What constitutes a rock-bottom budget laptop? Normally, the holiday "doorbuster" special tends to be a $300-range machine, with a 15-inch screen, a low-end chassis, and an underpowered processor. While we sometimes mock these computer bottom-feeders, they can offer surprisingly competent value for the price...from time to time. Still, what to make of a doorbuster that's priced at $500? The Toshiba Satellite L745D-S4220 is just such a machine. Bulky, underpowered, and yet somehow it costs as much as an entry-level Dell Inspiron 15R.
The AMD E-350 processor in this 14-inch laptop is the same horsepower as what we're used to seeing in 11-inch ultraportables like the HP Pavilion dm1z. The HP dm1z costs less, is more portable, and has better battery life. The marriage of low-end CPU with midsize budget laptop here makes no sense, especially when far faster Intel Core i3 laptops are available for the very same price.
Our advice: steer far clear of configurations like these, and aim for a better set of specs for the money. Toshiba makes laptops that are better deals, and so do most manufacturers. This is a doorbuster wannabe that will bust no doors.
|Price as reviewed||$499|
|Processor||1.6GHz AMD Fusion E-350 Dual-Core|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||ID1510 + SB600|
|Graphics||AMD Mobility Radeon HD 6310|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.3x9.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.5 pounds / 5.1 pounds|
The glossy white plastic lid and interior of this Satellite L isn't entirely unappealing: think white MacBook in a puffier package. This Satellite is 1.5 inches thick, which is obese for a laptop. The wide keyboard inside is fine for typing, but it's not the same keyboard we've seen in higher-end Satellites: it's flat instead of using raised Chiclet keys. The touch pad beneath is a textured patch on the glossy palm rest, and not a particularly large surface at that. The curved round buttons beneath look like the buttons on most other midsize Satellites.
The stereo speakers on the Satellite L, located above the keyboard, aren't Harman Kardons, as found in higher-end Toshibas. They're horribly soft, and as tinny as an AM radio. We had to lean over when streaming an episode of "Louie" on Hulu at full blast.
Neither is the screen particularly impressive: the 14-inch glossy 16:9 display has a standard maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, although the brightness and crispness aren't what we're used to seeing from better Toshiba laptops. This is clearly a more budget experience, and images seemed grainier than on higher-end displays. Stick to watching DVDs or online video without high expectations and you'll do fine.
A Webcam above the screen has a maximum resolution of 1,280x1,084 pixels--one of this laptop's few bright spots--but video doesn't record smoothly unless you ratchet back down to 640x480.
|Toshiba Satellite L745D-S4220WH||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Keeping your expectations low for a budget-range $500 laptop? Good, because the Satellite L745D-S4220 has no more to offer in the way of ports than three USB ports and HDMI. No Bluetooth, no USB 3.0, no surprise. There is a DVD-burning optical drive. That's not a consolation. An included 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM are standard for mainstream laptops; this Satellite didn't cheap out there, but it's not overdelivering, either.
This laptop has a 1.6GHz AMD E-350 processor running the show. We've seen this same AMD processor in 11-inch laptops going back to January. The HP Pavilion dm1z, for instance, was the first to wow us with this processor's performance for small-scale ultraportables. That's not the case here. The AMD E-350 in an 11-inch is going up against an Intel Atom as far as equivalently priced and sized computers; in the 14-inch space, you can get a Core i3 laptop for the same money. This processor fared terribly in our tests, well under half the speed of an entry-level Core i3 or even AMD A6 processor. The Satellite L745D-S4220 ran sluggishly: programs opened slowly, files took longer to install, and yet a noisy fan still kicked in after a few minutes spent idle. You're basically getting worse-than-11-inch performance from a 14-incher, at a similar price. For a review of a similar product with a similar processor that fared a bit better in our benchmarking--but debuted way back in March--see the review of the Gateway NV51B05u.
While the AMD E-350 technically has some graphics power, it's a step back from anything else, including integrated Intel graphics. Street Fighter IV ran at a near-unplayable 15 frames per second. This is a laptop we'd only recommend for playing basic, casual games, such as Bejeweled or FarmVille.
|Toshiba Satellite L745D-S4220||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.29|
|Sleep (10 percent)||0.7|
|Idle (25 percent)||7.84|
|Load (5 percent)||24.19|
|Annual energy cost||$3.39|