Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

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September 26, 2011 • Reviews

Notebook PC Review: Toshiba Satellite P745-S4250 Laptop

Normally in laptop reviews I try to apply some generic context about where the laptop falls in the market in terms of segmentation and price, then invite the reader into the main body of the review to find out how it fits in that segment and the value offered.

For the Toshiba Satellite P745-S4250 (S4250 from now on), I will just come out and call the segment the HOLY-CRAP-DID-YOU-HEAR-THE-SOUND-ON-THIS-THING-IT-IS-UNBELIEVABLE-FOR-A-LAPTOP … and the price is just under $800 nicely equipped.

With my hand fully tipped, come on along for a look at this wonderful 14″ laptop!

The Hype:
No-Nonsense Multimedia Performance
While nice and nimble, this laptop series has some serious skills, too, centered around the visibly smart 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processors or the accelerated AMD® A6-series dual-core processors. You’ll be able to do all kinds of tasks at once—browsing, emailing, downloading and more. You’ll enjoy light gaming. You’ll jam through presentations and budgeting. And you’ll be glad you chose a Toshiba laptop.

Rich Entertainment Features
Our Satellite® P740 laptop PCs definitely know how to have fun. Kick back and enjoy soaring virtual surround listening for your favorite music, movies and games through harman/kardon® stereo speakers tuned with sound enhancements from Dolby® and Waves Audio. Tap into a home theater with an HDMI® port. Or spin up today’s hottest HD movies with an optional Blu-ray Disc™ player.

Eye-Catching Mobility
Do you cherish your multimedia, and multitask like mad? With its compact design and well-sized 14” diagonal widescreen HD TruBrite® display, this laptop helps you do both while on the move. What’s more, thanks to its arresting slate-colored Fusion™ X2 Finish, you might find you’ll have an audience of admirers.

Cool Technologies
Use this PC to savor multimedia and other content on your big screen TV with Intel® Wireless Display technology*. Enjoy blazing fast transfer speeds with compatible devices through a USB 3.0 port. Charge your Smartphone even when the laptop is off—with USB Sleep and Charge. Chat live through a built-in webcam with Toshiba Face Recognition. And upconvert standard-def content to HD in real time with our exclusive Resolution+® video enhancement technology*.

Toshiba Extras
This laptop series is full of features that add to your fun, productivity and confidence. They include: a Touch pad with multi-touch control so you can swipe, rotate, push, scroll or zoom in on the display screen; Toshiba Sleep & Music, which lets you plug in your MP3 player and pipe tunes through this PC’s sound system; our PC Health Monitor; plus the Toshiba power-saving Eco-utility™ to manage your battery consumption.

The Reality:

While my introduction was a bit on the over-the-top humor side, the bottom line is that this is the absolutely best sounding laptop I have ever used. Period. The $4000+ Dell XPS M710 with internal subwoofer my kids have been enjoying using since I moved on to newer computers was decidedly knocked off its perch.

I do plan to cover other aspects, but it is worth noting that aside from getting a solid all-around laptop at a mid-range price, you are getting something that is incredibly loud for a small system, but also incredibly clear and crisp in audio presentation. It excels at gaming, video, audio playback and audio production tasks. In other words … it is a multimedia beast!

System Specifications
There are a number of different P740 series computers to choose from, but the one on the Toshiba website was identical to the unit I tested:

Toshiba Satellite P745-S4250
Processor* – Intel® Core™ i5-2410M processor
Operating System* – Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)*
Graphics Engine* – Mobile Intel® HD Graphics
Graphics Memory* – 64MB-1696MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory
Memory* – 6GB DDR3 1333MHz memory
Hard Drive* – 750GB HDD (5400rpm)
Optical Drive* – DVD-SuperMulti drive (+/-R double layer)
Display Size – 14.0″ widescreen
Display Type* – HD TruBrite® LED Backlit display with Intel® Wireless Display Technology
Display Resolution – Supports 720p content, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1366×768 (HD)
Audio – harman/kardon® stereo speakers, Headphone jack (stereo), Microphone jack (mono), Waves MaxxAudio® 3
USB Ports* – 1-USB (3.0) port with USB Sleep and Charge*, 2-USB (2.0) ports
HDMI – HDMI® output port
Webcam – Webcam and microphone built into LCD bezel
Wireless LAN* – Intel® Wi-Fi® Wireless networking (802.11b/g/n + WiDi Capable)*
Bluetooth – No Bluetooth (No Antenna)
LAN – 10/100 Ethernet LAN
Battery Life* – Up to 5.96 hours
Weight* – Starting at 5.4 lbs

Build Quality
When I first opened the S4250 I found that it felt very ‘plasticky’ and light before I inserted the battery, and that had me concerned. However, once assembled and opened up, I found that the plastic of the screen lid wasn’t a cheap work-around but a weight-compromise that was used to full effect for visual styling. The gorgeous textured cover is also used throughout the interior of the laptop and presents a very stylish exterior. My younger son really loved the appearance and felt it went perfectly with the ‘phat beats he was dropping’. Or something like that.

But aside from looking good, my initial misgivings proved not to be true. The build was solid and the laptop itself was well designed with no creaks or flexing in normal use. The keyboard was responsive without being spongy, and the trackpad was very usable. The key layout had some of the less used keys pushed to the side to allow for a more natural feeling keyboard for the main keys. These little design choices are very much appreciated as they enhance the overall experience.

