Back when thin-and-light laptops were all the rage in 2009, a surprise contender for the most affordable thin 13-inch laptop came from Toshiba. The Satellite T135, an optical-drive-free laptop with an Intel Pentium or AMD Neo dual-core CPU, managed to provide exactly the sort of computing power that most Netbooks lack. For everything from video streaming to general office work, it was more than adequate. It wasn't as cheap as a Netbook, but it wasn't as expensive as many thin laptops, either.
Toshiba's update, the Satellite T235, is much like its predecessor in many ways--perhaps in too many. We can't really fault it, though, since it remains one of the thinnest all-around affordable 13-inch laptops. However, at $599 for the AMD Turion II Neo dual-core powered T235D-S1345 ($569 on Toshiba's Web site with an instant savings option), it's the same price as many Intel Core i3 laptops.
The weight and battery life on this ultraportable 13-incher are superior to many standard 13-inch machines, but it comes at the same performance cost as the other Satellite T135 models had. The T235D still lacks an optical drive, and it's no longer quite the thinnest machine around; in fact, for only a few hundred more, the $829 Toshiba Portege R705-P25 offers a lighter chassis, a Core i3 processor, and a DVD-burning optical drive. However, if it's an all-around thin machine you're looking for at a price that's reasonable, the T235D-S1345 can handle a lot more than a Netbook can, and with a more ergonomic design.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$599|
|Processor||1.5 GHz AMD Turion II Neo K625 Dual-Core|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||ATI RS880M + SD820M|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.7 inches x 8.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.8 / 4.4 pounds|
The Satellite T235D-S1345 is a relative lightweight among 13-inch laptops; at less than 4 pounds, it has a tapered design that also gives it a smaller overall profile. At first glance, it looks more like a 12-inch ultraportable. From the outside, the T235D isn't really different from the previous T135 series--the same glossy plastic lid predominates--this time in a gray with crosshatched etched pattern to lessen the Fingerprint Effect, or an optional red--and a slightly bulging battery protrudes from the underside, but hardly enough to feel intrusive.
Inside, a weird predominance of textured silvery plastic surrounds the keyboard deck; the effect seems initially tacky. After some use, we softened up to the design--to a point. While Toshiba can be credited for not playing it safe, we might have preferred something more muted. Combined with the very plastic feel the overall laptop possesses, the T235D leans toward looking slightly cheap. Thankfully, the chassis' construction actually feels quite sturdy, starting with a new keyboard.
We criticized Toshiba's previous generation of Satellites for having flat keyboards that didn't feel comfortable, but to its credit, the new raised keyboard on the T235 series is a real improvement. The sturdy square keys seem too tiny at first glance, but their wide spacing turns out to be a surprisingly good ergonomic experience. It feels like the keyboard we liked on the Toshiba Mini NB305 Netbook, blown up and stuck onto a larger laptop. The arrow keys are even thoughtfully offset, and function keys are set into little four-button clusters. If there's one big improvement to the T235D, it's in those keys.
The wider-than-tall multitouch touch pad leans toward being a bit too smooth, but its sensitivity is excellent, and we found the contour-curved buttons beneath easy to reach. And that textured deck we complained about happens to offer comfortable friction on your palms when typing. Clever stuff, after all.
The Satellite T235D-S1345 has a 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit display with a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is common for screens this size. Pictures looked reasonably bright and text readable, although the screen looked washed out at wide viewing angles. Its built-in stereo speakers emit sound through grilles under the front base; they're loud enough for enjoying videos, but are not ideal for music. A built-in Webcam is a lot like the one on the previous T135--OK for Web chatting, but we've seen better.
|Toshiba Satellite T235D-S1345||Average for category [13-inch]|
|Video||HDMI-out, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 of them an eSATA combo), dual SD/Memory Stick card reader, mini-FireWire||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Except for its missing optical drive and its lack of Bluetooth, the T235D-S1345 has the selection of ports we'd come to expect out of any 13-inch laptop. Toshiba added a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, which is nice, as is its ubiquitous sleep-and-charge USB port that can power USB devices when the Satellite is asleep or even turned off. It turns a laptop into a large battery for your phone when traveling.
Like its predecessor, the Satellite T135D-S1324, the T235D-S1345 has an AMD Neo dual-core processor, although this time it's been slightly upgraded to a Turion II Neo K625 dual-core. Its performance is improved a little, but not massively so. For most mainstream computing needs, this dual-core CPU does its job surprisingly well. We're also happy to say that generally it handled full-screen video streaming nicely, although we had better results if we avoided trying to watch HD streams. The T235D-S1345 is a far better solution for mobile computing than single-core or Atom processor Netbooks, but it also falls short of what even a basic Intel Core i3 processor can do. In terms of overall benchmark performance, it edged out the slim 11.6-inch Dell Inspiron M101z that packs an Athlon II Neo K325 dual-core CPU. Its performance is impressive for an 11.6-inch system, but it's not far off what we'd expect in a budget 13-inch, either.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)