The Toshiba Satellite C55DT-C5230 is built to offer you the basics on a budget. This entry-level laptop touts a 15.6-inch HD display, a quad-core AMD A4 processor and 750GB of storage, which should satisfy students or anyone looking to get work done without breaking the bank. However, with a shallow keyboard, lackluster picture quality and occasional performance hiccups, you could do better than the Satellite for less than $400.
The Toshiba Satellite C55DT disguises itself pretty well as a premium notebook, but its cracks started to show after I spent a few minutes with the machine. Toshiba's jet-black laptop sports an attractive brushed finish on both the lid and keyboard deck, though its plastic makeup isn't very smudge-resistant.
The Satellite's keyboard deck curves upward toward its sides, which looks stylish but makes using the notebook uncomfortable. When I rested my hands on the keyboard to type, I often felt the machine's sharp bottom edge press against my wrist.
While not superslim, the Satellite's edges host all of the essential connections: Ethernet, HDMI, an SD card reader, a DVD SuperMulti Drive, a headphone jack, a USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports.
At 14.96 x 10.2 x 0.96 inches, the Satellite is similar in size to such budget competitors as the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 and HP Pavilion 15t Touch. However, the 5.29-pound Satellite is also the heaviest of the bunch, compared with the 5.11-pound Inspiron and 4.8-pound HP 15t.
Display and Audio
The Satellite's display isn't exactly a showstopper. While the 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768 touch display did a fine job displaying Web pages and the myriad colorful app icons on the Windows Start menu, I found it too glossy and pale for watching movies.
I watched the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens on both the Satellite and HP's Pavilion 15t at the same time, and found colors to be noticeably richer on HP's laptop. The Toshiba's panel delivered just 59 percent of the sRGB color gamut, compared with 64.2 percent for the budget category average. I was also underwhelmed by the Satellite's viewing angles, which made it hard to watch the clip from anywhere farther than 45 degrees from either side.
MORE: Best Toshiba Laptops
At least the display is fairly bright. Registering 195 nits on our brightness test, the Satellite outshone the Inspiron 15 (167 nits), the HP 15t (162 nits) and our 192-nit budget average. It couldn't, however, top the Lenovo G50, whose 238-nit rating is brighter than any sub-$400 laptop we've recently tested.
The Satellite's speakers offer decent sound, but I wish they were louder. The somber guitars and pained vocals of The Gaslight Anthem's "Get Hurt" came through clearly, but things started to sound muddled once the climactic bridge hit.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Webcam
The Satellite's black chiclet keys allowed me to type quickly, but I found them too shallow for comfort. I blazed through the Key Hero Typing Test at 91 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy on the laptop, but due to the keys' short travel of 1.28 millimeters, I didn't feel like I had the cushion I needed to chop away for hours at a time. (For a machine this size, 1.5 mm or higher is preferable.)
The laptop's 3.6 x 2.2-inch touchpad is small but precise, sporting a matte surface and dedicated left- and right-click buttons. While the stiff surface made navigation easy, gesture-based functions such as pinch-to-zoom were hard to pull off consistently.
The Satellite's webcam takes perfectly fine photos, but, like most laptops, they're pretty grainy. The notebook's camera captured my skin tone, pink shirt and nearby co-workers with ease, though smaller details such as my beard and birthmarks were largely lost in the fuzz.
Fueled by a 1.8-GHz AMD A4-7210 APU and 4GB of RAM, the Satellite C55DT provided mixed performance results. Hopping between a dozen open Chrome tabs while streaming video from YouTube and Twitch was mostly smooth, though I noticed occasional lag when I pulled up the Start menu or typed in Chrome's address bar.
Toshiba's laptop fell roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of benchmark tests. The Satellite's Geekbench 3 score of 3,624 is higher than that of the 15t (3,420) and our 3,522 budget average, but not as high as the Inspiron 15's 4,432. To be fair, the Dell also benefitted from a fifth-generation Intel Core i3 processor and 6GB of RAM.
The Satellite proved to be the worst of the bunch on our spreadsheet test: It took a sluggish 15 minutes and 4 seconds to match 20,000 names to their addresses. That's more than twice as slow as the Inspiron 15 5000 (7:06), and way behind the HP 15t (7:59) and our 9-minute budget average.
To stress the Satellite's multitasking muscle, we opened a 69MB Word file while a 1080p video played in the background. It took Toshiba's PC 48 seconds to get the job done, which is slower than the Inspiron 15 5000 (41 seconds) and HP 15t (39.4 seconds), but better than our 52-second average for sub-$400 notebooks.
Battery Life and Heat
The Satellite's battery will get you through your first few classes unplugged, but you'll need a charger handy to get through the whole day. Toshiba's notebook endured for 4 hours and 47 minutes on our battery test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi), lasting a minute longer than the Inspiron 15 (4:46) but falling behind the 15t (5:24), our 5:10 average and the Asus X555LA's best-in-category 5:55.
You can count on the Satellite staying mostly cool; after 15 minutes of streaming-HD video, the notebook's touchpad, keyboard and underside registered to 75, 85 and 89 degrees, respectively, all of which are below our 95-degree comfort threshold. However, the laptop's bottom-right side got warm, hitting 100 degrees.
The Satellite isn't as overwhelmingly infected with bloatware as some other budget laptops, but there are plenty of apps you're probably better off deleting. The notebook is sprinkled with throwaway games such as Dragons of Atlantis and a lame free-to-play version of The Godfather, as well as preinstalled apps for Amazon and eBay -- two services you're probably better off just using on the Web.
On Toshiba's end, the My Toshiba app serves as a hub that, well… takes you to other apps. Rounding out the system's software selection are a few tools for backing up files and installing updates, as well as the CyberLink PowerDVD all-purpose media player.
The Toshiba Satellite C55DT offers everything you need for basic computing at a low price, but it's far from the best budget option. Its AMD A4 processor is prone to occasional slowdown, and its 15.6-inch HD display is too glossy for all-day entertainment.
Budget shoppers are far better off with the $449 Dell Inspiron 15 5000, which offers a sturdier, more attractive design, stronger performance and impressively loud speakers.