Toshiba Satellite C50-A-156 Laptop Review

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Toshiba Satellite C50-A-156
The Toshiba Satellite C50-A-156 is a rather blend and unassuming-looking general purpose laptop, but as it costs less than £350 we can forgive a boring chassis. It's unashamedly plastic and, at 32mm thick, pretty chunky, but it looks smart and feels sturdy. In keeping with its business like appearance, it has a matt display, with which means that you don't need to worry about reflections on dark screens or glare in brightly-lit environments.

The 15.6in, 1,366x768 display is surprisingly good. What really stood out in subjective tests was the accurate, natural looking colour, and we saw no trace of unwanted colour tints in our test images. The calibration tests bore this out, as we measured the screen as displaying 72.9% of the sRGB colour gamut. Our dark, low-contrast test images looked murky and greyish, though. Although black tones didn't look too bad to the naked eye, our calibrator rated black levels as a poor 0.72cd/m2 and the display's contrast ratio was also relatively low at 360:1.

The laptop relies on the processor's on-chip Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, and there are VGA and HDMI outputs for external displays. The GPU is far more powerful than the integrated graphics in previous generations of Intel Core processors. In our standard Dirt Showdown laptop graphics test, which we run at a resolution of 1,280x720 with High quality settings and 4x anti-aliasing, we saw a frame rate of 16.1fps. When we dropped the quality to Low we got 31fps, and saw a hyper-smooth 44fps at Ultra Low quality. You'll easily be able to play older 3D games and most new ones will work well if you keep the quality settings down.

The processor itself is a 2.5GHz Intel Core i3-3120M, and it managed an overall score of 44 in our benchmark tests. That's good by laptop standards, and it's even more impressive considering the Toshiba's low price. It can easily handle running multiple applications at once and keeping open large numbers of browser tabs. The laptop has 4GB of RAM, which is good enough for general computing tasks if not editing enormous images. You can upgrade the laptop to a maximum of 16GB RAM, and there's one memory slot free by default.

The laptop's 1TB hard disk is another massive coup for a machine at this price, giving you all the room you'll need for your multimedia collection, as well as plenty of space to install software. There's a DVD-RW drive, too, helping to set this laptop apart from many similarly priced portables, which often lack optical drives. The C50 has three USB ports, one of which is USB3, as well as an SDXC memory card reader and the usual 3.5mm mic and headphone ports. Network connectivity comes in the form of a 10/100 Ethernet port and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

The keyboard's closely positioned keys look a bit cramped compared to the near-ubiquitous Chiclet style keyboards, which have gaps between each keys. However, they're large, with a reasonable amount of travel when you strike each key, which makes the keyboard feel responsive. We were able to touch-type on the keyboard accurately, although you need to hold down the Function key to activate certain keys such as Print Screen. There's a full-sized numeric keypad, too, set slightly apart
from the rest of the keyboard. This means that the touchpad is pushed a little further to the right than we're entirely comfortable with, but we didn't brush it while typing and had enough space for our right wrist. The wrist rest gets a bit warm after an hour or so of use, though, particularly to the right of the touchpad. The pad is surprisingly small, but its compact size and separate buttons make it easy to click and drag to select text.

The integrated speaker is positioned just behind the keyboard. Our audio test files sounded clear and reasonably loud, but, like most laptop speakers, there's no bass and treble tones are uncomfortably harsh. Connect external speakers if you want to listen to music properly. Although the laptop is fairly powerful and has a relatively large 15.6in screen, it did well in our light use battery test, lasting six hours and six minutes.

With a surprisingly powerful processor for the money, in addition to an impressive display, this is a great laptop for less than £350. While the laptop and touchpad layout aren't entirely to our taste, both proved to be perfectly usable, making this a laptop with few compromises and a Best Buy winner.
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