Shoppers who demand the latest and greatest technologies inside their laptop should take a good look at the Toshiba Satellite P55t. This Best Buy-exclusive system (available for $779) packs Intel's newest Intel Haswell processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1080p touch-screen display and Harman Kardon speakers. Toshiba has definitely stepped up its game in the keyboard department, too.
The Satellite P55t-A5202 is one of the first laptops to receive Toshiba's new Skyline design language. The style gives Toshiba's notebooks a more sophisticated look than previous efforts. This laptop is also 25 percent lighter than its predecessor.
The P55t's brushed aluminum lid, which has a chrome Toshiba logo in the bottom-left corner, is understated but sexy. This restrained styling carries over to the brushed aluminum keyboard deck, which proved both comfortable and sturdy. Above the frameless keyboard is a thin strip of chrome that separates the P55t's deck from its speaker grill. An edge-to-edge glass display helps add to the Satellite P55t's elegant look.
Measuring 15.2 x 9.9 x 1.2 inches and weighing 5.2 pounds, the 15-inch Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202 is the same weight but larger than the 5.2-lb. Dell Inspiron 15z (14 x 9.8 x 0.9-0.91 inches), and heavier than Acer's 15-inch Aspire M5-583P-6428, which comes in at 15 x 10.1 x 0.68-0.9 inches and weighs exactly 5 pounds While no heavyweight, the Satellite P55t certainly makes its presence known when carried in a backpack.
Display and audio
Click to EnlargeAlthough the P55t-A2505 is outfitted with a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p TruBrite display, it doesn't quite live up to that marketing term. When we watched a trailer for "The Wolverine," night scenes looked muddy, as blacks overpowered the rest of the image. Fortunately, images and text were sharp; the creases in the Wolverine's forehead were easily visible.
The P55t registered a meager 138 lux on our light meter. Both the Dell Inspiron 15z and Acer Aspire M5 are brighter, hitting 146 lux and 158 lux, respectively.
Above the Satellite P55t's keyboard is its edge-to-edge speaker grille, which houses a pair of Harman Kardon speakers. The notebook produced clear and fairly loud audio, but Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves" sounded flat compared to the four-speaker Acer Aspire M5. The DTS Studio Sound utility lets you boost the bass and volume, as well as activate a 3D or Surround mode.
Keyboard and touchpad
Click to EnlargeThanks to its relatively large footprint, the Satellite P55t comes equipped with a full-size backlit keyboard. Overall, the tactile feedback is top-notch. Even the sound elicited by tapping the keys was satisfying. Number crunchers will be happy to find that the P55t comes with a large number pad. We also appreciate the direct action keys for adjusting the screen brightness and volume.
On the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we recorded a speedy 80 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate while using the P55t's keyboard. That's higher than our usual score of 76 words per minute.
The Satellite P55t-A2505's spacious 4.5 x 2.6-inch Synaptics touchpad was smooth and accurate. Windows 8 and multitouch gestures were spot-on, though we did have a problem enabling the twist-to-rotate function. Our one gripe is that, in addition to checking the box next to rotate in the touchpad's settings menu, you also have to click "enable twist to rotate" in a secondary submenu.
Ports and webcam
Click to EnlargeThe P55t offers users a variety of ports. On the right side are two USB 3.0 slots, an HDMI port, a VGA adapter, and microphone and headphone jacks. The left side hosts the power connector and two USB 2.0 ports that support Sleep and Charge, and Sleep and Music. That means you can charge or listen to music from your smartphone even when the notebook is in Sleep mode. An Ethernet jack and the notebook's DVD+/-RW drive also sit on the left side. The front lip of the notebook houses the SD Card reader.
Click to EnlargeThe Satellite P55t's 0.9-megapixel camera captured grainy images and video. Colors were a bit flat, but more accurate than we've seen from other webcams. Images didn't improve much under brighter lighting, instead looking blown out.
Our Satellite P55t kept its cool under pressure. After streaming a full- screen 1080p video for 15 minutes, the Satellite P55t-A5202's touchpad topped out at a cool 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The keyboard was a bit warmer, at 78 degrees,while the underside of the system was hotter still, at 84 degrees. The warmest spot, located in the left corner of the underside of the laptop, reached just 88 degrees. We consider temperatures of 95 degrees and lower comfortable.
Click to EnlargeWith its fourth-generation 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics chip, the Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202 can more than hold its own on everyday tasks. We opened 10 tabs in Chrome while streaming a Netflix video and performing a system scan via Norton PC Checkup and didn't notice a hint of lag.
