Hype about thin-and-light laptops has reached a new peak this year. Ultrabooks are becoming more numerous, and Intel’s processor update is right around the corner, promising products that are even faster and more power efficient.
It’s enough to make you forget that relatively thick and inexpensive laptops remain the bread-and-butter of the laptop market — and likely will be stubbornly popular for some time. Which is why we’re looking at the Toshiba Satellite P755.
On paper, this laptop is the essential example of a powerful and affordable mainstream laptop. It offers a Core i7-2670QM processor and Nvidia GT 540M graphics, all of which is wrapped in a 1.4-inch thick chassis that weighs in at a hefty 5.8 pounds. The predictable 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1366×768, and no high-resolution option is available.
This laptop’s hardware is powerful, but the price tag manages to limbo under a grand, coming in at $979.99. This should be considered a high-end model in the line. You can purchase this laptop for under $600 – but you will be downgraded to a Core i3-2330M and Intel HD 3000 graphics.
Does this heavyweight still have the chops to compete against more nimble laptops? Let’s find out.
Big and beautiful
Toshiba has never produced the most attractive laptops, but it has never produced the most boring, either. The P755 follows this tradition. Faux-aluminum plastic is the order of the day, but it doesn’t appear as tacky as on other laptops that attempt the same track. This may be due to the laptop’s dark and elegant palette of grays and blacks, which helps the plastic appear metallic from a distance.
Many small details aid the design. For example, instead of using a simple black plastic to surround the keyboard — an approach taken by many mainstream laptops — Toshiba has matched the material with the surrounding interior. The speakers are covered by small, tasteful guards that allow you to see the speaker below them, a nice visual effect that other manufacturers should take note of. Chrome trim is used in a few places and works well with the laptop’s glossy, silver-gray exterior.
Material quality reinforces the inexpensive-yet-upscale feel of this laptop. Most surfaces are sturdy, particularly on the lower half of the chassis, which never creaks and groans in protest when it’s treated poorly. The display could be better reinforced, but it’s on par with most laptops in this price range.
The Toshiba Satellite P755 makes excellent use of available space. Unlike many competitors, it features an edge-to-edge keyboard. Only a half-inch of space on either side is unused. This makes it possible to cram in a full keyboard and a full numpad. Other laptops of this size usually include a numpad, but are forced to use annoyingly small keys.
That’s not to say there aren’t trade-offs. Fitting the numpad is still a bit of a squeeze, so all keys are towards the small size, though still perfectly usable. Key feel is better than normal and you’ll find plenty of space between each. The only problem (and it’s a bit of a nit-pick) is the oddly slick key cap coating, which can cause fingers to slip during furious touch-typing.
Media function keys are included just above the keyboard. They work well and provide the user with an easier way to access certain functions, like volume control.
Touchpad quality is average. The surface is of medium size and untextured, but two physical left and right buttons with significant key travel are included. These benefits are brought down by twitchy multi-touch support. Even two-finger scrolling is jerky and sometimes fails to respond at all.
Good looks, great sound
You’ll find no surprises with this display. It’s a glossy 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768 panel — like the basic display on almost every other 15.6-inch laptop.
With that said, this particular panel is one of the better examples of the breed. There’s no easily visible gap between pixels, black levels are decent, and overall contrast appears solid.
Gaming and movies bring out the best in the display. Colors pop and even dark scenes, which often reveal the worst in TN-panel laptop displays, are tolerable. There are certainly better options on the market, but you’ll generally have to spend more or put up with less powerful hardware.
Harman/Kardon has lent its name to the P755. Usually such tactics are nothing but branding exercises, but in this there is some substance behind the flash. In fact, this laptop may have the best audio quality we’ve yet encountered. Distortion is moderate even at maximum volume and some bass sounds have a hint of punch.
The clearly visible speakers are a benefit, as well, because they throw sound directly towards the listener. Many laptops place speakers at the front or even the bottom of the chassis, which means sound quality is impacted by the surface the laptop sits on.
