The Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130 shows that Toshiba has the budget notebook down to a science. This $569 laptop offers a host of attractive features, including a second-gen Intel Core i3 processor, large 640GB hard drive, a bright 14-inch display and a snazzy design. But with so many sub-$500 notebooks on the market, can the Satellite L745-S4130 prove its worth?
The Satellite P745-S4130 has an all-plastic chassis, but it doesn't look cheap. The silver lid uses Toshiba's Fusion Finish with Matrix pattern: Scores of tiny white dots form intricate diamond patterns across the silver background. The dark gray Toshiba logo emblazoned across the center makes for a good contrast. The best thing about the chassis is that it's resistant to fingerprints and smudges, despite its glossy finish.
The interior features the same motif as the lid. However, the top of the deck, where the speakers and power button are located, is black with dark gray dots. The black keyboard sits in a recessed well surrounded by a thick black band. A glossy black button to disable the touchpad rests directly below the spacebar.
At 13.3 x 9.1 x 1.3-1.5 inches, the Satellite P745-S4130 is smaller but slightly thicker than the HP Pavilion g4 (13.6 x 9.7 x 0.9-inch) but weighs the same--4.4 pounds. The aluminum-clad 13.4 x 9.1-inch Dell Inspiron 14z rivals the L745-S4130's thickness at 1.2-1.4 inches, but is a tad heavier at 4.6 pounds.
We were pleasantly surprised with the bright colors and sharp details on the L745's 14-inch glossy display. Text was nice and crisp on CNN.com with no hint of jaggedness. The 184 lux display was bright, surpassing the 175 lux thin-and-light average. As we watched the 1080p YouTube trailer for "Mirror Mirror," we saw brilliant blues, golds and reds. Julia Roberts' forest-green dress was stunning. We also liked how we could easily see the delicate lacing and filigrees in the each of the gowns. Viewing angles were also adequate, as images didn't start to wash out until we moved about 50 degrees to the right or left.
While the L745's twin speakers provided loud sound, it wasn't the most pleasant listening experience. From the initial Windows startup chime to Elle Fitzgerald's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," audio was severely brassy and flat. Lows also sounded distorted. Lowering the volume to 50 percent helped, but not much.
Keyboard and Touchpad
We liked typing on the L745's classic black matte keyboard. The keys are nice and big and provided firm feedback. During the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we scored 52 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate - slightly higher than our usual 50 wpm/1 percent rate. However, we did notice a small amount of flex as we typed.
The 3.3 x 1.6-inch Synaptics touchpad is a little on the narrow side, but delivered quick and accurate multitouch gestures, including two-finger scroll, rotation, three-finger press and flick, and pinch-zoom. Screen navigation was nice and smooth with fairly precise text highlighting.
After streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the touchpad, space between the G and H keys and bottom of the keyboard measured 82, 85 and 86 degrees, respectively. That's well below 95 degrees, which we consider to be uncomfortable.
A USB 2.0 port with sleep-and-charge capability, a tray-loading DVD player, VGA and a power adapter are located on the notebook's right side. An 8-in-1 reader can be found along the front lip of the notebook. Two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, a security lock slot, a headphone jack and a microphone jack line the L745's left.
The Satellite L745-S4130 features a 1.3-megapixel webcam that captures 640 x 480 video. During our Skype video chat, there was clear, sharp footage on both ends with fairly accurate color. Our caller was able to read the product labels we held up while we read the headline in a magazine he held.
The Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130 proved to be quite the performer during our tests. Thanks to its 2.3-GHz Intel Core i3-2350M CPU, 4GB of RAM and 5,400-rpm hard drive, the L745-S4130 was able to effortlessly stream video from Netflix with 8 open tabs in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
During the PCMark07 benchmark, which measures overall performance, the L745-S4130 scored 2,114. That's slightly below the 2,141 thin-and-light category average, but more than enough to defeat the Dell Inspiron 14z (2.2-GHz Intel Core i3-2330M) and the HP Pavilion g4 (1.9-GHz AMD A4-3300M) which scored 1,815 and 1,293 respectively.
The L745-S4130 booted the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium in a swift 48 seconds, 13 seconds faster than the average. The HP g4 and its 320GB 5,400-rpm hard drive was a close second, at 52 seconds.
On the File Transfer Test, the Satellite L745-S4130 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 3 minutes and 41 seconds, a transfer rate of 23 MBps. That's a little slower than the 28 MBps average.
It took the L745-S4130 7 minutes to match 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses during the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test. The Inspiron 14z notched 8:57 while the Pavilion g4 scored a sluggish 10:02.
With its Mobile Intel HD Graphics GPU, the is about the furthest thing from a gaming rig you can get. Still, we were able to play the Chrome Web browser version of "Bastion," as well as the full version of "World of Warcraft."
During the "World of Warcraft" test, the Satellite L745-S4130 notched a frame rate of 36 fps on autodetect at 1366 x 768. The g4 and the Inspiron 14z notched 36 and 28 fps, respectively. When we increased the settings to maximum, the L745-S4130 dropped to an unplayable 16 fps.
The L745-S4130 notched 4,415 on 3DMark06, just missing the 4,415 thin and light category average but beating the Inspiron 14z and Pavilion g4 by about 100 points.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing via Wi-Fi, the Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130's 6-cell Lithium-ion battery lasted 5 hours and 5 minutes. That's a pretty good runtime for this price, and considerable longer than the 4:23 offered by the HP Pavilion g4. Still, the Dell Inspiron 14z lasted an impressive 7:15.
Software and Warranty
Toshiba packages the Satellite L745-S4130 with a robust suite of utilities, including troubleshooting and diagnostic programs such as Toshiba PC Health Monitor, Laptop Checkup, Service Station and Toshiba Assist. There's also eco Utility, which lets users adjust the notebook's power settings.
ReelTime displays all our recently opened apps, documents, videos and Web pages in a visual timeline across the bottom of the display. Bulletin Board is a great place to jot down a quick note or stash a list or favorite Web bookmark.
Other Toshiba-branded software includes Toshiba Face Recognition, Sleep Utility, Password Utility, Book Place, App Place and Media Controller.
Microsoft Office Starter, Adobe Reader X, Skype, Google Chrome, Amazon and a 30-day free trial of Norton Internet Security 2012 are among the third-party offerings.
Our review version of the Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130 costs $569 and features a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i3-2350M CPU with 4GB of RAM, 640GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and Mobile Intel HD Graphics with 64MB-1696MB shared VRAM. The cheapest model, the $479 L745-S4126, comes equipped with a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium B960 processor with 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and Mobile Intel HD Graphics with 64MB-1696MB shared VRAM.
Toshiba knows how to make a good budget laptop. For $569, the Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130 offers an attractive design, a bright 14-inch display and enough power to perform everyday tasks and play casual games. However, for $20 less, consumers can purchase the Dell Inspiron 14z, which has a smaller hard drive but a sleeker aluminum chassis and longer battery life. But if you happen to come across the Toshiba Satellite L745-S4130, it's a strong value.