Toshiba: Best and Worst Laptop Brands
Dropping down one notch from its traditional seventh-place finish, Toshiba hasn't wowed us in the past year. Toshiba laptops got the worst reviews of all the brands we evaluated, and we weren't big fans of the company's designs, keyboards or displays, either. However, Toshiba does offer a wide range of laptops at a variety of prices, and it sells our favorite Chromebook, the Toshiba Chromebook 2.
Reviews-wise, no company had a more roller-coaster year than Toshiba. While three of its notebooks (the Chromebook, Chromebook 2 and Radius P55W) all earned 4 stars and Editors' Choice awards, the company had its share of flops. Its three detachables (the Z10t, Satellite Click 2, and Click 2 Pro) each earned ratings of 2.5 stars or less. With more refined designs, the company could do better.
Tech Support (13/20)
Toshiba offers a limited, 90-day window for receiving tech support, unless you're willing to pay for it. That said, we found the website intuitive and easy to navigate. The brand's Twitter and Facebook support was prompt. However, the constant insistence that we sign up for premium support to get answers to the simplest of questions held back the company from a better score.
Toshiba was just a skulk of silver foxes this year. Each notebook the company released has a glistening silver chassis (e.g., Satellite P50t, Chromebook 2, Chromebook). The overall presentation is clean and modern, but a little pop of color could have gone a long way in helping Toshiba stand out in a MacBook-obsessed crowd.
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Out of all the Lenovo Yoga imitators currently on the market, the Radius P55W and the Radius 11 come the closest to hitting the mark, one-upping the competition with five modes instead of four. However, the top-heavy Satellite Click 2 Pro is a comedy of design errors. When connected with its dock, its weight balloons to 4.4 pounds. What's worse, disconnecting the 13-inch tablet from the keyboard dock was problematic.
Keyboard & Touchpad (9/15)
Toshiba's laptop keyboards were a mixed bag. Most of the systems we tested suffered from stiff, shallow keys and a mediocre typing experience. For example, the Satellite Click 2's keyboard was just 1.3 mm deep (1.5 mm is OK, and 2 mm and higher is considered excellent), and using it felt like typing on a rock. A few of the larger laptops, such as the 15-inch Satellite Radius P55W and Satellite P50T, however, did provide decent feedback and travel.
Most of the company's touchpads were accurate enough, but on a couple of them, including the Chromebook 2 and the Satellite Click 2, the cursor would get stuck.
Toshiba offers some laptop displays that look absolutely stunning, like the 15-inch, 4K Satellite P50T-BST2N01. The Chromebook 2 also impresses with its optional full-HD IPS panel. Other than those models, most Toshiba laptops had just decent resolution, minimal brightness (221 nits on average) and modest color gamut (79 percent on average). Some Toshiba screens fall down on all three counts, like the affordable Satellite Radius 11, which sports a so-so 1366 x 768-pixel resolution, a dim 188 nits of brightness and a substandard 68 percent color gamut.
While Toshiba isn't necessarily changing the game, the company is committed to staying ahead of the pack in some categories. The new Portege Z20t Ultrabook contains some of Toshiba's most exciting innovations, promising a whopping 17 hours of battery life and a detachable keyboard dock that allows for multiple use modes. There's even an "emergency stylus" tucked into the machine, in case you were to lose the full-size pen.
Toshiba's Chromebook 2 is a standout in the category, as it's the only Chromebook to offer branded Skullcandy speakers plus a full-HD display.
Toshiba laptops are a mixed bag when it comes to audio. While we appreciated the balanced sound from the $899 Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W, which incorporates DTS Sound software for more audio control, the $379 Radius 11 sounded weak and tinny. The company continues to partner with Harman/Kardon and Skullcandy, to elevate even budget-friendly Chromebooks with good sound quality. The brand notched 83 decibels on the Laptop Mag Audio Test, which is below the average of 85 dB.
Value & Selection (4/5)
Toshiba makes more than 115 different laptops, but it does a good job of separating them into six distinct categories, which makes it fairly easy to find the right model for you. While its gaming notebooks are a little outdated, as they feature GTX 780M GPU from two years ago, the rest of its lineup has a wide variety of budget systems (Satellite), Ultrabooks (Kira), Chromebooks and business systems (Tecra).
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Toshiba offers competitive pricing. For example, a 15-inch, 1366 x 768p Satellite S50 with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD totaled $650 — the same price as a similarly equipped Dell Inspiron 15 5000. Toshiba is near the top of the pack in value, and a refresh to its gaming line and greater availability of models with the latest 5th-gen Intel CPUs would help it catch up to Dell and HP.
Toshiba removed many of its own-branded apps from its consumer (Satellite) laptops. All that's left are the Toshiba Service Station (for managing updates), media player, Eco Utility, HW Setup Utility and Recovery Media Creator apps. We appreciate the streamlining effort, since many of Toshiba's previous apps, such as Book Place (for e-books) and Start (for news), were redundant.
You'll still find Nuance's Dragon Assistant for hands-free voice control on some models. The company made no changes to its business software this year, continuing to offer its PC Health Monitor, Service Station, Password Utility and PC Diagnostic Tool. (The latter two target IT professionals.)