttons. Overall, these design details make the laptop look like a futuristic cartoon product, and not in a good way. Though it’s not my style, perhaps it’ll appeal to some.

Despite the unattractive design, the machine is sturdy and lighter than it looks. It weighs 5.7 pounds, which is average for a 15.6-inch laptop, and is just under 1.5 inches thick at its thickest point.

The Satellite does fairly well with its ports, especially given its low price. On the left side is a 10/100 ethernet port, a VGA port, an HDMI port, microphone and headphone jacks, a Kensington lock slot, and a USB 2.0 port with Sleep and Charge technology. The latter feature lets you charge your USB devices while the laptop is in sleep mode. The right side has the DVD-SuperMulti drive as well as two additional USB 2.0 ports (without Sleep and Charge). A memory card reader, along with several status lights, is on the front edge.

The keyboard and touchpad are decent for a 15.6-inch laptop. The keyboard’s flat, smooth keys are extremely comfortable to type on. (And I really do mean smooth–the keys are so slick that I almost want to just run my fingers over them.) Luckily, this smoothness isn’t much of a hindrance to quick typing. The keyboard also has a 10-key number pad–a great addition to a 15.6-inch notebook.

Our review model did have one issue: the Function key refused to work, even after keyboard drivers were reinstalled. A lot of keys are supposed to work with the Fn key on this computer, so the fact that it’s not working is certainly a problem.

The touchpad is a little less impressive, though it’s easy to use and responsive. It is a small, raised square, just slightly rougher than the surrounding wristpad. Two large, discrete buttons are below it, both easy to press. The only problem I had with the touchpad, aside from its aesthetics (I dislike textured squares as opposed to properly denoted pads), is that it’s small. The Satellite L755-S5258 has a lot of wristpad real estate, so it’s disappointing that Toshiba didn’t make use of it effectively. For example, the buttons below the touchpad are very big and take up much more space than necessary. The trackpad does support multitouch gestures, but you barely have enough room to perform them.

The Satellite’s glossy 15.6-inch LCD screen has a native resolution of 1366 by 768. The screen is nice to look at, but it’s not perfect. It’s generally a little dimmer than I usually like, and colors tend to look washed out. Multimedia playback is smooth, but you will see some blockiness and noise, especially in dark scenes. Speakers are typical laptop quality–very soft for this size of machine. On the plus side, the sound coming out of the speakers–what little you can hear of it–is crisp.

Don’t let the Toshiba Satellite L755-S5258’s low price fool you: This laptop is a solid performer. Unfortunately, the rest of the design is not as solid–the notebook looks and feels cheap, the Function key, at least on our test unit, wouldn’t work, and the trackpad is extremely small. All Toshiba has to do is make sure its parts are working and enlarge the trackpad (which should be easy–they had enough room for a number pad, after all), and the Satellite L755-S5258 would be an excellent budget machine.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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