Although this laptop is crammed with powerful hardware, its large chassis provides plenty of room for cooling. This means that operating temperatures are typically comfortable. At low load most surfaces are in the mid-70s, with certain points on the bottom of the laptop reaching the low 80s.
Pegging the processor and engaging the GPU quickly changes the weather report, but temperatures of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit along the bottom of the laptop were the worst we encountered.
Such agreeable cooling is sometimes at the expense of noise, but that’s not the case here. The laptop is exceedingly quiet at idle. Ramping up the load results in an appropriate response from the system fan, but noise levels remains low for a laptop packing a discrete GPU.
Toshiba’s Satellite P755 is a full-sized mainstream laptop, so while portability is of some concern, it’s not the laptop’s focus. This is plainly evident once you spend a little time with the laptop. Its large, chunky frame is difficult to fit into small bags and isn’t easy to grab with one hand for a quick jaunt from the kitchen table to the couch.
The large power brick shipped with this laptop only makes matters worse. You’re going to need a full-sized backpack or a beefy messenger bag to pack everything up.
In Battery Eater Standard the Toshiba offered a reasonable one hour and 43 minutes of endurance, and in the less demanding Reader’s Test we received five hours of use. Expect moderate use with Wi-Fi on to net you between three and four hours, which is about average for a mainstream quad-core.
To our surprise, the Toshiba booted with a nearly empty desktop. Only the Recycle Bin was present. There were also no initial pop-ups about special offers for software or services.
That’s not to say there’s no bloatware, but Toshiba has taken the smart route and placed pre-installed software on the Windows taskbar. Sony and Dell should take notes. Both companies include annoying docks that replicate the taskbar’s functionality.
If you go digging you’ll find a few apps meant to improve the user experience. The only one we found useful was Eco Mode, a custom power scheme that aims to save battery life. It does just that, but it also is restrictive. If the user changes any setting related to power management – such as the screen brightness, for example – Eco Mode turns off automatically.
Our review unit is well equipped, featuring a Core i7-2670QM processor, Nvidia GT 540M discrete graphics, 6GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive. This hardware places it solidly in the realm of multimedia laptops, which means the Toshiba is built to handle productivity, gaming and video with equal grace.
The inclusion of a quad-core processor certainly puts the Toshiba off on the right foot. In SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic test it offers a combined score of 79.32 GOPS. By comparison, a typical Core i5 dual-core scores between 38 and 48 GOPS. Our 7-Zip benchmark offers the same story, providing a combined score of 15,903. One again, this is nearly twice the score that you’d receive from a mobile Core i5.
Results were less promising in PCMark 7. In this test the system reached a disappointing score of 2,295. The problem appears to be the hard drive, which returned a system storage score of 1,343, the lowest in recent memory.
What about gaming? In 3DMark 06 the GT 540M returned a score of 9,418, while 3DMark 11 offered a result of 1,013. Although this Toshiba is not a gaming laptop, both of these scores are solid and show that this laptop can handle modern 3D games, though you won’t be able to play the most demanding titles at high detail.
Performance is certainly this system’s strong point. Though the slow hard drive drags the package down a bit, this system is fast in the demanding workloads that are most likely to strain a laptop’s resources. This computer can handle anything the average consumer will ask of it, and it does so without straining the buyer’s wallet.
Audio quality is another strong point, and while the display isn’t outstanding, it works well with movies and games. This reinforces this laptop’s focus on multimedia. The P755 is a great computer for entertainment.
You’ll be best off enjoying at home instead of a hotel. This laptop isn’t built for travel. Though it will certainly fit in a large backpack, there are better options for frequent fliers.
This laptop is competent in every area besides portability. If you need a single PC to handle all of your needs, and you’ll be using it primarily at home, the Toshiba Satellite P755 is a good bet.
- Good build quality
- Full-size numpad
- Class-leading audio
- Minimal bloatware
- Excellent performance
- So-so battery life
- Thick and heavy
- Twitchy touchpad