Big, beautiful & fast
Jul 7, 2008 (Updated Jul 7, 2008)
Review by twyatt2
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Pros:PRICE, Great screen, full keyboard (including number pad), fast processor, lots 'o ram
Cons:200 gig hard drive, light duty graphics card, smallish battery
The Bottom Line: I definitely recommend this laptop to the home user. This is a perfect desktop replacement! For more hardcore gamers, look for a faster GPU.
I just bought this 17" widescreen laptop for my home use, as a desktop replacement. I'll first give you the reasons I decided on this one.
Recommend this product?
My wife and i decided to go to the laptop route rather than a desktop computer for general home use (word processing, spreadsheets, budget, email and light web and picture editing). We made this decision because our young daughter was just becoming mobile and VERY interested in all the wires coming out of the back of the computer. Plus, our 3 year old computer was showing its age in some of our applications.
So, I began searching for 15.4 or 17" widescreen laptops. Initially I thought that the 15.4" size would be best, as it allowed for a certain amount of mobility. After rethinking our application, we decided that the larger 17" screen and integrated number pad would be worth it, even thought the larger size would mean it would be heavier and less mobile. In reality, I doubt we will be moving this very much from its location on our desk. The only question remaining was which 17" laptop should we get?
I've had 3 HPs in my laptop buying life, and they have mostly treated me well. But, they tend to be on the expensive side for a nicely equipped 17" model. I've also had a Gateway and a Sony. My 15.4" Gateway was very reasonably priced, and still serves me well to this day, but honestly fit & finish are lacking for use as a primary computer. My 13.3" Sony is a great notebook, and fit & finish are very good, but the 17" Sony notebooks are more than I was looking to spend. So, I went in to Best Buy and Circuit City in search of a good deal on a general use 17" notebook.
I stumbled across the Toshiba line at Circuit City. The new "Fusion" finish was very nice looking, and really finished off the package. The keyboard includes a full number pad and is finished in a shiny texture, which is a nice change from the matte keys I've always had. The 17" widescreen is GREAT. Toshiba calls it "TruBrite" and it certainly is bright! In fact, I find myself turning down the brightness from 8 (the max setting) to around 4 or 5 for most uses. For movies or bright rooms, having the extra brightness is great. In addition, the native resolution is 1440 x 900,which is good enough for 720P High definition resolution. Honestly, the default font is too small at this high resolution, so I had to use the "large fonts" (120 DPI) setting in Vista. Once I did that, it was much better.
But what about the notebook's innards? First, the raw specs:
Genuine Windows VistaŽ Home Premium (SP1,32-bit version)
AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core Mobile Processor RM-70 2.0 GHz, 1MB L2 Cache, HyperTransport 3: up to 3.6(GT/sec)
AMD M780V chipset
Configured with 3072MB PC6400 DDR2 SDRAM - Maximum capacity 4096MB
200GB (5400 RPM) Serial ATA hard disk drive
DVD SuperMulti ( /-R double layer) with Labelflash drive supporting 11 formats - Supports Labelflash media to burn high quality labels directly on the disk.
17.1 diagonal widescreen TruBriteŽ TFT LCD display at 1440x900 native resolution (WXGA )
ATI Radeon 3100 Graphics with 256MB-1407MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory
Built-in harman/kardonŽ stereo speakers
Webcam and microphone built into LCD bezel
5-in-1 Bridge Media Adapter - Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MultiMedia Card, xD Picture Card [shared slots]
USB v2.0 w/ Sleep and Charge
3 USB v2.0 ports
1 eSATA/USB combo port
Dimensions (WxDxH Front/H Rear): 15.8 x 11.4 x 1.38 /1.50 without feet
Weight: Starting at 7.4 lbs
90W (19V 4.74A) 100-240V/50-60Hz AC Adapter.
