Toshiba Satellite M55
Don't judge the Toshiba Satellite M55 by its cover (its choice of ostentatiously colored lids may turn you off). Beyond its hue (bright blue, copper, or silver), there's a lot to like about this thin-and-light laptop, including an exceptional design, handy multimedia controls, solid speed and battery life, and a palatable price. Though we were not keen on our test unit's almost-teal lid, the Satellite M55 is a good thin-and-light for the home or small-office user.
The Satellite M55's case measures 13.5 inches wide, 9.5 inches deep, and 1.2 inches thick. It weighs 5.2 pounds, and the heavy AC adapter tacks on nearly a pound to the system's total weight. These measurements make the case slightly larger and heavier than those of competing thin-and-lights such as the Sony VAIO VGN-S470P and the . However, the Toshiba has a 14-inch screen, while the Sony and the Averatec have slightly smaller 13.3-inch displays.
Aside from its gauche colored lid and some small mouse buttons, the Satellite M55's design is impressive. Its broad keyboard features quiet keys that don't clack when you type, which will please your neighbors on long flights. A standard-size touch pad and small mouse buttons sit below the keyboard. To the right of the keyboard lie six buttons in a ladderlike formation. You can program the first two buttons to launch the applications of your choice. The remaining four buttons control the laptop's multimedia player; you can even watch DVDs or listen to CDs without booting up the operating system. While not huge, the 14-inch display has a 1,280x768 native resolution and a wide-aspect configuration that works well for watching movies and comparing documents side by side. (If you're looking for an even larger screen, the less expensive includes a 15-inch display, and the similarly priced Toshiba Tecra A4 has a 15.4-inch display.) A volume wheel on the front edge allows you to turn sound up or down, and the Harman Kardon speakers located below deliver above-average sound. Finally, a wireless on/off switch helps you preserve battery life by disabling the integrated Wi-Fi when you're not online.
The Satellite M55 strikes a good balance between moderate case size and useful connectors. The thin-and-light leaves out bulky legacy connectors, such as parallel and serial ports, and instead provides more contemporary connectors. These include FireWire, S-Video-out, VGA, and four USB 2.0 ports; 56K modem, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks; one Type II PC Card slot; and one 5-in-1 flash media slot that supports five types of flash memory cards: Secure Digital, Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, and xD-Picture.
The Satellite M55 comes standard with Microsoft Windows XP Home and the scaled-back mini office suite. The company also offers a few applications to help with video viewing (InterVideo WinDVD 5.0) and disc burning (Sonic RecordNow Basic and DLA). The last program of note is Toshiba's ConfigFree utility for altering wireless settings, programmable-button applications, and more.