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Toshiba Satellite Pro L500-1RG

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      31.05.2010 23:11
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      • Reliability


      A good, high performance laptop

      '''Please note:''' I am reviewing the L500-1RG model. This particular model has been discontinued, however this review is still of relevance to the rest of the L500 series (in particular, the L500-1RJ).

      I'd like to start by pointing out that this laptop does not actually belong to me - it's my papa's. Despite this, I use it the most (even though I have a desktop at his house and a laptop of my own). I will try to review this laptop as comprehensively as possible but I am a limited user so don't have access to all of it's features. Anyway, without boring you further with details of access rights, here is my review:

      The Toshiba Satellite Pro L500 is one of the fastest laptops I've used. It's much faster than my own Ei Systems laptop and my sister's E-Machines system (purchased in 2007 and 2008 respectively). I would expect nothing less as this was sold as a top of the range laptop just this year and it cost £650. I purchased a computer this year and, just to show speed depends on the price tag, my brand new £60 desktop took 1 minute and 24 seconds after being switched on before the Windows XP log on screen appeared, while this Toshiba laptop took only 17 seconds to show the Windows 7 welcome screen, showing you do get what you pay for when it comes to computers.

      ==Look & Feel==
      I think this laptop has a nice, simple design. The keyboard is the standard black keys with white characters, with blue representing FN functions. The trackpad isn't too distinguishable from the design of the laptop case - it's exactly the same only slightly raised and with grooves all over it. I found this a nice addition as some laptops have a quite large, in-your-face trackpad but if you'd prefer to use a mouse with this laptop, it's hardly noticeable. The design of the actual casing is quite nice too. The top and surrounding the keyboard have perpendicular lines running across them. The top is black and the keyboard area is silver.

      ==Comfort & Portability==
      This particular model has a 15.6" screen so is a bit bigger than average. However, I've still been able to take it to the library and to school no problem and have no trouble using it in bed, which is cohabited by my quite large dog who feels it's her duty to take up the entire bed. However, comfort can be a wit of an issue, especially when I'm using it lying down. The screen uses Toshiba's HD TruBrite LED Backlit technology which improves quality and makes the screen brighter but it does mean that if you aren't looking at the screen straight on, the screen appears darker and it's difficult to see the picture properly. Also, I like to rest my arms on the sides of the laptop while I'm typing and I'm constantly pressing the Enter key on the numeric keypad accidentally (I've done it twice already while writing this review).

      ==Robustness & Durability==
      I'm going to let you in on a little secret - this laptop has been dropped on at least 6 occasions. Amazingly, there has been absolutely no visible damage and everything seems to be working fine so I have to give this a 5/5 on robustness. It's too early to properly judge durability as the laptop was only bought two months ago, but it has given optimum performance consistently.

      ==Value For Money==
      Altogether, including all the extras my papa was roped into buying, this laptop cost approximately £650. This included the little man in the shop downloading and installing a free version of Avira AntiVir for £25 (in all fairness, it must have taken them all of 4 minutes to do it, they deserve to be paid for their time and effort). All-in-all, this was a bargin as the retail price for this laptop is £699.99 excluding VAT. I'd be willing to pay even that for this laptop as it's well worth the money. The only thing is (and this is the reason I've given it 4/5 for value for money) is that a similar model with only slightly lower specifications (for example, 3GB of RAM, rather than 4GB) would have cost considerably less.

      ==Memory / capacity==
      *RAM: 4GB DDR3 (expandable to 8GB)
      *Cache: 2MB
      *Hard Disk: 320GB

      So, what would you expect if you're laptop had a 320GB hard drive. Well, 320GB of hard disk space, of course. Is that what you get? No! Toshiba and they're pro-backup regime have set aside 150GB (almost half) of the hard drive for back-ups. I much prefer using an external hard drive for my back-ups because if I need the data I've backed up, chances are I've f**cked up the computer. Now, how am I going to get my hands on the back-up if it's inside the broken machine? Setting aside 150GB of perfectly good hard disk space for a feature I'm not going to use is just pointless in my opinion. Also, I asked for a quote to have the memory expanded to 8GB - it would cost almost £125 which is extortion in my opinion. They may as well just not tell you it can fit more RAM. Anyway, DDR3 is the fastest type of RAM available so there should be no problems with access speeds and this laptop is only used to run games and photoshop so there's not going to be a lack of memory.

      I've included the cache memory here but it's impossible to know if it's doing any good because it's part of the processor so it can't be seen and it's only 2MB so can't really hold much. Cache memory is the fastest type of memory. It's directly next to the processor and allows for quick access to frequently accessed data.

      ==Ease of use==
      The operating system (Windows 7) is very simple to use, but I'll talk about that a bit more later. Also, the extra features (e.g. the webcam, face recognition, built in wireless, etc.) are all very easy to use. For most of them, you don't even have to look at the manual - there are easy to follow instructions on the screen for most of the software and the hardware works by itself. For example, if your using Skype and get a video call, there's no need to turn on the web cam as it does it itself.

