Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
Oversize 16- to 18-inch desktop replacement laptops have different standards than the smaller systems you might carry around every day. Battery life isn't much of a concern, as they're too big to fit into a shoulder bag, so high-end components are common, including Intel's Core i7 processors, massive hard drives, and dedicated gaming graphics--all features you're less likely to see on a 13-inch or midsize laptop.
Toshiba's $929 Satellite A665-S6070 comes in at the low end of high end, including a fast Intel Core i7 processor, big 640GB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics. That's a decent set of components for less than $1,000, but some design decisions make the A665-S6070 feel less like a bargain and more just plain cheap.
The native resolution of the 16-inch display is only 1,366x768 pixels; that's the same as you'd find on a premium 11-inch Netbook, along with most 13- to 15-inch laptops. The plastic body looks and feels chintzy, despite having a subtle pattern etched into it. It's a marked contrast to the slick, metal-clad Toshiba Portege R705, and even the mouse buttons on this system are cheap and clacky. On paper, the A665-S6070 isn't a bad deal (and it certainly works fine as a powerful desktop replacement) but the look and feel are, in a word, uninspiring.
|Price as reviewed||$929|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM|
|Memory||4GB, 1066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||640GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 310M|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.0 x 10.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||16 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.7/6.7 pounds|
We certainly don't mind plastic laptops--after all, they make up my vast majority of the systems out there--but once you pass a certain price threshold, it's perfectly reasonable to look for some more-upscale construction materials. Several years ago, a $900-plus laptop would be considered a budget-minded bargain, but today, the high-end needle has dropped and we'd definitely classify the A665-S6070 as a premium-priced product.
In that sense, the textured gray plastic that covers most of the laptop's exposed surfaces looks and feels like it belongs on a less-expensive machine. There's nothing wrong with it, but it certainly doesn't make this a living room or den showpiece. On the other hand, we're happy to say that the construction feels for the most part very solid and sturdy, and there's no annoying flex under the keyboard--a common problem in laptops of all price ranges.
The keyboard itself is the typical island-style seen on almost every new laptop, with flat-topped, widely spaced keys. The extra room available on the 16-inch laptop body gives the keyboard plenty of breathing room, and typing is a breeze. There's also a full number pad to the right of the keyboard, and a row of touch-sensitive media control buttons above the Function keys. We've always dinged Toshiba's media control buttons for emitting a loud beep, even when hitting mute (which was always counter-intuitive, to say the least). Though most of the buttons still beep by default, at least Toshiba removed the beep from the speaker button while muting (it still beeps when you hit the same button again to turn the speakers back on).
The touch pad is decently large, but offset to the left side because of the number pad. Though its surface has a very nice friction-free coating, the large mouse buttons themselves feel loose and wiggle considerably under your fingers. It's one of the cheapest-feeling aspects of this laptop, and very out of place compared with the otherwise sturdy construction.
Toshiba also includes a couple of custom software utilities with the system. ReelTime is a sort of history browser, displaying every recent document and Web page in thumbnail form along the bottom of the screen. It's surprisingly slick and usable, although it's not really a necessity. There's also a Toshiba Bulletin Board app, which lets you compile photos and notes in a single workspace. It's also slick-looking, but we're always dubious of learning a whole new software tool that only works on one brand of laptop.
The system's Harman Kardon speakers are a Toshiba mainstay, and certainly louder and fuller-sounding than your average laptop speaker. They're fine for online casual video viewing, but for serious music or car chases, headphones or external speakers are still recommended.
The 16-inch wide-screen display qualifies this laptop as a desktop replacement, a category often used for media viewing (and which can be a TV substitute in the den or dorm room). That's why it's especially surprising that the native screen resolution is only 1,366x768 pixels, something of a rarity in a desktop replacement. It's the same resolution found in everything from 11-inch Netbooks to most 13-inch and midsize laptops. But with a bigger screen like this, it's another budget-style feature in premium-priced laptop. For HD video watching, gaming, and even photo editing, we'd suggest at least a 1,600x900-pixel-resolution display.
|Toshiba Satellite A665-S6070||Average for category [13-inch]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Like most Toshiba laptops, this system includes a clever feature called Sleep and Charge, which gives you the option of allowing USB-connected devices to receive power, even if the laptop is asleep or powered off. It's useful for recharging iPods or other mobile devices, and you can also turn on an option to use the laptop's speakers when the system is off.
The most upscale feature of the A665-S6070 is its processor, a 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM. Coupled with 4GB of RAM and a massive 640GB hard drive (running at 5,400rpm), it's a solid list of components that should be more than enough for even heavy-duty multitasking. In our benchmark testing, however, the system was in the middle of the pack in the high-end category of our back-to-school 2010 retail laptop roundup, and it didn't display much of a performance premium in these tests over laptops with Intel's Core i5 processor (and even Apple's $999 MacBook, with a less-powerful processor, did better in some of the more Apple-centric tasks, such as a test that uses QuickTime). That said, the Intel Core i7 is still the most powerful processor you'll find in typical consumer laptops right now, and this is a very speedy-feeling system that gave us zero stuttering or slowdown in anecdotal use.