Notebook PC Review: Toshiba Satellite L755-S5258 Laptop

In my review of the Toshiba Satellite S4250, I highlighted the almost maniacal devotion to delivering serious audio performance. With the Satellite L755-S5258 (hereafter called the S5258), Toshiba is offering a larger (15.6″!) screen, full-featured numeric keypad, same processor, and a stylish design – for $100 less! So let’s take a look and see how the S5258 performs!

The Hype:
Generous High-Def Viewing
Don’t compromise when it comes to watching movies, juggling tasks or building complex spreadsheets. The Satellite® L750 laptop comes with a broad and truly brilliant 15.6” diagonal TruBrite® HD display that brings out color and clarity you won’t believe. And its 16:9 aspect ratio is ideal for widescreen entertainment.

Strong All-Around Performance
Satellite® L750 series laptops are ready to help you rise and meet the day. They come with AMD® A6-series and Intel® multi-core processors that scale up to deliver power, then scale back to conserve battery life. They also offer ATI® Mobility Radeon HD graphics, tons of memory and storage, plus a full-size keyboard and 10-key pad to make typing and balancing budgets go a whole lot smoother.

Sophisticated Style and Design
Style is important—in life and in a laptop. That’s why when you buy Toshiba you don’t have to choose between good looks and great value. That’s also why this laptop series comes with our celebrated Fusion® Finish in Matrix Pattern in a choice of eye-catching colors.

Expansive Extras
The Satellite® L750 laptop series lets you spread out, share and broaden what you can do. A Webcam and Wi-Fi® ensure you’ll never be out of touch—even away from home. A Memory Card Reader makes it easy to shop or swap photos. Plus, USB ports allow you expand your desktop by connecting to today’s popular devices.

Toshiba Smart Features
This PC is loaded with features that make Toshiba a very intelligent choice. They include a Touch pad with Multi-touch Control for easier navigation, the Toshiba power-saving eco utility™ to tailor your battery consumption, and a PC Health Monitor to keep your laptop at its best. You’ll also love Toshiba ReelTime™ for the way it helps you find your stuff faster, plus Toshiba Bulletin Board as a personalized home page and organization tool.

The Reality:

One thing I loved when looking at Toshiba’s website was that you can look at ‘The Hype’ on any of the Satellites and know exactly what to expect. For example, the S4250 touted the audio and multimedia performance, and for the S5258 they mention the high-def viewing and all-around performance.

In the mid-range laptop market it is hard to differentiate one computer from another, so it is clear that Toshiba is looking to use those to stand out from the crowd – along with this laptop’s distinctive design. Let’s look at all of it in detail.

System Specifications
There are a number of different L750 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* – 4GB DDR3 1333MHz memory
HARD DRIVE* – 640GB HDD (5400rpm)
OPTICAL DRIVE* – DVD-SuperMulti drive (+/-R double layer)
DISPLAY SIZE – 15.6″ widescreen
DISPLAY TYPE* – HD TruBrite® LED Backlit display
DISPLAY RESOLUTION – 1366×768 (HD), Supports 720p content, 16:9 aspect ratio
WEBCAM – Webcam and microphone built into LCD bezel
WIRELESS LAN* – Wi-Fi® Wireless networking (802.11b/g/n)
BLUETOOTH – No Bluetooth (No Antenna)
LAN – 10/100 Ethernet LAN
AC ADAPTER – 65W (19V 3.42A) Auto-sensing, 100-240V / 50-60Hz input
BATTERY – Li-Ion (48Wh, 6-Cell)
BATTERY LIFE* – Up to 5.7 hours
USB PORTS* – 1-USB (2.0) port with Sleep and Charge*, 2-USB (2.0) ports
HDMI – HDMI® output port
WEIGHT* – Starting at 5.7 lbs.

Build Quality
I had already looked over the S4250 in some detail before opening the S5258, so I wasn’t concerned about the very plasticky feel of the case. I had wondered how the screen might flex since it is so much larger (15.6″ rather than 14″), but the the construction is quite solid and the hinges provide excellent control of the screen motion and anchor it firmly to the base. It also helps that the screen portion of the S5258 is fairly thick compared to systems like the Macbook Pro and Sony Vaio S-Series I was comparing it to, which provided further reinforcement.

The rest of the system was similarly sturdy feeling in spite of being fully encased in plastic. This was a definite area of concern – in a large-screen system that is also rather light and low-priced, having a solid feel is very reassuring of the thought that went into the design.

Throughout testing I didn’t run into any build issues – keys all worked and felt well put together, ports were all secure, the SD card slot worked fine, WiFi and cabled networking all went without issue, and so on. Overall I was quite pleased with the build quality and it felt like a system that would last longer than the recent trend towards ‘two year disposable’ laptops with marginal build quality sold in ‘big box’ retailers.

One final cool thing about what makes the system feel solid: on the underside of the keyboard is a mid-system plastic support. There are the normal corner feet, but the presence of a mid-keyboard support helps add to the solidity while typing. Nice touch.

Let’s be honest – ‘portability’ and a 15.6″ screen don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. The ‘arm feel’ of carrying around the S5258 is larger and heavier than the S4250 in spite of only being a few ounces heavier. Yet compared to other 15″ systems I have (Macbook Pros and Dell laptops) the S5258 is reasonably sized. The screen bezel on the sides is small for a large screen system, as is the area around the keyboard.

