The value equation for laptops is changing. Case in point: while the Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176X only costs $799, somehow it just doesn't feel like a great bargain anymore. That's not to say it doesn't have merit: a Core i3-2310M second-generation Intel CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, plus a Blu-ray drive and next-generation Intel Wireless Display, make for a decent setup--especially with the included Harman Kardon speakers that can do a movie more justice than most laptop audio rigs--but this laptop is far from perfect.
It's an improvement in terms of battery life and CPU performance over the Satellite A665 models we reviewed last year, such as the Satellite A665-S6058, but the fact remains that other great laptops with second-generation Sandy Bridge processors are available in the same price range, including the recently reviewed 13-inch Toshiba Portege R835 and 2011 Dell XPS 15.
There are other drawbacks: The Satellite A665-S5176X is heavy. Its battery life is unimpressive. And for media playback and gaming, it doesn't have the level of graphics and screen resolution we'd hope for on a large, 15.6-inch-screen laptop. While you're getting a solid package, it just doesn't add up to something that's particularly inspiring.
|Price as reviewed||$799|
|Processor||2.1 GHz Intel Core i3-2310M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM|
|Hard drive||500GB, 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel HD 3000|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.0x9.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.6/6.3 pounds|
Toshiba's Satellite laptops feel stuck in a design time warp While the look has been spruced up a little with new raised keyboards and patterned textured plastic (Fusion X2 Finish in Charcoal) meant to reduce fingerprints, the whole package comes off as being, well, kind of garish and tacky. The plastic chassis flexed a lot on the sides when we pressed down with our fingers, and it just doesn't come close to laptops like the MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 15. Yes, in fairness, the actual weight of the A665 is pretty close to that of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, but its bulk is significantly greater. Nevertheless, this is virtually the same design as last year's A665 models, such as the Satellite A665-S6058.
The raised island-style keyboard has comfortably spaced keys and includes a number pad, but the spacebar is oddly small and the keys feel overly slick to the touch. An LED-backlit touch bar above has hot keys for volume, Wi-Fi, and a power management Eco Utility control panel, though the keys make an annoying beep when pressed that takes sifting through buried settings to deactivate. The wide touch pad is covered in a matte plastic and feels responsive, but the large twin plastic buttons beneath the pad contribute to this laptop's budget feel.
Similarly, the 15.6-inch inset glossy display, with its maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, simply doesn't feel top-of-the-line. Viewing angles are limited, colors looked washed-out at times, and Blu-ray playback simply didn't pop like it did on the admittedly more expensive 1080p screen on the Dell XPS 15. DVDs do gain the benefit of upscaling thanks to included Toshiba software, and as a result they look better than average, but for most other media the video quality falls short of excellent.
Snazzy Harman Kardon stereo speakers help the audiovisual experience out, and then some. We've always like the higher-end speakers on Satellite laptops, and the Harman Kardons continue to stand out with crisp, rich audio. And yet, they fall short of the popping, booming excellence we heard on the XPS 15. They're definitely excellent for music, movies, and gaming, but we can now say, unlike last year, that we've heard better.
The Webcam is not the HD type we've been seeing in a number of 2011 laptops: maximum resolution caps at 640x480 pixels, and the built-in camera software offers bare-bones control.
|Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176X||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0 (1 with sleep-and-charge), SD card slot||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi,||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray combo drive||DVD burner|
The Satellite A665-S5176X lacks Bluetooth, but has second-gen Intel Wireless Display 1.2 for streaming HD video to a TV equipped with a Netgear Push2TV receiver box (sold separately), as well as a USB 3.0 port. There are literally dozens of Toshiba Satellite A665 configurations on Toshiba's Web site, each with a different mix of processors, graphics, and media drives. This configuration's 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive aren't shabby, but we'd probably trade the Blu-ray drive for more advanced dedicated graphics.
A second-generation 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M CPU powers the S5176X, and its performance is generally better than last year's Core i-series processors. It's a step behind 2011 Core i5 and i7 CPUs in terms of multitasking speed, but this laptop can certainly handle most mainstream and even multimedia tasks put to it. The S5176X handled HD video streaming, multiple-window computing, and even light gaming well, albeit with a stream of very hot air being blasted out the vents on the left edge, just far enough away from where our hands tended to rest while typing.
Speaking of gaming and graphics, this particular Satellite relies on the new Intel Sandy Bridge integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, which is a significant step forward from last year's laptops with integrated graphics. Light- and medium-horsepower games can be played on this laptop--we achieved a frame rate of 55.7 frames per second on Unreal Tournament III in native 1,366x768-pixel resolution with graphics settings at medium--but it lags behind what current laptops with dedicated AMD and Nvidia graphics can achieve. If you're not a gamer, you'll find it gets things done well enough; if you do play games, you'll be a bit disappointed. For $799, we can't complain much.