Portability
The 14″ laptop falls very close to the 13.3″ sized that marks the mid-range market. The S4250 is barely 3/8″ larger in width and depth than my Sony Vaio S-series laptop (though it is thicker). This size range is a perfect cross between a fairly large screen and an easily carried package. At just over 5 pounds the S4250 was a breeze to carry around.

The system uses a standard power brick which naturally adds to the weight of the package. However, since the standard ‘line lump’ adapter is no longer the bane of a traveler’s existence, this isn’t such a hassle. In fact, with most other laptops we need to carry portable speakers, so this ends up more portable than most laptops when used for music and multimedia!

Configuration Comments
Looking at the configuration, this is a solid looking package for $779. You get a Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 750GB HD, USB 3.0 port, HDMI port and more. The mid-line for standard laptops is ~$750, so this falls right in line with that, and offers more memory and a better processor than most others which seem to land with a Core i3 at that price.

One thing that is missing is BlueTooth, but that is something most people won’t use and can be added easily enough as a USB option since there are three ports.

One other cool thing is a little strip-light along the top of the trackpad – it seems like nothing, but for working in the dark (as my son did when playing DJ for a small group of friends) it is quite a valuable feature.

Core Performance
Most times when testing a laptop I load up my standard suite of apps including web browsing, music, movies, and also work stuff like MS Office and the statistics programs JMP, Minitab and R. Since the focus was on music production and sound, we used iTunes, Ableton Live and Virtual DJ as well as all of the web and email centric stuff.

The Core i5-2410 is a solid performing dual-core ‘Sandy Bridge’ processor, which is also used in the 13″ Macbook Pro and a host of other midrange laptops. As such it will certainly not fool you into thinking it is a quad-core i7, but for all-around everyday tasks it is an excellent performer. You see the headroom compared to a i3, making this laptop feel snappy and responsive in every situation.

Graphics & Audio Performance
The S4250 comes with Intel HD3000 integrated graphics, which is pretty much the standard for a system using the Core iX series of processors – and which gives solid performance for an integrated chipset. However, as an integrated system it isn’t intended for hardcore gaming.

We loaded up Steam and played some Portal (the original 2007 game). Steam complained about the video card initially, but once the game started it ran Portal with all settings maximized, and with great results! We also watched some DVD movies, YouTube clips, and streamed some video from Hulu and Netflix … everything worked great. You aren’t going to be playing the latest and greatest Crysis-like games on the S4250, but for occasional gaming it will work perfectly well.

As for the audio … I think I have already lavished enough praise on the sound volume and quality. But it is worth noting that the combination of solid performance was also important, so my son was able to have multiple streams mixed in Virtual DJ and use the screen as a virtual light-show using a web-based program. It was taxing to the system as everything was chewing up CPU cycles, but the S4250 never missed a beat – literally!

Battery Performance

When I saw ‘5.9 hours’ on the specifications my first thought was ‘huh?’. It seems oddly specific. My interpretation was that I should get all-day performance with occasional battery-saving sleep. For general purpose activities such as web and office stuff that worked great, but when my son torture-tested it with heavy audio and graphics the batter life drained much quicker, lasting just over three hours until it started complaining. That is actually very good battery performance.

What I don’t Like
There is no such thing as a perfect laptop, and while I had no major complaints my son had two. First he wished for a better graphics card – saying that discrete graphics would have taken the system from ‘great’ to ‘awesome’, and he also wished that the headphone jacks were either in the back or on the left side. He was using a USB-powered system that also had a mic and as a result the whole ‘mouse side’ of the laptop was a mess of wires.

Conclusions
At the outset I declared the excellence of the audio and multimedia functionality of the S4250. I also talked throughout the review of how so many of the components in the system seem to outperform the expectations of a midrange system. And let me put the price of $779 into context – when I reviewed the HP Mini 5103 late last year it was a upscaled netbook that cost $750 … and the S4250 is better in every single way I can imagine.

There are always compromises to be made, but I feel Toshiba made some great cost-saving choices – more plastic than usual, integrated graphics, skip the BlueTooth, no Blu-Ray, and so on – and instead focused on making a top-performing audio monster. This is a great laptop for a wide array of uses, and my son is very sad to see it go back to Toshiba!

Review: Toshiba Satellite P745-S4250

Where to Buy: Toshiba.com

Price: $779.99

What I Like: Absolutely best audio I’ve heard in a laptop; great performance; very portable; excellent visual styling; solid feature set; did I mention the audio?

What Needs Improvement: headphone jack placement puts cables in the way.

Source: Manufacturer provided review unit

2 Responses to " Notebook PC Review: Toshiba Satellite P745-S4250 Laptop "

  1. Anonymous says:

    I kick myself daily for buying a Sony laptop rather than a Toshiba. I had an XP Toshiba that gave great service and had decent sound. When I got my current Windows 7 Sony, I stepped down to tiny little speakers that distort if you put set the volume a little too high. I just assumed a company like Sony would know how to do sound right, so I didn’t even consider it when I ordered the laptop online.

  2. otis says:

    can you speak more about games, i almost buy this one because of my carrer i wanted something with good graphics but not too serious and i also love games so i iam not really sure about it, but if you could help me out with that it´ll be awesome

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