How much of a difference does a single-core versus dual-core ultralow-voltage processor make on a thin-and-light these days? You may not be paying attention under the hood--and that's not your fault, because it's hard to notice the differences based on processor name and Intel sticker-logos--but you should know that it makes quite a big difference indeed. Case in point: Toshiba's new T135 thin-and-light, which we reviewed last week in its single-core configuration, the T135-S1300. For $599, we found it underpowered compared with its competitors, despite having very good battery life.
Yet, for only $100 more, the T135-S1310, which has a dual-core SU4100 processor, outperforms nearly every thin-and-light we've seen lately. For that $100 extra (plus $10 for a red or white Fusion Finish--which is what the company calls the high-gloss coating--instead of black), you not only get an Intel CULV that handles multitasking far better, but you also get an extra gig of RAM (and at a faster speed, too) and a 320GB hard drive instead of a 250. Simply put, the $699 Toshiba T135-S1310 is a no-brainer compared with its very similarly named cousin.
While we still have issues with some of the design of the T135, and found the speakers to be very weak, the T135-S1310 represents an excellent value point over the T135-S1300, and should be considered by anyone in the Windows 7 thin-and-light market. Just make sure you like the look and feel first.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$709 / $699|
|Processor||1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU4100|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.7 x 8.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.8/4.5 pounds|
|Category||Thin and light|
From a casual overview, the T135 series shares a number of design similarities to the rest of the Toshiba Satellite lineup that received an upgrade earlier this year. Covered inside and out in a glossy checkerboard Fusion Finish in either black, red, or white--ours was red, which, along with white, costs an extra $10--the T135 is accented with slick chrome highlights along the edge of the palm rest and on the touch-pad buttons. In fact, we liked the T135 better in red than we did in black. However, that slickness continues literally to the keyboard, which is finished in the same glossy coating we've been less than enthusiastic about in other Satellites. While the T135 is thinner than Toshiba's thick midrange Satellites such as the U505-S2940, it's still a semi-chunky 1.4 inches thick.
The flat keyboard performs better than we remembered on larger Core 2 Duo models, but it still feels a little too greasy. The touch pad is a matte rectangle inset along the glossy palm rest, and feels decent but not spectacular. The silver button-bar beneath is one continuous piece of plastic that toggles on either side for left or right clicks, but we always prefer distinct buttons instead. Other than the power button, there are no other buttons besides the standard keyboard, so control panel adjustments such as screen brightness are all handled with function-key combinations. Volume control is oddly relegated to a function combination with the 3 and 4 number keys, which took us forever to locate.
The 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit screen on the Satellite T135-S1310 has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, sharp colors, and good brightness, and it looked perfectly crisp in our use. Above the screen is a Webcam that took fair video, but grainy and low-resolution snapshots. More disappointing were the Satellite T135-S1310's speakers, which are stereo and planted on the base below the keyboard, but still sounded like they were emanating from the middle of a pillow-lined box: the volume at maximum was so soft and tinny, they were practically worthless. We also had issues with Toshiba's Netbook speakers, but other Toshiba speakers were generally exceptional. This was a big letdown.
|Toshiba Satellite T135-S1310||Average for category [thin and light]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/sleep and charge, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Technically, the T135-S1310 leaves nothing to be desired as far as ports and features. In addition to a sleep-and-charge USB port, there's an SD card reader and an HDMI port. The T135-S1310 also includes Bluetooth, yet another feature gained by spending the extra $100 over the T135-S1300. While we had issues with HDMI-out on a laptop that didn't handle HD video well like the T135-S1300 did, we can say that the T135-S1310 was very good at handling both HD and streaming video--not spectacular, but certainly passable.
The T135-S1310 comes with a 320GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and an Intel Pentium SU4100 processor. The T135 can also be downgraded to a similar-sounding SU2700 processor (see our review of the T135-S1300), but we would seriously recommend you spend the extra $100 for this model. Our T135 also had Windows 7 Home Premium preinstalled, as it's a launch laptop for Microsoft's new operating system. Windows 7 was a good experience on this machine, which further convinces us of Win 7's versatility.
Now, for a word on the confusing landscape of Intel CULV processor names: Intel's Pentium SU4100 processor is in fact a dual-core processor, one that actually outperformed the dual-core Core 2 Duo CULV in the Asus UL30A-A1 in our benchmark tests. Why this processor gets a Pentium name instead of a Core 2 Duo owes to the vagary of Intel's naming conventions, but the gap between the SU4100 and the single-core SU2700 in the T135-S1300 is fairly huge. The SU2700, by comparison, performed only fairly better than a Netbook-grade Intel Atom processor, but not by much.
By going dual-core, this Toshiba managed to be one of the better-performing CULV thin-and-lights in our benchmark comparison chart, where we focused on recent comparable machines. Dual-core does indeed make a big difference. We hope that Intel makes this CULV landscape a bit clearer in the future for potential consumers, since the stickers on both the T135 models were identical, and advertised a misleading (and unappealing) "Pentium Inside." Intel is doing itself a disservice to a good SU4100 processor.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)