      ==Range of Extra Features==
      This laptop comes with a wide rand of built in hardware and software. I've written about some of it's many features below but this is, by no means, a comprehensive list as there is so much to write about - I'd be here for hours. Here are some of my favourite features:

      ===Webcam and Mic===
      The built-in webcam and mic make it easy to use programs like Skype or to record yourself or your voice. The work automatically so as soon as a program which uses either of them is opened, they turn themselves on. There is software for the webcam which allows you to take pictures with it or record video, plus you can change the settings and add effects including frames and screen covers.

      ===Face Recognition===
      This is my least favourite feature of the laptop. Toshiba has developed face recognition software which allows you to log on using the webcam. It's a great idea and I think it seems like an easy way to log on when you're at home or at work as it means you don't have to remember your password. However, if you attempt to use this feature in bad lighting or if it's too bright there can be problems with recognition. Also, if like me you grow a moustache between uses then the software won't recognise you then, either. When I click on my username, face recognition automatically starts. I have attempted to log in using it 5 times in the last 2 days and have been recognised twice. The other three times I had to type in my password after about a minute of moving my head around trying to remember the exact position it was in the last time I registered myself. Toshiba warns that it may falsely match someone and give them access to your files, however I'm not that worried about this happening as it can't even recognise me correctly. When I'm out and about I don't even attempt to log in using face recognition - if it can't recognise me in a similar setting to where I was when I registered myself, how's it going to recognise me when I'm outside or in the library.

      ===Eco Utility===
      Toshiba have included software which allows you to monitor your power consumption and put your laptop in a special mode (imaginatively entitled "eco") which minimalises your consumption without greatly affecting performance. I've just opened the eco utility and it says my power consumption is currently between 26 and 29 Watts without eco mode on. Now, this is nothing. As part of my computing investigation I had to search for a desktop computer which used less than 135W and I found only 2 (which is, thankfully, the amount I needed), both of which were over 100W. Laptops don't just have to process everything and handle storage, like a desktop does, they also have to display everything, so the fact that this laptop is consuming less than 30W of electricity is just amazing to me. Now that I've turned eco mode on power consumption has dropped to between 19-21W. This isn't a drastic improvement but it is still quite a saving.

      One thing I've just noticed is a graph feature which shows the amount of power used historically, and the amount of CO2 produced. For example, this month (May) the laptop has produced 2.5kg of CO2 and has consumed 3700 Watt-hours of electricity (a watt-hour is a thousandth of a Kilowatt-hour, the unit of measurement used in electric metres to measure the amount of electricity used by a house). Also, in the last week, I've used 1000 Watt-hours and today I used 432.4 Watt-hours. Another good feature of this utility is that each graph has a green bar above it which shows the power saved by using the eco utility.

      There are many other utilities and features but I can't write in detail about all of them. The ones I've used or that I know about are:

      *Toshiba Assist - contains links to all of the other utilities.
      *Toshiba TEMPRO - a sort of message centre. Sends messages about driver updates, toshiba news, etc.
      *SD Memory Card Format Utility - does exactly what it says on the tin (formats SD cards)
      *PC Diagnostic Tool - gives basic information on the PC and can perform tests on built in hardware. Note - it cannot fix problems, just detect them.

      ==Instruction Manual and Support==
      The manual is quite comprehensive and includes everything you could possibly want to know about this laptop and how to use it. Toshiba are also great when it comes to support, offering a one year warranty on the laptop and the battery, plus they send frequent updates and messages.

      ==Operating System==
      The laptop comes installed with Windows 7 Professional and is more than capable of running it. However, if you use programs which put a high demand on the processor or which require a lot of RAM, you may want to revert back to the simpler Windows XP which requires less processor power and less memory. All you have to do is stick in the disk provided with the laptop and follow the on-screen instructions. Note that the Windows 7 license covers you if you want to roll back to XP so there's no need to purchase a new license.

      I love Windows 7 and think it's the best operating system yet but others still prefer the old-school XP. I personally think it is a lot easier to use than previous versions including Vista, XP and the 9x series. I have never used a Mac or a Linux computer so I can't comment on how Windows 7 compares to them but if you want the best Windows operating system, this is definitely it.

      This is an exceptional laptop. I recommend it to anyone as it's suitable for a wide range of applications. I use it to do my school work, play games and stream internet TV and it always gives high performance. If you can afford it, get it.

      ==Windows Aero Performance Ratings==
      These are the ratings given by the Operating system. The highest possible rating for each sub-score is 7.9 and the base score is the lowest sub-score. I've included this only for informational purposes.

      *Base Score - 3.4
      *Processor - 5.1
      *Memory (RAM) - 5.1
      *Graphics - 4.1
      *Gaming Graphics - 3.4
      *Primary hard disk - 5.4

      This review has also been published on Ciao under the same username. I have left in the Ciao formatting tags as they help separate the sections of my review.


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