Toshiba Satellite S955 Review

This laptop is a good value if it can be found for $600 but should be crossed off your list as long as it’s priced higher than that.
This laptop is a good value if it can be found for $600 but should be crossed off your list as long as it’s priced higher than that.
This laptop is a good value if it can be found for $600 but should be crossed off your list as long as it’s priced higher than that.

Highs

  • Attractive, slim exterior
  • Plenty of RAM and hard drive capacity

Lows

  • Chassis flex
  • Poor keyboard and touchpad
  • Fan is audible at idle and loud at load
  • Poor value

DT Editors' Rating

Ah, I bet you thought we’d start our Windows 8 laptop reviews with an exotic, expensive piece of hardware — right? We had you fooled. Though those devices are taking the lion’s share of the attention — and with good reason — most consumers will continue to buy less expensive products. It remains to be seen if touchscreens will even become a sizable part of the market.

So we come to the Toshiba S955. This is one of the company’s new Windows 8 laptops, but it’s not convertible, and it’s not a touchscreen. It’s a regular 15.6-inch mainstream laptop that ships with an Intel Core i5-3317U processor. It’s also not an Ultrabook because it doesn’t include any solid-state drives. Buyers instead receive a 750GB mechanical drive and 8GB of RAM.

And the price? $749. That’s a competitive number for a new Windows 8 laptop with as much storage and RAM, but it also puts this new Windows 8 laptop head-to-head with Ultrabook favorites like the Acer Aspire M5. Can Toshiba make a mark in this heavily contested segment?

Conventional, but pleasing

The new Satellite S955 lacks the unique textured finish found on some Toshiba laptops we’ve previously reviewed. Even so, it’s not a bad looker. The lid is made from trimmed gunmetal aluminum, and the same treatment is spread across much of the interior. It’s complimented with glossy black plastic that attracts eyes — and also fingerprints. These touches are enough to make the S955 look a bit more luxurious than its price suggests.

Toshiba Satellite S955 review lid logo toshiba satellite s955 review lid angle
Toshiba Satellite S955 review side view Toshiba Satellite S955 review hinge

Build quality is generally good. Panel gaps are extremely small, and most surfaces feel reasonably firm. There is some flex in the chassis, however, which can be blamed on the optical drive, a feature that is rare among thin laptops. Picking up the laptop by its left side can be an alarming experience, as plastics audibly creak and strain.

Connectivity also suffers because of the slim frame. The inclusion of two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port is standard for an Ultrabook but underwhelming among mainstream 15.6-inch laptops. Video output comes from a VGA and HDMI port, while separate microphone and headphone ports handle audio.

No display surprises

Our review unit, like all S955 models, arrived with a 1366×768 15.6-inch display. Our subjective impressions were somewhat favorable. We thought the glossy panel managed to bring colors to life when viewed in a dark room.

Using the laptop in a day-lit room is a different story due to the display’s dim backlight. We also found that the display could only manage 63 percent of the sRGB color gamut — a very poor result. To be fair, however, these results are competitive with laptops of similar price. And the laptop redeemed itself slightly by offering better-than-average black levels. This is probably why we perceived good contrast when viewing the laptop in a dark room.

Toshiba Satellite S955 review display

We approved of the display’s low dot pitch. There is no “screen door effect,” an issue that continues to plague some 14-inch and 15.6-inch laptops with this resolution.

Audio quality struck us as middling. We listened to several tracks and found them acceptable, but we also noted a tinny quality to the sound that is typical of inexpensive laptop speakers. Most consumers should buy a pair of external speakers or headphones to truly enjoy media.

User interface flaws

Keyboards have been a weakness of Toshiba laptops in the past, and that hasn’t changed. There’s plenty of space for users to work with, and a full-sized numpad is included — but that’s where praise ends.

There’s not much key travel available yet, and, in spite of that, each press has an indistinct squish to it. We noticed a significant amount of keyboard flex, too. Both problems contribute to a vague and imprecise typing experience. Since our hands compensated for the lack of tactile feedback by pressing harder, finger pain was a common problem when using the S955.

Toshiba Satellite S955 review keyboard Toshiba Satellite S955 review touchpad
Toshiba Satellite S955 review power button Toshiba Satellite S955 review right side

No backlight is included, which, though disappointing, is not unusual for a laptop in the mid-range market.

Touchpad quality was also sub-par. Its wide space was texture-less and supported by left/right mouse buttons that have minimal travel. Multi-touch scrolling was awkward, and the touchpad sometimes mistook our attempts to scroll for zooming. Most consumers considering this laptop will need to buy a portable mouse.

Tolerable heat

The S955 is thin, but also includes a low-power Core i5 processor. During our testing, we found the system idled at a maximum exterior temperature of 83.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is barely noticeable. However, load increased this reading to 100.7 degrees Fahrenheit. While hot for a 15.6-inch laptop, this is just tolerable for desktop use. Lap use at full load proved uncomfortable.

We noticed the laptop’s fan throughout most of our testing. It is audible while idle in a quiet room and instantly noticeable at load. The fan emits a high-pitch whirl that’s sure to distract some users. Consumers easily annoyed by a computer’s fan should steer clear of the S955.

Power sipping, but light on battery

The laptop’s power-sipping Core i5 promised great endurance, but was fought by a small 4-cell battery. Our results were simply average in the end. We recorded 1 hour and 28 minutes in the Battery Eater load test, and almost 5 hours in the light-load Reader’s Test, which we think is adequate for the S955’s purpose.