4000mAh Lithium Ion battery pack
As you can see, this is not a stripped down notebook. AMD is currently releasing their "PUMA" platform. It includes a new "780" chipset, new ATI graphics cards and a new series of processors, which are all engineered to make the experience of using a laptop more enjoyable, by requiring less power and at the same time speeding up the user interface. After using almost exclusively Intel chips for my computer using life, I was a little cautious about moving over to the AMD chip line. I'd heard they were good chips, but ran hot and used a lot of energy. I can only comment on this specific implementation of the AMD chipset, and my experience here is great! The laptop keeps itself suitably cool, even the bottom of the unit stays pretty cool (unusual for laptops these days). The keyboard is slightly warm to the touch, but certainly not uncomfortable. The notebook has a single fan, which seems to have 3 speeds - very low, low and high. When it needs extra cooling, it sets itself to the highest setting. This is infrequent, and usually when I am running a graphically-intense application, such as a game.
The AMD RM-70 processor chip is part of the new AMD line, which include all the RM and "ultra" ZM chips. These are still on the 65nm process, but include more L2 cache and also add multiple sleep modes, intended to prolong battery life in a notebook computer. The RM-70 chip in this computer has 1 MB total L-2 cache (512k each core) and runs at 2.0 GHz. The ZM line includes 1MB on each core, for a total of 2MB. The ZM line also run at a higher frequency, up to 2.4 GHz currently. All that said, this processor is definitely capable of doing everything I need it to. It is faster than the old Core 2 duo 1.8 Ghz it replaced.
There are plenty of input / output options, including USB 2.0, eSATA (high speed port for use with external SATA drives) and IEEE-1394, which is a high speed connection that some video cameras and external drives use. The USB ports include "Sleep & Charge" which allows the computer to charge your external goodies (MP3 players, phones, etc.) while the computer is in "sleep" mode. In addition to these connections, it has S-video and RGB connections for external monitors and TVs. Notably, an HDMI-out is missing on this particular model, though Toshiba's website says it is available on other (conceivably higher priced) models.
The Graphics chip (ATI 3100) is good for my needs. I don't play games more intensive than freecell spider solitare. I do my gaming on my Xbox 360 instead. So, for general word processing, email and other home computer tasks, this GPU works great. There are other higher-end ATI chips available on other similar notebooks, with faster graphics processing chips and more discrete memory (memory set aside for only the graphics card's use). If you want to play the newest games, look to these. For the Windows Vista aero experience, this chip works great.
Speaking of Vista, note that this comes with the "home premium" Vista install. Here are the "experience scores":
Gaming Graphics 3.7
Hard Disk 4.8
Also, for those of you who might be wondering, I got a 40 Sec Wprime score (using the 32M test).
As you see in the specs above, the notebook comes with a 200 Gig hard drive. This is more than adequate for my use, but some others might find it lacking. Most other 17" notebooks come with 250 Gig hard drives (and some even are coming with 320's these days). Realistically, if you have that much data the chances are good that some of it is simply archival, and you can easily throw that onto an external hard drive for safekeeping.
Other notable things: No bluetooth is included (but a USB bluetooth adaptor can be purchased for $20 or less many places, if you need this). There is plenty of RAM (3GB) to run VISTA with everything on. The speakers are great - the best I've heard on a laptop. There's also a very convenient audio volume knob at the front of the computer. There is a "quiet" mode for the CD / DVD drive - for use when you are watching a movie or need to have the drive silent. It works very well, and is a nice option to have. Also, there are touch-sensitive media controls at the top of the keyboard, for use with a CD or DVD. Finally, the battery is a little small for use with such a large laptop. For use while plugged (which I purchased this unit for) it is obviously not an issue. I did a quick test, and it lasted about 1.5 hrs while I was web browsing and removing and installing programs. I have not used the webcam or microphone, but it could be handy for those of you who might use this laptop for web meetings.
Overall - VERY nice laptop, and exactly what I needed. Hundred(s) less than similarly equipped Intel-based laptops, but still has all the bells & whistles. Great fit & finish, and fantastic user-experience.
Amount Paid (US$): 799 $ tx
Operating System: Windows
Processor speed: over 1000
Screen Size: Greater than 15 inches
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: CD-RW and DVD
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50
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