On the PCMark 7 benchmark, which measures a notebook's overall performance, the P55t scored 3,208, outgunning the category average of 2,914, as well as the similarly equipped Acer Aspire M5-583P (2,969). However, the Dell Inspiron 15z and its 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor and 6GB of RAM scored an even higher 4,184.
The Satellite P55t-A5202's 750GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive booted Windows 8 in a relatively fast 18 seconds. That's faster than the Dell Inspiron 15z's time of 21 seconds, as well as the Acer Aspire M5's 25-second boot time.
Though it may boot quickly, the Satellite P55t's hard drive proved sluggish on the LAPTOP File Transfer test, copying 4.97GB of mixed media files in 3 minutes and 40 seconds. That's a rate of 23.1 MBps, which is slower than the Dell Inspiron 15z's 30 MBps, as well as the Acer Aspire M5's 34.6 MBps.
The Satellite also performed poorly on our OpenOffice test, taking 5 minutes and 14 seconds to match 20,000 names with their appropriate addresses. That's faster than the Acer Aspire M5's time of 5:15 and well ahead of the category average of 5:49. The Dell Inspiron 15z, meanwhile, completed the test in 6:36.
With Intel's latest HD Graphics 4400 chip inside, the Satellite P55t-A5202 is certainly more powerful than its predecessor, but your fun will be limited to mainstream games.
On the 3DMark11 benchmark, the P55t scored 878. That's better than the Dell Inspiron 15z's score of 641, but still just below the Acer Aspire M5-583P-6428's score of 967.
If you're looking to get in some light gaming, the Toshiba Satellite P55t should do just fine. We managed to run "World of Warcraft" with the graphics on auto and the resolution set to 1366 x 768 at a smooth 35 frames per second. That's higher than the Dell Inspiron 15z's frame rate of 33 fps, but below the Acer Aspire M5's 46 fps. When we boosted the graphics to max, the P55t averaged just 19 fps.
When we bumped the Satellite P55t's resolution to its native 1920 x 1080, frame rates dropped to 27 fps with graphics on autodetect, and 14 fps with the effects maxed. In other words, you'll have to dial down the resolution to get your game on.
Click to EnlargeThe Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202's 4-cell lithium-ion battery ran for 5 hours and 32 minutes on our LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set to 40 percent. That's longer than the Dell Inspiron 14z's time of 4:40, and just a few ticks off the category average of 5:36. However, the Acer Aspire M5 lasted a much longer 8:55.
Software and warranty
Click to EnlargeOne of our biggest bugaboos when it comes to new notebooks is bloatware. Unfortunately, Toshiba doesn't seem to have a problem filling your notebook with apps. Its own apps include Toshiba App Place, which is a link to the website where you can download apps; Toshiba Book Place and Toshiba Start, which is essentially a Toshiba-branded news app. We found Desktop Assist to be the most useful, as it provides access to Toshiba Video Player, Audio Enhancement, HDD Protection and various system settings.
Third-party apps include Netflix, a one-year subscription to Norton Antivirus and PC Checkup, Nuance Dragon Assistant, Electronic Arts' Origin and the WildTangent game console.
Toshiba offers customers who purchase a Satellite P55t-5202 a one-year parts-and-labor warranty.
Click to EnlargeThe Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202 comes with a 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U processor; 8GB of RAM; an Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics chip; and a 750GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive for $779 at Best Buy. If you want a less expensive or more powerful version of the P55t, you'll have to opt for one of Toshiba's Satellite P50 laptops.
For $699, you can get the Toshiba Satellite P50-ABT2N22, which sports with an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 750GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. Add a touch-screen display, and the price balloons to $849. If you're looking for a more powerful laptop, you can opt for the Toshiba Satellite P50t-AST2GX1 with a quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor, 12GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GT740M processor with Optimus technology for $1,249.
Click to EnlargeThe Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202 is a sleek 15.6-inch notebook that offers snappy Haswell performance, a comfortable keyboard and a good touch-screen experience for an easy-to-swallow $779. However, while we like that Toshiba includes a 1080p display at this price, the panel's relative dimness dampens our enthusiasm.
For $70 less, the Acer Aspire M5-583P-6428 provides a much longer battery life and a more robust sound system, but with a lower-resolution screen and a less-exciting design. Overall, the Satellite P55t-A5202 is a solid choice for students and other shoppers who want a laptop that will last.