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.
If you were to look for the definition of "perfectly average laptop," you'd probably find a picture of the Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4030. It has a solid dual-core AMD Turion II processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and a decent 14-inch screen that complements its fair-looking, but forgettable, chassis.
There is good and bad news here: the good is that this Toshiba laptop is zippier than we expected. The bad is that it has an underwhelming, nearly useless battery life. Its $599 price knocks on the door of slightly higher-priced laptops that offer better performance, and other budget systems--such as the Asus K50IJ-BBZ5--are cheaper and faster. If this laptop were to cost less than $499, we'd say it was a steal; however, at $599 you can find a better system.
Since it lacks an HDMI port, has tinny-sounding speakers, and has an overly thick chassis, we'd skip the L645D if we were shopping for a computer in this price range; however, if you end up with this model, at least take heart that it won't disappoint you performancewise--provided you keep it plugged in to a nearby electrical outlet.
|Price as reviewed||$599|
|Processor||2.3 GHz AMD Turion II P520 dual-core|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 RAM, 1,066MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.3x9.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.7/5.4 pounds|
Toshiba tends to make its budget products sturdier feeling than that of other manufacturers, and the L645D is definitely a solid-feeling chunk of plastic. It's 1.5 inches thick, which is a bit more than we'd prefer on a 14-inch laptop. Toshiba covers this Satellite with a dark silvery-gray patterned finish. It's a more attractive looking than an overly glossy monochrome finish, but it still looks a bit generic. The screen and surrounding bezel are glossy black, as is the wide and flat keyboard. Even though this Satellite is bulky, it's fairly light; at 4.7 pounds, it doesn't weigh you down.
The flat-style keyboard, which Toshiba has largely moved away from in favor of raised keys on many other models, is quite familiar to us--we saw it in nearly all Satellites last year. We used to complain that this type of keyboard felt squishy and uncomfortable, but for some reason--possibly the extra elevation due to a thicker base--typing on the L645D is actually comfortable.
The matte multitouch touch pad lies flush with the rest of the keyboard deck and can get a little lost under your fingers, but it works well. Its large curved buttons beneath the pad are firm and click solidly, but there is no practical reason for them to have a convex shape.
The L645D-S4030 has a 14-inch screen with a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, like 11- to 15 inch laptops have, and it has a fairly bright LED backlight. For a budget laptop, the Toshiba's screen is crisp and colorful enough to provide decent video playback, and it looked fine when browsing and reading documents. Its exposed stereo speakers, which are above the keyboard, disappointed us. Unlike with higher-end audio components on other Satellites, the audio TV shows and music on the L645D sounded tinny and underpowered, even when maxing the volume out.
|Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4030||Average for category [Midsize]|
|Video||VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 of which is a combo eSATA port), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4030's connection options are a little bare bones. A USB/eSATA combo port is about the only special feature the laptop has. As it doesn't have Bluetooth, HDMI, or ExpressCard, Toshiba limits your expansion options even though the laptop certainly room on its sides and front to fit these features in.
The Satellite L645D-S4030 is powered an AMD Turion II dual-core CPU that offers surprisingly good performance for everyday use. It works particularly well in single-task and video playback functions and has nearly comparable performance to an Intel Core i3 processor, handling single-core tasks in our benchmark tests just a little slower some higher-end retail machines do. The Satellite takes a performance score hit as it isn't as efficient when multitasking. However, it is zippy when navigating around Windows 7 and opening programs.
While this Satellite has ATI graphics chip, its performance is not much better than integrated Intel graphics. In our Unreal Tournament III benchmark test, the laptop chugged at a paltry 17.4 frames per second at 1,200x720-pixel resolution. This laptop isn't a gaming system, but its ATI graphics should provide a little help with video and system performance.
|Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4030||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh number||51.51|
|Annual power consumption cost||$5.85|