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I recently purchased one for my daughter to take back to school with her; it is especially fast and the vista 64 part hasn't caused any problems with nonessentials. One issue she has brought up is that the trackpad is does not work very well though; it is completely flush with the surface of the keyboard so it is incredibly easy to press it with your palm. The settings to change the sensitivity don't work well. Often they simply stop working. The trackpad buttons are also difficult to press. The keyboard is quiet enough and my daughter seems to really likes it. I hooked up a bluetooth mouse (no built-in bluetooth comes with it) to get around the trackpad issue which seems to work well for her. Some general feedback is that the screen view is good horizontally, but not vertically. The battery life averages 2.5 hours. It has plenty of USB ports and the case provided holds up well. Overall I would definitely recommend this laptop for a student, unless you like using a trackpad -then I'd seriously consider taking it for a test-drive first - maybe the issues can be fixed with software or adding a Bluetooth mouse like we did. I personally wouldn't use a trackpad even if it didn't have issues as I prefer a mouse, so this laptops works well for us.
Up until November last year, I had used my trusty old Advent computer for anything I needed to do computer wise but after having it for 4 years, I decided that I wanted a new toy to play with. Luckily, I had the perfect excuse of returning to university to justify spending Eggs lovely credit limit so I started to research different options.
So, what would I get? Should I stick to what I know and get a desktop? Or should I look into the unknown (to me) world of the laptop?
The most common arguments that I found against the laptop option was that they are so difficult to upgrade, do not perform as well as desktops, the mouse on a laptop is hard to use and that they are expensive for what you get. However, I was still very much drawn to the fact that they are very space saving and you can (if you want) take them anywhere with you.
So, I was very interested to find out that nowadays, there are laptops that are specifically designed to replace a desktop for those who want the space saving feature and would only need to take their laptop anywhere on the odd occasion. This means that the manufacturer can be less bothered about the weight of the machine and make it much more like the normal home system that the desktop has catered for in the past!
Enter the Toshiba Satellite Pro A30.
I hate to admit it, but the main thing that drew me to this model in the shop was the fact that its case is metallic dark blue. It really did stand out from the rest and I think it is a very classy looking machine. At the time I bought it, the RRP was about £1200 however Curries were selling it for £1000, so it looked even better value next to similar spec machines which were generally about £150 above the RRP. The best price online at the moment is about £985 so it has come down a bit since last year but now comes with a larger hard drive than when I bought it (60GB).
So what has it got?
The spec of the machine when I bought it was really good compared with the equivalent desktop versions that were only a couple of hundred pounds (at the most) cheaper than the Toshiba. The processor is an Intel Mobile Pentium 4 giving 3.06 GHz with 512 MB of ram (the standard for the model is 256MB but mine included extra for free) and can be upgraded to a maximum of 2GB (plenty for what I use it for!). My laptop has a 30GB hard-drive but as stated, it generally comes with more now. It has a DVD/CD-ReWriter, two USB ports and integrated stereo speakers. The screen is a 15" TFT active matrix - 24-bit giving16.7 million colours and to me, is very clear and I have had no problems so far with dead pixels.
As with most PCs today, the operating system is Windows XP and the software included is Intervideo WinDVD, Toshiba Management Control, Drag n drop CD (for writing onto CDs not great but ok), Internet Explorer, Microsoft Works and Microsoft Money. I would have liked it to have come with Microsoft office but unfortunately I had to buy that separately.
One feature that this laptop comes with which, so far, I have not been able to try out but sounds very useful, is the built in facility to connect to a wireless network. The aerial for this is built into the computers screen and all you need to do it flip a switch on the side and its activated! Apparently if I was to take my laptop into Starbucks I could connect to the network they have in all their shops, which does sound rather cool to me!
So what is good about it?
For what I use the machine for (internet, word processing, downloading songs, storing digital pictures, playing the odd game) it does everything I need it too. I have hardly dented the hard drive yet, even though I have hundreds of pictures and store every single CD album I have in the machine. I find that with the 512MB of RAM the computer runs very fast and in the time I have had it, it has only crashed on me once.