A new era of bloatware

This is the first Windows 8 laptop we’ve fully reviewed, so it’s the first chance we’ve had to see what bloatware looks like in the new OS. The verdict? It’s more attractive — and more annoying — than ever before.

Numerous apps are pre-installed on the S955 including Toshiba App Place, a Games section, Vimeo, Netflix, eBay, and more. Bloatware that used to take the form of browser shortcuts are now full-fledged apps. An entire section of the very pretty Windows 8 Start screen is devoted to these apps.

And then there’s Norton Internet Security. It hit us with pop-ups, as always, but included a new twist. We were prompted several times by a registration screen that could only be banished by shutting the app down in the task manager. This was so annoying that we uninstalled the entire anti-virus suite in order to complete our testing.

Toshiba Satellite S955 review lid closed

Most of the bases mostly covered

There are no surprises inside the S955. Its Core i5-3317U is a processor we’ve tested time and time again. Graphics are provided by Intel HD 4000, and the 8GB of RAM, though useful, is probably overkill. There’s also no solid-state drive.

Even so, the laptop reached the expected marks in our processor tests. It scored about 35 GOPS in SiSoft Sandra and managed a combined score of 7,378 in 7-Zip. These are exactly in line with other laptops with the same processor. Windows 8 had no impact — positive or negative — on the benchmarks.

PCMark 7 produced a score of 2,785. It’s hard for any laptop lacking a solid state drive or discrete GPU to break 3,000, and the S955 did not prove an exception. This is a respectable score for an entry-level laptop and is much better than competitors we’ve recently tested, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 and HP Envy 4.

3DMark 06 and 3DMark 11 reached respective scores of 5,462 and 716. These are fine results for a dual-core laptop with Intel HD 4000 (a bit better than average, in fact), but they don’t indicate a gaming powerhouse. Modern 3D games will only be playable at low-to-medium detail.

Conclusion

The Toshiba S955, like most inexpensive Windows laptops, has its fair share of weaknesses. The display is adequate at best, the keyboard is lacking, and the build quality is mixed. All of these downsides are common of laptops in the segment, but some do manage a better user interface. That problem makes the S955 unsuitable for buyers who use their laptop for more than a couple of hours per day.

However, there are strengths. The S955 offers fast hardware in a slim form factor and scores well in every benchmark. It also includes gobs of RAM and hard drive space. Users who are looking for a thin but fast system will not be disappointed.

We might be able to give this laptop our recommendation if it was less expensive, but it’s not. At $749, the S955, which is not an Ultrabook, is priced against every low-end Ultrabook on the market, and it has no business competing against them. Its user interface, build quality, portability, and overall performance is not on par with similarly-priced options like the Acer Aspire M5, HP Envy 4t and Lenovo U310/410.

It’s possible that the high introductory MSRP is meant to snare buyers who are excited about Windows 8 (if they exist), and will drop quickly. This laptop is a good value if it can be found for $600, but it should be crossed off your list as long as it’s priced higher than that.

Highs:

  • Attractive, slim exterior
  • Plenty of RAM and hard drive capacity 

Lows:

  • Chassis flex
  • Poor keyboard and touchpad
  • Fan is audible at idle and loud at load
  • Poor value
Product Review

Razer just made our favorite gaming laptop even more powerful than before

The Razer Blade, our favorite gaming laptop, is now more powerful than ever before. That’s thanks to the new Nvidia RTX graphics cards inside. Do they help Razer retain its edge over the competition?
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for February 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

Microsoft's latest Surface Laptop 2 runs past the updated MacBook Air

Apple recently updated its venerably MacBook Air, giving it a sleeker and more modern design. That pits it against the Surface Laptop 2, Microsoft's update of its own traditional laptop.
Computing

Best Buy’s latest sale takes up to $300 off the best Chromebooks

Looking to purchase a new Chromebook? You're in for some luck. Best Buy's latest sale is taking up to $300 off some of the best premium Chromebooks, including the HP Chromebook x2.
Computing

RTX might be expensive, but the 16 series could have the best Nvidia Turing GPUs

Set to debut at a step below the RTX 2060 on the price and performance spectrums, the GTX 1660 Ti and its other 16-series brethren could be Nvidia's killer mid-range cards of 2019 — especially with Tensor Core-powered DLSS.
Computing

Ryzen 3000 chips will be powerful, and they might be launched as early as July

AMD's upcoming Ryzen 3000 generation of CPUs could be the most powerful processors we've ever seen, with higher core counts, greater clock speeds, and competitive pricing. Here's what we know so far, based on both leaks and the recent…
Computing

With no plans for merging operating systems, Apple opts to combine apps instead

Apple is working on combining all of the the apps it offers to iPhone, iPad, and Mac users by 2021. App developers will soon be able to build and submit one version of their apps to be used by Apple product users.
Gaming

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.
Computing

Amazon takes $200 off Apple’s latest 13-inch MacBook Air with retina display

Amazon is taking $200 off Apple's latest MacBook Air. This MacBook Air has 13-inch retina display, a built-in FaceTime HD camera, and that classic lightweight wedge shape the Air is loved and known for.
Deals

Samsung drops a solid $100 discount on the Chromebook Pro

If you're in the market for a new laptop, but can't afford to drop $1,000 on one of the best models out there, Chromebooks are an excellent option. Right now, Samsung is offering $100 off the Samsung Chromebook Pro.
Computing

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.
Computing

Between Intel and AMD, these are the best gaming CPUs at every price

What are the best processors for gaming you can buy? You don't need to spend a fortune to get an amazing gaming CPU and now that AMD is competitive again, there are more choices than ever.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Computing

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.