by LAPTOP Staff on March 26, 2012
Toshiba's reputation for delivering value remains strong, but its support, design and keyboards could use some help.
UPDATE: Check out Toshiba's 2013 Brand Report Card to see how the company fared this year.
A decidedly mixed performance, of the 14 Toshiba notebooks we reviewed, one earned an Editors' Choice (the Satellite L655-S5161x). Two notebooks (the Satellite P755-S5272 and the Satellite L655D-S5164RD) merited 2.5 stars for their underpowered processors and short battery life--not recommended. Six systems, including the Portégé Z835 Ultrabook, earned 4 stars, but six more earned 3.5 or 3 stars, which is good, but not great.
Toshiba's designers seem like they're trying too hard at times. Exhibit A is the Satellite E305, whose metal design felt sturdy but whose textured Champagne finish came off as a bit gaudy. The Satellite L655 was less loud, with a subtle circular checked pattern on the glossy lid and deck. The Portégé Z835's magnesium alloy chassis was jaw-droppingly light but didn't feel quite as solid as the MacBook Air.
Toshiba's keyboards usually offer decent but less-than-optimal tactile feedback, with the keys on models such as the Portégé Z835 feeling stiff. Worse, many Toshiba notebooks feature flat, glossy keys that are too difficult to grip. A couple of notebooks suffer from keyboard flex or undersized keys. Because Toshiba hasn't rushed to embrace buttonless clickpad designs, its accurate and comfortable touchpads don't suffer from jerkiness. Their two discrete buttons are just right.
Overall, we found Toshiba's tech support to be less than stellar. The Toshiba website is clearly arranged into several sections, with forums, user guides and product tours. And the online resources are extensive and clearly labeled, but users will have to do some digging to find actual answers to questions. Phone-based help offered two-out-of-three correct answers. But one question Toshiba answered incorrectly related to one of the company's own features--USB Sleep and Charge.
Notebooks in Toshiba's Qosmio line feature high-quality displays, letting us enjoy popping colors and wide viewing angles. Screens on the company's other laptops aren't quite as impressive, such as the muted colors on the Tecra R850. Qosmio and Satellite models, including the Qosmio F755 and the Satellite F755, feature Harmon/Kardon speakers, which deliver loud, rich audio with plenty of bass.
Several of the 14 Toshiba notebooks we reviewed earned high praise for their winning combination of high performance and budget-conscious prices, including the $548 Satellite L755D and the $899 Portégé Z835. Via www.toshibadirect.com, customers can configure and purchase the company's laptops. Toshiba notebooks are available at most major retailers, including a big presence at Best Buy.
Toshiba laptops include such specialized apps as Toshiba ReelTime (a visual timeline of recently used files) and Toshiba Bulletin Board (for pinning photos, calendars and sticky notes). Plus, Toshiba App Place and Book Place lets you search for apps and add books to your library.
According to Rescuecom's reliability report, Toshiba's products were the second most reliable. Laptopmag.com users offered mostly positive remarks for the manufacturers' notebooks, with one calling the Portégé Z835, "almost perfect." Others faulted Toshiba for overheating issues. One reader said his Satellite L500 series notebook fried itself after just two years of use. Another was so let down by their Toshiba that they sent us a letter via snail mail to express their disappointment.
Toshiba earns points for being the first out of the gate with a glasses-free 3D display in its Qosmio F755-S5219, despite the fact that the technology is in obvious need of further refinement. Toshiba also released the lightest Ultrabook to hit the market yet, with its Portégé Z835.