Toshiba Satellite M30 review: Toshiba Satellite M30

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2 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Low price; good variety of ports and connections; wide screen; can play CDs without booting OS; lightweight for its size; external volume and Wi-Fi controls.

The Bad Very poor battery life; subpar performance; small mouse buttons and touch pad; loud fan.

The Bottom Line Despite a big display and a nice array of ports and connections, the Toshiba Satellite M35X-S163's poor battery life and subpar performance render it suitable only for very basic home use.

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4.2 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 4.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Battery life 2.0
  • Service and support 5.0

Toshiba Satellite M35X-S163

The inexpensive Toshiba Satellite M35X-S163, a mainstream or value laptop through and through, is designed for students and home users on a budget who need only the basics. Its large but rather lightweight case affords it some benefits, such as a big wide-screen display and dedicated buttons for CD and DVD playback. Handcuffed to a low-speed Celeron processor, however, the $999 Satellite M35X-S163 system comes up short on performance, and its weak battery life will limit your productivity on the go.

The Satellite M35X-S163's measurements place it somewhere between a thin-and-light and a desktop replacement. The laptop runs 14.4 inches wide, 10.8 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick and weighs just more than 6 pounds. The compact but heavy AC adapter adds an additional 0.8 pound.

A big 15.4-inch display with a standard 1,280x800 native resolution is the highlight of the Satellite M35X-S163's design. We like the roomy keyboard, though the rectangular touch pad and the mouse buttons are on the small side. To the left of the keyboard sit five multimedia buttons that control CDs and DVDs when the laptop is booted up; the notebook can also play CDs even when the OS isn't booted. The two stereo speakers placed at the front corners sounded fairly tinny and weak--typical for a laptop in this price range. There's a handy Wi-Fi on/off switch as well as a volume wheel located on the system's right edge, so you need not navigate through the OS to control wireless connectivity and sound. On the downside, there's an annoyingly loud fan that whirrs often. If you plan to keep this laptop in your bedroom or living room, you'll need to turn it off to get peace and quiet. Also, the notebook's lid is so flexible that we have doubts about its ability to adequately protect the display.

For a low-end laptop, the Satellite M35X offers a good selection of ports, jacks, and slots. You get four-pin unpowered FireWire, S-Video-out, parallel, VGA, IrDA, and three USB 2.0 ports; 56K modem, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks; and one Type II PC Card slot. Our evaluation unit shipped with Microsoft Windows XP Home and pared-down productivity suite Works 7.0. Also included are InterVideo WinDVD Creator, Sonic RecordNow, and Sonic DLA for viewing DVDs and burning CDs. The Satellite M35X lacks heavy-duty security features such as a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, though it comes with Toshiba's cool ConfigFree utility for managing wireless connectivity and other system components.

Toshiba sells a number of preconfigured versions of the Satellite M35X online and in retail outlets; check out our Satellite M35X series review for the particulars of each. You can also customize the virtually identical Satellite M30X on Toshiba's Web site.

Though our Satellite M35X-S163 test unit is quite inexpensive at $999, you get what you pay for: in this case, an array of low-end parts. Our system included a budget-caliber 1.4GHz Intel Celeron M 360 processor; 512MB of slow 333MHz RAM; a midsize 60GB hard drive spinning at a slow 4,200rpm; an economical integrated Intel 855GME graphics chip, which steals up to 64MB of video RAM from main system memory; a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive; and a standard 802.11b/g wireless card.

These thrifty components burdened the Toshiba Satellite M35X-S163's performance in CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks. The system squeaked a few points past another slow budget laptop: the discontinued 1.4GHz Intel Celeron M-based Compaq Presario 2200. But neither system was any match for the Sony VAIO VGN-B100B02, which carried similar specs except for its faster 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M Dothan processor. We recommend the Satellite M35X-S163 only for basic computing tasks such as e-mail, word processing, and surfing the Web. And stay close to a wall socket: in our battery-life test, the Satellite M35X-S163 mustered only 107 minutes (one of the lowest scores we've seen), compared to the Presario 2200's 181 minutes and the VAIO VGN-B100B12's 175 minutes.

The Satellite M35X-S163 ships with the one-year warranty and return-to-depot service standard among most consumer laptops. Most retailers sell an extended warranty for the system, though the specific terms vary. Toshiba offers toll-free telephone support around-the-clock for the life of the warranty. You'll find the typical troubleshooting info on the company's support Web site, where you can also click through to the Windows Users Group Network laptop forum for advice from other laptop owners.

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