I bought the Toshiba L40 almost two years ago from PC World, I needed a laptop which was suitable on all specifications, RAM, reasonable hard drive space, decent video card and a good battery life. On paper and recommended by staff the outstanding applicant was the L40, it also looked good and felt robust. It became my primary laptop for over 18 months after which (from no fault of the laptop itself) screen failure and problems with the fan led me to search for a replacement. First up, the speed of the laptop was very important to me, so this is where I will start.
On paper the L40 has decent enough specs, good processor, 1gb RAM, though mine did come with Vista pre-installed (whatever you opinions on Vista, I personally find it to make the system much slower than any other OS) Regarding speed the L40 exceeded my expectations, despite having the burden of Vista, start-up time (this being from an off state to the login screen) being roughly 10 seconds. It has 1GB of RAM, though even with a large number of applications open I did not experience much, if any slowdown. In general the L40 is fast and whilst not top of the range speed it is very good and you will rarely experience a bottleneck during normal usage.
Thinking to myself, if there is one word that represents this laptop, it would have to be 'safe'. The L40 is incredibly reliable, not once did I get a blue screen of death (I do realise this is mostly down to software error and often nothing to do with the laptop itself) and nor did I ever have any problem with the laptop itself, even when in use for days on end without any breaks, it performed excellently time and time again (I do realise this is improper use but this certainly demonstrates its great work-rate) The L40 will repeatedly do everything you ask of it and more. The word that pops to mind is 'workhorse', what I mean by this is that whilst it will not wow you with interesting gimmicks, its work-rate and reliability is second to none.
Look and Feel
In a nut shell, the L40 is not an attractive looking laptop, all of the exterior is matt black with black furnishings inside and a silver interior surrounding the typical black keyboard. It looks rather bulky and in no way attractive, the frontal slope on the lid is ruined by the fat, out of place looking clip used to open and close the lid, as well as the otherwise fat and squared off body of the laptop (imagine an old fat laptop body and a newer sleeker looking laptop lid spliced together, that is approaching the L40) However it is this same rather unattractive look which provide it with a very robust and safe feel, it is one of the only laptops where I felt fully confident holding it, in the knowledge that if I dropped it, the floor would likely be worse off! Whilst I admit these comments come across as disparaging, it really does feel safe and robust in every way, the mouse pad feels scratch resistant yet does not provide large amounts of friction which hurts your fingertip (as I have experienced in many other laptops). The L40 looks like an odd mismatch of laptops, though it looks and feels very sturdy indeed, next up is whether it is as robust as it seems.
It is certainly as robust as it feels, normal wear and tear does not really show up on it, including the occasional scratch which does not show up on the laptop. Even damage which would normally damage a laptop (dropping on a hard floor for example) does not damage it, (as I well know when I accidentally dropped it on hard wooden flooring) not even a scuff mark or a scratch occurred from this incident! Unlike some laptops that are made out a flimsy, bendy plastic the L40 has hard, tough plastic and is as durable and resilient as it feels and looks.
Comfort and Portability
The L40 is a rather large laptop, especially now comparing it to my new netbook. It is also not the lightest laptop around, weighing in at over 2.5kg, it can be difficult and cumbersome to carry, even if only from room to room. Whilst in a laptop case it can of course be easily moved around, but it is still noticeable that over 2.5kg of laptop are present. After some hours of use the L40 can overheat, and the bottom can get so hot it can burn your hand with prolonged contact, this is naturally uncomfortable if it is on your lap. On other levels the laptop is very comfy to sit and type at, the keyboard keys are generously sized and the plastic where your palms sit does not rub or irritate. It is generally comfortable apart from the heat problem, and its size and weight will undoubtedly put some people off.
The battery life of the L40 is originally very good, when on power saving mode you can get almost 3 hours, when in performance mode this goes down to roughly 2 hours. However through regular usage the battery life will decline, even if the normal measures are taken (letting the battery completely empty and then charging it again), in my personal experience after moderate to heavy use of the laptop, with sufficient procedures in place to nurse the battery, after 18 months the battery life was down to 90 minutes at best and having contacted Toshiba they said a decrease in battery life is normal and despite its alarming (to me) decrease of 50% in battery life, there was nothing wrong with the battery, it was normal. This does affect the portability, the urge to drag around the (rather heavy and bulky) laptop does go down when you know you have one and a half hours use at best without plugging it in. At first the battery life is good, however it does decline, sometimes alarmingly fast.
80GB, and now in the age where my current netbook, much smaller and much lighter now has a hard drive of 160GB, it does pale in comparison. However it should be noted that whilst I do have many albums of music and XP loaded on this netbook, I only use 9GB, the rest is wasted. The L40 and its 80GB should suffice for most, however, if not, then there is always the option of purchasing an external hard drive which are now incredibly cheap, even for the 1TB ones. It may not have a huge hard drive but then I have never seen the need for excessive hard drives on laptops, and for those that do require masses of space, there are plenty of storage options available. That said, for a laptop of this size and weight, I would of expected at least 120GB. Despite what I have said about excessive sizes often being unused, I do know that many people pick a laptop based on its hard drive size, so in that sense, it gets a three.
Value For Money
I purchased this for the rather high price of £350 (albeit it with the highly irritating Norton Antivirus that won't uninstall no matter what you do!) I did get almost two years out of the laptop, so in that sense it was good value for money, and I reckon it could of kept going for another year before its screen was smashed (thrown out of a first floor window! Long story but it was not the laptop with angered me) However by this point it had begun to run slow and it was having increasing problems with the fan. It was also going slow, especially in comparison to the new generation of laptops. It did work well though, the reliability was second to none and it did everything it said on the box. Back when I bought it, it was good value in comparison to some of the other laptops, however with the exact same version fetching around £200, you can buy much better for the same price, more stylish, lighter and with a longer lasting battery.
The DVDRW drive is very quick and mostly silent, making little noise in comparison to most other laptops, and (naturally depending on the program) writing DVD's is surprisingly quick. The keyboard and touchpad are the same as most other Toshiba laptops, and as a result are not just good quality but generously sized. The inbuilt wireless card is very good, with the 802.11b/g networks both picked up, and in some cases further away than other inbuilt wireless cards allow. It does lack the feature of the removable remote (which I find very smart, though I am unsure of the use of one anyway) The speakers are good quality, both loud and non-tinny. The features of the laptop are very good quality, as is the rest of the laptop, though nothing stands out as being truly exceptional.
I am struggling to think of how to fully describe the L40, it does everything you ask, sometimes excelling in performances, but it has no 'wow' factor and you feel slightly underwhelmed using it. It is incredibly reliable, generally fast and is very robust and in many ways resembles the characteristics of a desktop computer. It is rather bulky and weighing in at a hefty 2.7kg and the battery life will, over time, decrease to a point where it becomes useless to attempt portability. At the current price of £200 or so, I just cannot see many reasons for buying this laptop, yes it is reliable and robust as a concrete block, but there are many other laptops that can be bought for a similar price with much better specifications. So as good as certain elements of this laptop are, I just cannot recommend this as a purchase, there are better models on the market for a similar price.
Thanks for reading, any comments you have will be gratefully received. Also on Ciao.