That competition is good for consumers is accepted wisdom, and rightfully so. Even though Intel provides the majority of CPUs in today's laptops, it's good to see systems powered by rival AMD, such as this midpriced 15-inch Toshiba Satellite.
The chip in question here is the higher-end AMD Quad-Core A8-3520M, which AMD calls an APU (or Accelerated Processing Unit), because it includes a discrete Radeon 6620 graphics chip -- one of the advantages of producing both CPUs and GPUs. At $699 for the Satellite P755D-S5172, it's very nice to get some graphics horsepower, plus a Blu-ray drive.
But you knew there had to be a catch, right? Even though this AMD Quad-Core A8-3520M processor is part of AMD's upper tier, its benchmark performance is sluggish, falling behind Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, and matching up closer to a lower-end Intel Core i3. As 15-inch Core i5 laptops can be found for $100 less, it's hard to call this a great value, unless you're particularly interested in the Blu-ray drive.
|Price as reviewed||$699|
|Processor||1.6GHz AMD Quad-Core A8-3520M|
|Memory||6GB, 1333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||640GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||AMD ID 1705/780E|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 6620G|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4 x 9.0 inches|
|Height||1.1 - 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.5/6.3 pounds|
Toshiba is known for its sometimes confusing array of lettered laptop lines, and the P series falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. The body is a glossy silver-black plastic, with textured horizontal lines etched into it. The lines do add some depth and a nearly woodgrain-like quality (and are pleasingly fingerprint-resistant), but you'll never forget this is a plastic laptop, and a thick, bulky one at that.
The keyboard sits in a recessed section of the interior. That means the wrist rest is higher than a keyboard, which is an ergonomic plus. The flat-topped island-style keys are surprisingly easy to use, with zero flex, even in the middle. The individual keys do, however, wiggle a bit under the finger, and are paired with Toshiba's standard undersized space bar. A full number pad sits on the right side, along with handy standalone page-up and page-down keys.
A row of touch-sensitive media control buttons are located above the keyboard. That's a nice feature to see on a laptop in this price range, but after years of asking, no one has ever been able to tell me why Toshiba insists that its volume control buttons emit a piercing beep by default when pressed. A pair of speakers, from Harman Kardon, are above average, but don't expect too much thump with your music. Clarity and brightness (and volume), however, were good.
The touch pad has a matte Mylar coating with an accent light strip at the top edge that turns off when you press a small button to deactivate the entire pad. The pad is centered under the spacebar, putting it towards the left side of the chassis, and below it are two large plastic left and right mouse buttons that are responsive, but also loose and clacky. While a two-finger pinch/zoom multitouch gesture worked, two-finger scroll did not. Instead, the touch pad has a scroll zone along the right edge.
The 1,366x768-pixel-resolution glossy 15.6-inch display is excellent, as many Toshiba displays are, with rich colors and good brightness. Off-axis angles degrade the image quality quickly, however. It's hard to complain about a 1,366x768-pixel screen in a $700 15-inch laptop, but note that the 1080p Blu-ray drive can't display its full resolution on this screen.
|Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray player/DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Satellite P755D-S5172 scores some points for its ports and connections, with four USB ports at a time when some laptops are offering fewer than ever. Only one of those is USB 3.0, but it also includes Toshiba's sleep-and-play feature, which allows that port to power or charge devices such as an iPod or iPhone even when the laptop is closed, off, or sleeping.
This fixed-configuration laptop includes a decent-size 640GB 5,400rpm hard drive, 6GB of RAM, and an AMD Quad-Core A8-3520M processor. But Toshiba makes several other P755 variations -- we counted 30 on Toshiba's Web site, with both Intel and AMD CPUs. This is the least expensive, while there's also an Intel Core i7 model that costs $1,199.