Toshiba's Satellite P845-S4200 thin-and-light laptop is the latest in a series of notebooks sold exclusively through Best Buy that combines an attractive chassis with good performance and a low price. At just $599, this 14-inch system has an alluring aluminum design, third-gen Core i5 processor, and a fairly large hard drive, too. Is this enough to make you rush out and get one?
The P845's chassis sports a stylish blend of black, chrome and silver. The aluminum champagne-silver lid and deck have an etched texture that looks and feels like the scales on a fish, but does an excellent job at repelling fingerprints. Flip it up to reveal a glossy 13.3-inch display that's bordered by a glossy black plastic bezel. A webcam is perched on top, while a white Toshiba logo sits directly underneath. Unlike the lid, the bezel attracted plenty of fingerprints.
Above the keyboard at the top of the deck are Harmon/Kardon speakers, which have black grilles with chrome accents, a nice contrast to the rest of the system. The P845's power button, next to the right speaker, glows white when the system is on. The touchpad is bordered by a thin strip of chrome, also a nice touch. The deck and the front of the lip are accented by five indicator lights.
Weighing 4.2 pounds, the Satellite P845-S4200 is heavier than the 3.7-pound HP Envy 4-1030US, but weighs the same as the Dell Inspiron 14z. The P845 measures 13.7 x 9.2 x 0.95 - 1.1 inches. That makes it slightly smaller than the Inspiron 14z (13.7 x 9.5 x 0.83 inches) but larger than the Envy 4 (13.4 x 9.3 x 0.78 inches). The P845 and Inspiron 14z pack DVD burners, while the Envy 4 does not.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The island-style keys on the P845 are well spaced but have limited travel. For the most part, the keys are sufficiently large, but considering there's a one-inch gap on either side of the keyboard, there's some wasted space. In the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we notched 68 words per minute and a 3 percent error rate, which are typical marks for us.
While backlit keys would've been a nice touch, they're not a deal-breaker for a system at this price. We like that Toshiba has reversed the Function row keys, which kept us from having to hold the "Fn" key whenever we wanted to adjust brightness and volume.
The Synaptics touchpad on the P845 measures a fairly spacious 4 x 2.1 inches and has a pair of integrated buttons that provided nice feedback and an audible click when pressed. Executing gestures such as two-finger scroll and three-finger flick were easy, as was the rotate gesture.
After playing a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the P845's touchpad registered a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The system's underside ran somewhat warm at 88 degrees, but at 82 degrees, the space between the G&H keys was pleasant. We consider anything over 95 degrees to be uncomfortable.
The P845's glossy 14-inch screen has a native resolution of 1366 x 768. When we watched the 1080p "Skyfall" trailer, a close-up of Daniel Craig's face revealed that his eyes took on a turquoise, rather than a blue, hue. Also, the red bars on the British flag were not vivid.
The display on the P845 is also dim. We rated it at 148 lux, which is far below the category average (209 lux) as well as the Inspiron 14z's screen (254 lux). However, the P845 is slightly more luminous than the Envy 4, which scored 142 lux.
The P845 sports a pair of Harmon/Kardon speakers, which are mounted on top of the deck. They're paired with SRS Premium Sound 3D software, which enhances overall sound quality. When we listened to "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns ‘n' Roses and "I Dreamed a Dream" by Susan Boyle, vocals and instruments sounded clear and accurate. These speakers also get very loud. In fact, the P845 is the loudest 14-inch notebook we remember hearing.
However, the speakers on our unit produced a rattling sound on a few occasions, especially at higher volumes. To see if this issue was limited to our system, we visited a local Best Buy and played some YouTube clips and streamed Spotify music. The retail model's speakers barely rattled at all, so we're assuming that there was something wrong with our review sample.
SRS Premium Sound 3D has three presets: Music, Movie and 3D. The Music setting made vocals sound more powerful but de-emphasized instrumentals. The Movie preset provided the most balanced option, fusing vocals and instruments together into the most complete listening experience. The 3D setting made music sound spaced out and decompressed. With the software turned off, music sounded surprisingly clear, though significantly less powerful.
The right front lip of the P845 houses an SD Card reader. The right side has headphone and microphone jacks, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI and VGA ports and the power port. The left side is home to two more USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet and lock jacks along with the optical drive. We wish the headphone and mic jacks were better labeled, though; you have to lift the system up to tell which one is which.
