The Toshiba Satellite L355D is a tough laptop to critique. One the one hand, its feature set is merely adequate, its battery life below average, and (thanks to the inclusion of an AMD processor) its performance--while sufficient for such basic computing tasks as Web surfing, watching movies, and word processing--can't match that of laptops based on Intel processors. On the other hand, it costs $800, while similarly configured systems from Hewlett-Packard and Dell cost $75 to $175 more. Aside from price, the Satellite L355D does have some things going for it; namely, a lightweight, understated design and a broad, 17-inch display (most laptops in this price range incorporate 15.4-inch displays). In the end, the Toshiba Satellite L355D will meet the needs of a small subset of laptop buyers: students and other bargain-hunters who want a cheap laptop with a large screen.
|Processor||2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||200GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||15.7x11.5x1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.1 / 8.0 pounds|
Bypassing Toshiba's newest pinstriped Satellite case design, the Satellite L355D features a silvery-gray lid with a darker gray Toshiba logo in the center. Both the lid and the black base feature rounded corners that help the laptop appear smaller. Not that the Satellite L355D is all that large; its 7.1-pound weight places it well in the mainstream category.
The Satellite L335D's light weight is all the more remarkable when you open the case to reveal 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. Above the screen sits a 1.3-megapixel Webcam that's good for video chats.
We like the keyboard on the Satellite L355D; 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 or playing games. We appreciate the recessed touch pad, which makes it less likely that you'll accidentally graze the pad while typing. Otherwise, the Satellite L355D's keyboard deck is an exercise in minimalism: there's 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.)
Judging from the proliferation of desktop icons on the Satellite L355D, we'd say its low price comes in part thanks to a subsidy from software makers. Out of the box, our review unit included 20 desktop shortcuts to third-party software and Web sites, such as eMusic, Napster, Shutterfly, Vongo, and Skype. Removing much of this junk, especially the programs that run in the background, can speed up a sluggish system. Check out this helpful video on removing bloatware from your laptop for step-by-step instructions.
|Toshiba Satellite L355||Average for mainstream category|
|Video||VGA-out, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|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 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Satellite L355D offers a 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 just muddled sound; headphones are pretty much required for enjoying music or movies on this system.
We tested the Satellite L355D-S7809, which incorporates a low-cost 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 processor and an otherwise average mix of components. As with other AMD systems, the Satellite L355D-S7809 couldn't keep up with laptops based on Intel's Core 2 Duo processor on CNET Labs' benchmarks. On both our Multimedia multitasking and Photoshop tests, the Satellite L355D-S7809 trailed the $899 Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 and the $1,299 Gateway P-170L, both of which run on Core 2 Duo processors with slower clock speeds. That said, you can't ask too much from a laptop that costs $800, and during our anecdotal testing the Satellite L355D-S7809 had enough oomph for the basic Web surfing and media playback that constitutes most low-cost computer use.
The Satellite L355D-S7809 lasted just 93 minutes on our DVD drain test, which is a bit less than we'd like to see from a mainstream laptop, but nevertheless unsurprising for such a low-priced system. Our DVD drain 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 typical Hollywood movie.