By virtue of its broad, 17.1-inch display, the $699 Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815 stands out among budget back-to-school laptops (most of which feature 15.4-inch displays). But that feature is the only way the Satellite L355D-S7815 distinguishes itself; the rest of its feature set is merely adequate, its battery life below average, and (thanks to the inclusion of an AMD processor) its performance was consistently at the bottom of our benchmarks. These would all be somewhat excused if the price were rock-bottom, but we tested both a Dell Inspiron 1525 and a Sony Vaio NR430 that outperformed the Toshiba for less money. In fact, the Vaio NR430 is our entry-level pick for students on a tight budget, and we recommend it over the Satellite L355D-S7815.
|Processor||2.0GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-60|
|Memory||3GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Radeon 3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||15.7 x 11.5 x 1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.1 / 8.0 pounds|
Bypassing Toshiba's newest pin-striped Satellite case design, the Satellite L355D-S7815's lid is a glossy blue-black (Toshiba calls it "onyx blue") and its interior is glossy black. The overall effect is subdued, but elegant, and the laptop looks far more expensive than its $699 price. Both the lid and the base feature rounded corners that help the laptop appear smaller than it is. Though its 7.1-pound weight places it well in the mainstream category, the Satellite L355D-S7815's broad 17.1-inch display gives it a larger footprint than other laptops in this category. You'll probably only carry it when you head home during breaks.
In exchange for taking up more space on your desk, the Satellite L355D-S7815 offers a broad, 17.1-inch wide-screen display. With a native resolution of 1,440x900, the screen is great for Web browsing and movies; however, its glossy coating results in some distracting reflections when working in brightly lit environments.
We like the keyboard on the Satellite L355D-S7815; it's roomy and provides a comfortable typing experience. The laptop's broad case also provides space for a 10-key number pad, which can be useful for entering data. The touch pad is flush with the wrist rest, but not so sensitive that you'll accidentally misplace the cursor while typing. Otherwise, the Satellite L355D-S7815's keyboard deck is an exercise in minimalism: there are no fingerprint reader or application-launch buttons, just a row of buttons across the top that control media playback and mute the sound. (Volume is adjusted with a handy wheel on the laptop's front edge.)
|Toshiba Satellite L355-S7815||Average for mainstream category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Three USB 2.0, multiformat memory card reader||Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner with Labelflash||DVD burner|
The Satellite L355D-S7815 offers a rather basic feature set that's acceptable for a budget system. Toshiba does omit the mini-FireWire and S-Video connectors we'd expect to see on a laptop of this size, but neither omission is glaring. However, we were disappointed in the laptop's stereo speakers, which emit only muddled sound; headphones are pretty much required for enjoying music or movies on this system.
A fixed configuration available only on retail shelves, the $699 Satellite L355D-S7815 incorporates a generous 3GB of RAM and a low-cost 2.0GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-60 dual-core processor. Though that's one of AMD's latest processor models, it didn't have enough oomph to compete with laptops based on Intel's Core 2 Duo processor on CNET Labs' benchmarks. The Satellite L355D-S7815 came in dead last on every performance test we ran. We could forgive the lag if the Satellite were less expensive than the competition, but you'll pay less for Dell's entry-level Inspiron 1525-121B and the Sony Vaio NR430, which is our favorite in this budget category.
The Satellite L355D-S7815's pokey performance didn't even help preserve battery life; the laptop ran for just 1 hour and 44 minutes on our video playback drain test. That's a bit less than average for a midsize system, even for one with a 17-inch screen. Our video playback test is particularly taxing, so you can expect a bit more battery life during typical productivity work; just be sure to bring the power cord if you want to make it through a Hollywood movie.