The Satellites P845's webcam can capture video and still shots at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 800. In office lighting, colors across the spectrum looked dull and images were grainy. In natural lighting, hues were more accurately represented but fine details such as skin imperfections and hair color highlights were not visible. The Toshiba Web Camera Application software allows you manipulate basic image settings, but direct uploads of images or videos are not possible.
The Satellite P845 is powered by a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, 6GB of RAM, a roomy 750GB 5,400 rpm hard drive, and Intel HD 4000 Graphics. In the processor-centric Geekbench test, the P845 scored 6,082, topping the 5,560 category average as well as the Envy 4's score of 5,783. It barely edges out the Inspiron 14z, which scored 6,070. Both the Envy 4 and the Inspiron 14z have the same CPU as the P845.
The P845 took 45 seconds to boot Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. While it beat the 52-second category average, the Envy 4 booted the same OS in 31 seconds, and the Inspiron 14z did so in 28 seconds. However, both HP's and Dell's units pair a mechanical hard drive with an SSD cache, while the P845 sports a solo 5,400-rpm mechanical hard drive.
In our File Transfer Test, where we task the machine with copying a 4.97GB folder filled with music, movies and photos, the P845 finished in 3 minutes and 41 seconds. That works out to a 23 MBps average, which is well behind the 39 MBps category average. The Envy 4 and Inspiron 14z didn't approach the average either, but with respective rates of 31 MBps and 30 MBps, both write data significantly faster than the P845.
In our OpenOffice Spreadsheet Test, where the unit matches 20,000 names with their corresponding addresses, the P845 closed the deal in 6 minutes and 6 seconds. That slightly behind the 5:58 category average and longer than the Envy 4's and Inspiron 14z's respective times of 5:51 and 5:47.
In real-world usage, the P845 held up reasonably well. With 10 tabs open in the latest version of Firefox, a full scan going on ZoneAlarm Security while listening to Internet radio in iTunes, we didn't notice any slowdowns. However, when we added five more browser tabs, including a windowed Hulu video, we began to notice some stuttering. Switching between tabs didn't slow the P845 under these conditions, but the Hulu video looked slightly choppy and we noticed some stuttering when scrolling up and down webpages.
In our 3DMark11 test, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall graphics performance, the P845 and its integrated Intel HD 4000 Graphics GPU scored 601. That trails the category average by 152 (753). The Envy 4, which has the same integrated graphics chip, scored a similar 562. However, the Inspiron 14z (AMD Radeon HD 7570M) registered 902.
The P845 can play "World of Warcraft" at respectable frame rates. With the game set to "Good" at 1366 x 768, the notebook churned out 30 fps. Equipped with the same GPU, the Envy 4 scored 38 fps and the Inspiron 14z and its dedicated GPU returned 64 fps. Keep in mind, though, that we tested the HP and Dell before the "Mists of Pandaria" update, which demands more system resources.
In our LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous surfing over Wi-Fi with the display's brightness tuned to 40 percent, the P845's 6-cell battery lasted 6 hours and 9 minutes. That's pretty good endurance for a 14-inch notebook but 31 minutes below the category average. That's also slightly weaker than the Envy 4, which ran for 6:18 minutes, but much stronger than the Inspiron 14z's 5:35.
Toshiba only offers one configuration of the Satellite P845, which is sold through Best Buy.
Software and Warranty
The P845 comes with a multitude of utilities, including Toshiba ReelTime, which presents you with a horizontal bar filled with your most recently opened files. Reopen a recently accessed file by double-clicking on it in the bar. Toshiba Face Recognition scans your mug and provides with you a biometric login. Toshiba eco Utility is a power-saving feature that dims your display, keyboard backlight, and changes the system sleep timer along with other settings in an effort to conserve battery life. A 1-year license for Norton AntiVirus is also included.
Toshiba backs the P845 with a year warranty for parts and labor and one year for the battery. The company offers only 90 days of free support. See how Toshiba fared in our Best & Worst Brands report and Tech Support Showdown.
For just $599, the Toshiba Satellite P845-S4200 offers an attractive overall package, both in terms of looks and performance. It holds up well against pricier Ultrabooks (the HP Envy 4-1030US is currently $749 and a similarly configured Dell Inspiron 14z is $749), while delivering very loud speakers and plenty of space for all of your files. We've used better keyboards, but overall the P845 is quite a bargain.