The battery life is very good in my opinion. When you are running on the battery, you have the option to run in various modes given by the Toshiba Management Control ranging from long life (where the brightness of the screen is set quite low) up to DVD which runs the machine to its full power so that you can watch a DVD properly. The longest I have had out of the battery so far has been about 3.5 hours when I have just been surfing the web and got just over 2 hours when watching DVDs.
One of the things that put me off getting a laptop in the first place was the loss of a mouse and having to use a touchpad. At the time of purchase, I managed to get the sales girl to include a USB optical mouse to sweeten the deal to get over this. When I started using the computer however, I found that the touchpad on the Toshiba was a lot better than laptops I have tried in the past. Once I had fiddled with the controls and set the speed a bit slower, I found that it was very accurate and simple to use. One of the best things about it is that when you want to scroll up and down a page, all you do in run your finger up and down the right hand side of the pad and the page will scroll up and down accordingly. Also, when you run your finger to the left along the top of the pad, the browser will go back a page rather than having to move the cursor up to the back button in the browser (or hit the Bk Sp key). Another thing that is good is that you can turn the touchpad off by using the function keys if you are typing a lot to stop your hands from accidentally hitting the touchpad and moving the cursor (very annoying when typing as you end up writing words inside other words!).
As I mentioned before, I think its a very good looking machine due to the colour choice but it is also very well built. A lot of the laptops I looked at felt rather flimsy and has been made from very cheap feeling and looking plastics. Not so with the Toshiba. I dont know if its because of the metallic paint effect but the plastics are very solid feeling and look of a very high quality. I have not got any scratches or marks on it at all and it looks as good as the day I bought it.
So what is not so good?
A major problem I think people will have with this laptop is the fact that it only has two USB ports. The accessories I have are the optical mouse, printer, broadband modem and my mobile phone cable. They all connect through these ports and I need to interchange them all the time. Now this is not a major problem usually, but since I connect to the internet though the ports I am only really left with one spare and when I need to print something, I need to change from using the mouse to the touchpad. If I had any more accessories using USB it would be even more of a pain. As far as I know, you can buy a piece of equipment that can extend the use of the ports but it would have been nice to have had more in the first place.
Although it is a laptop, this one really is not suitable to be put on your lap!! It really needs to be place on a solid surface (I have a laptop table) or the fan is blocked and the machine will overheat rather quickly causing it to shutdown. As I said above, this has only happened to me once since buying the computer and since it is really a laptop designed to replace a desktop it is forgivable, but then I think that could have been better designed in the first place plus the fan is RATHER loud!
Again due to the fact that this was made to replace a desktop, it is actually quite heavy (3.5kg) and if you are carrying it about in a laptop bag, can make your shoulders quite sore.
If you are a fan of ruling the world or shooting the living daylights out of things, driving very fast cars or piloting a starship, I wouldnt advise buying this computer. By this I mean that if you are someone who likes to play a lot of games on your computer then its just not going to deliver. The graphics card is ok, but it is not sophisticated enough to handle the kind of graphics that a lot of todays gamers will look for. Its fine for me though, as I only ever really use that for a couple of games and they are not really the most up to date anyway, and I prefer surfing the net and wasting I mean spending (!) my time in dooyoo!
The manual for the laptop was fairly standard stuff and I haven't really had to refer to it to be honest. When I unpacked the machine, everything was readly to go and all I had to do was to set up XP and it was all set to go!
In conclusion, I have found this to be a very good replacement for my trusty old desktop, I love the fact that I can hide it away when not in use and, although a bit heavy, I have taken it into university to help with group work that I have had to do. For the price, I would say it represented very good value for money and would easily recommend it to anyone wanting a trusty, good performing computer, but doesnt want a large part of the room permanently taken up with a desktop!
Thanks for reading, and any comments are welcomed!