Good overall performance; Solid, sturdy build; Runs cool; Long battery life; Good keyboard
Lackluster display; Tinny audio; Poor webcam; Bit heavy for 14-incher
The $699 Toshiba Satellite E45t Ultrabook is a capable Windows 8 touch-screen laptop with Core i5 performance in an attractive, sturdy shell.
Those in the market for a portable Windows 8 notebook for less than a grand are spoiled by all the great choices these days. Toshiba's $699 Satellite E45t Ultrabook (a Best Buy exclusive) offers a 14-inch touch screen, an Intel Core i5 CPU, a 750GB hard drive, a 32GB SSD cache and nifty Dragon Assistant voice software in a sleek, sturdy package. Is the Satellite E45t the Ultrabook for you?
Covered in silver aluminum with a brushed metal finish, the Toshiba Satellite E45t-A4300 Ultrabook sports a premium look. As with many of Toshiba's recent notebooks, the E45t features the company's "Skyline" design, with rounded corners toward the rear, and more squared corners toward the front of the system. A shiny, chrome Toshiba logo adorns the bottom left of the lid, and the underside is encased in black plastic.
Inside, the laptop's black, island-style keyboard is housed in a dark-gray aluminum deck, with a round, fingertip-size power button on the top right. The touchpad is centered beneath the keyboard's G and H keys, surrounded by a brushed metal palm rest.
At 13.4 x 9.2 x 0.8 inches and 4.4 pounds, the E45t is just a bit smaller but heavier than such competing Ultrabooks as the Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch (13.9 x 9.1 x 0.82 inches, 4 pounds) and the Dell Inspiron 14 7000 (13.6 x 9.4 x 0.6 inches, 3.8 pounds).
On the bright side, graphics in games such as "Bejeweled 3" and "Dragon's Blade" looked rich. We enjoyed the vibrant orange and yellow flames surrounding special gems in "Bejeweled 3."
Although it was adequately bright to our eyes, the E45t sports a dimmer display than competing Ultrabooks. Registering 149 lux on our brightness meter, the E45t was outshone by the Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch (163 lux) and the Dell Inspiron 14 7000 (178 lux), and also scored lower than the thin-and-light notebook category average (211 lux). Additionally, the IdeaPad U430 Touch sports a sharper 1600 x 900p display, while the Inspiron 14 7000 boasts a full-HD (1920 x 1080p) screen.
However, the E45t's 10-point touch screen was responsive. Gestures worked well, including pinch to zoom, swiping back and forth to navigate Web pages in Internet Explorer and swiping up to view all apps. The laptop's sturdy hinge offered adequate resistance to our pokes, only budging slightly when we used more force than usual.
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Toshiba's Audio Source Filtering app lets you prioritize voices or background sounds using a slider bar. Although placing the bar on the left for Voice Enhancement made Rosenberg's voice clearer and louder, we lost most of the accompanying instruments, and setting the dial to Background Sound Enhancement caused the vocals to disappear into the music.
Dolby's DTS Studio Sound program lets you add bass boost and surround sound, as well as control your device's output with an equalizer. We played around with the Dolby app but found no significant difference in the music.
To test the device's speaker volume, we played a tone at max volume and measured it from 13 inches away. The E45t notched 73 decibels -- softer than the thin-and-light category average (83 dB), the IdeaPad U430 Touch (90 dB) and the Inspiron 14 7000 (75 dB).
Keyboard and Touchpad
Measuring 4.2 x 2.6 inches, the touchpad on the E45t is spacious and responsive. Windows 8 gestures worked like a charm; we easily swiped in from the left edge to toggle through our open apps, and scrolled through websites with two fingers.
After 15 minutes of streaming a full-screen Hulu video, the space between the G and H keys measured 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while the touchpad registered just 71 degrees -- cooler than the thin-and-light category averages of 85 and 80 degrees, respectively. The bottom of the notebook also measured a lap-friendly 87 degrees, well under our comfort threshold of 95 degrees.
The Satellite E45t did similarly well on performance benchmark PCMark 7. Its score of 4,316 is better than the average thin-and-light notebook (3,460), the IdeaPad U430 Touch (3,785) and the Inspiron 14 7000 (2,771). Both the IdeaPad and the Inspiron pack the same CPU as the Toshiba and carry 4GB and 6GB of RAM, respectively.
On Geekbench 3, the E45t notched 4,963, which is lower than the category average of 6,021 and the Inspiron (5,048) but higher than the IdeaPad (4,739).
The E45t's 750GB 5,400rpm SATA hard drive, which is complemented by a 32GB SSD cache, booted Windows 8.1 in 21 seconds. That's faster than the average thin-and-light notebook (29 seconds) and the Dell Inspiron 14 (23 seconds). However, the IdeaPad U430 Touch booted in just 16 seconds.
Copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 2 minutes and 31 seconds, the E45t's transfer rate of 28.1 MBps is less than half the category average of 60 MBps, and slower than the IdeaPad U430 Touch (29 MBps) and the Inspiron 14 7000 (30 MBps).
The Satellite E45t did well on our OpenOffice Test, matching 20,000 names and addresses in 5 minutes and 20 seconds. That's almost a full minute faster than the average (6:18) but a tad slower than the IdeaPad (5:11) and the Inspiron (5:18).
Graphics and Gaming
When we played "World of Warcraft" with all three notebooks set to 1366 x 768 pixels and effects on Autodetect, the E45t averaged a playable 36 frames per second. That showing is worse than the Inspiron 14 7000 (46 fps), but slightly better than the IdeaPad (35 fps).
With the settings bumped up to Ultra, the E45t mustered an unplayable 19 fps.
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You also get an array of Toshiba apps, such as App Place (app store), Book Place (e-book store), Maintenance Utility, Media Player, Recovery Disk Creator, Password Utility and Service Station.
Nuance Dragon Assistant
Dragon was much more accurate and responsive in a quiet office, letting us open Internet Explorer, the calculator and other programs. Having Dragon Assistant is a nice touch if your hands are occupied but requires plenty of refinement to make it more useful.
Configurations and Warranty
Our review unit of the Toshiba Satellite E45t (A4300) is a Best Buy exclusive and sports 6GB of RAM; a 750GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 32GB SSD cache; and an Intel Core i5-4200 processor, all for $699.
A second configuration, E45t-AST2N01 -- available on Toshiba's site for $779 -- has 8GB of RAM; a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 32GB SSD disk cache; and the same Intel Core i5-4200U CPU.
The Satellite E45t comes with a one-year limited warranty each for parts and labor.
|CPU||1.6 Ghz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||750GB + 32GB mSATA SSD|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive + SSD|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Mobile Intel HD Graphics|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Wireless-N 7260|
|Touchpad Size||4.2 x 2.6 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 2.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI-out|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Warranty/Support||1 year standard limited warranty|