The amazing thing is that in spite of having a 15.6″ screen, the S5258 weighs only 5.7 lbs, compared to the 5.4 lbs of the 14″ S4250. My assumption is that the S4250 picked up considerable weight due to the added audio components, but whatever the reason the S5258 doesn’t feel like the tank you would expect by looking at it. Also helping out is a sculpted bottom which makes the battery end slightly larger and tapers towards the front.

Configuration Comments
Looking at the configuration, this is an amazing looking package for under $700. You get a Core i5 processor, 15.6″ screen at 1366×768 resolution, 4GB of RAM, a 640GB HD, numeric keypad, HDMI port and more.

One thing that bugs me a bit – the system touts ‘HD’ graphics, and some of the higher priced systems use the AMD Radeon Mobility HD graphics system to deliver to that promise. But with the Intel HD 3000 system the output is 720p HD, which is fantastic looking on the 15.6″ computer screen, but not up to 1080p when output to a large screen TV.

The compromises to get these features at the low price are mainly not having any USB 3.0 ports, the lack of a BlueTooth antenna, and not featuring a Blu-Ray player. Obviously the Blu-Ray player would add considerable expense (it was $100 on the HP dm1z system!), so that is understandable – and it can be added by custom-configuring the system. The other missing feature (especially compared to the S4250) is the backlit keyboard and the strip on the trackpad.

Core Performance
As I mentioned with the S4250 review, 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 of the S5258 is HD graphics, I let my older son also play a few games on it to get his impressions in the graphics performance section.

Since the S5258 uses the identical Core i5 as the S4250 I will say the exact same thing here about the processor. 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.

The Core i5-2410 handled all of the tasks I threw at it effortlessly. My work PC still uses a Core 2 Duo, so I was able to see a HUGE improvement processing array data and large data sets, as well as handling complex Fourier transforms and other intensive tasks I use frequently. Again, it doesn’t match up with the quad-core i7’s I have in other computers, but it is extremely capable. Any normal person doing standard tasks will not feel limited by the processor.

As noted, the standard configuration for the S5258 has 4GB or RAM, whereas the S4250 has 6GB of RAM. Does it matter? Yes! With Windows 7 I consider 4GB to be the minimum usable RAM amount, and am happily using 8GB on my other laptops. 6GB gives programs a bit more space to operate, and with larger data sets – or more opened tabs in Chrome – I could definitely feel the difference.

Graphics & Audio Performance
The S5258 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.

I had won Call of Duty from Deals4Downloads a while ago and had never done anything with it (I already own it on Steam), so my older son set up Steam and installed Call of Duty. He also installed STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl from my CD copy of the game. Call of Duty is a 2003 game that could frankly be played on a netbook, so wasn’t much of a challenge for the S5258. It played with everything set to maximum and breezed through the game with hardly needing to spin the fans up to keep it cool.

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl is a 2007 game with a semi open-world architecture that was punishing on systems when it was released. Yet the Toshiba ran it without issues or slow-downs, something my son (like most kids) is intolerant about! The graphics look great, and settings were set to high quality and high-resolution. It shows just how far ‘integrated graphics’ have come in the last few years!

We also used the system to stream video from Hulu and Netflix and Crackle to our TV over HDMI, and the output was solid without any glitches or other issues.

As for the audio, there are speakers above the keyboard just like the S4250 … but the similarities end there. The sound quality is ‘serviceable’, but not stellar. The S5258 has reasonable volume but the sound is on the tinny side. Fortunately the headphone output quality is very high so that is the best possible option.

Battery Performance

When I saw ‘5.7 hours’ on the specifications my first thought was once again wondering how they got so oddly specific. I tested the system with similar assumptions to the S4250 – that I should get roughly all-day performance with occasional sleeping. And that panned out quite well, though it definitely had slightly shorter life than the S4250 as described in the specs.

We also watched a movie over HDMI purely on battery mode, and it made it all the way through, though there wasn’t much life left at that point. Still, nearly 2.5 hours of full-on graphics pushing through the external system? That is solid battery performance.

What I don’t Like
There is no such thing as a perfect laptop, and there were a few things that I found to complain about. The keyboard is great in that it offers full-sized keys and a numeric keypad, but the quality of the keyboard is definitely below the standard set by newer ‘chicklet’ style keys on the S4250 as well as Macbook systems and Sony Vaio amongst others. However, it is a necessary compromise to fit all of those keys and still maintain reasonable portability. But if key feel is critical to you that could be an issue. I would also have loved to see backlighting on the keyboard, but that is a minor nitpick.

The trackpad took me some getting used to. Essentially it melds into the plastic with a raised and roughened surface with the buttons housed separately. I found that without a raised border my hands would tend to wander off the edges frequently. Not something I hated, but again a minor irritant. On the other hand, right above the trackpad was a button to switch off the trackpad if you are using an external mouse. That is an excellent feature.

Toshiba has done a great job staking out territory in the middle ground of the notebook price range, making stylish and solid performing laptops with distinctive features in the S4250 and S5258. The S4250 is a great audio system, and the S5258 delivers a big screen system in a medium-sized package. I cannot over-state that – I have a Dell XPS with the integrated numeric keypad, and that weighs (literally) twice as much as the S5258 and is really more of a ‘transportable’. To squeeze in all of those features into something no one in my family had any qualms carrying around is a pretty amazing feat.

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 L755-S5258

Where to Buy:

Price: $689.99

What I Like: Gorgeous, huge screen; solid performance on all fronts; great value for the price.

What Needs Improvement: Trackpad feels indeterminate; no USB 3.0 ports; traditional keyboard not as responsive as newer ‘chicklet’ types.

Source: Manufacturer provided review unit

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