Toshiba Satellite 1900 series review: Toshiba Satellite 1900 series

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The Good Includes one of the largest and best screens available; top-notch video; wireless keyboard and mouse; good mix of included software.

The Bad Huge and heavy; lacks built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking.

The Bottom Line For those willing to lug 10.7 pounds, this Satellite has awesome power, a gorgeous screen, and a removable, wireless keyboard.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7
  • Support 7

Big, bold, and boasting one of the largest screens available in a notebook, Toshiba's Satellite 1955-S801 is a brash statement on portable power. This notebook combines a huge, 16-inch display; a 2.2GHz desktop Pentium 4; 512MB of RAM; and other amenities that would make any nonportable computer jealous. There are a few downsides to such opulence, however. The Satellite 1955-S801 has no built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth wireless networking, and the standard warranty is skimpy. Also, this Toshiba is so heavy that it might find a following only among aspiring weightlifters. Ultralight devotees: don't look twice at this behemoth--instead, turn to Toshiba's excellent smaller notebooks, such as the Portégé 4010, the Portégé 2000, or the Tecra 9100. Toshiba is known for its eye-catching notebooks, and this huge desktop replacement continues the trend. Black and blue with silver accents, the system looks like a Toshiba Satellite 5105-series notebook on steroids. Its rounded edges give the appearance that the Satellite is smaller than it actually is, but make no mistake--this is one big machine that won't comfortably fit on an economy-class tray table and runs the risk of bursting the seams of all but the largest notebook bags.

The Satellite 1955-S801 continues Toshiba's trend of building cutting-edge notebooks.

The hefty Satellite 1955-S801 has a surprisingly tall, 2.2-inch profile.

Bigger can be better. At 2.2 by 13.6 by 12.9 inches and weighing 9.6 pounds, the Satellite is in a class by itself: superheavyweight. Add the AC adapter, and the system's travel weight rises to 10.7 pounds. This is a notebook you'll want to leave on your desk or your kitchen table as much as possible.

There is a big payoff, however, for hauling around all this weight: the Satellite's beautiful, 16-inch screen, which displays SXGA resolution in rich and vibrant color. One tenth of an inch smaller than the display Sony uses for its GRX line of notebooks, the Satellite's screen is driven by an Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go graphics accelerator with 32MB of RAM, making this a mobile game-player's dream machine. Not only do game backgrounds have more detail but motion is smooth and response nearly instantaneous.

The system's keyboard and mouse are technological works of art. With 19.6mm keys and a generous 3mm of travel, the keyboard feels like any other. But unclip two latches on the sides, and it pops free. Besides impressing the heck out of your friends, the keyboard can also communicate wirelessly from up to six feet away and is perfect for lap typing or controlling remote presentations from afar. We also like the translucent keys, a nice touch Toshiba introduced on Satellites earlier this year.

The wireless keyboard snaps off, a Toshiba exclusive.

Toshiba bundles a wireless mouse with this Satellite.

While the notebook includes a capable touchpad with two actuation buttons (but no pointing stick), the Satellite also comes with a wireless optical mouse that adds a scroll wheel. Unfortunately, in contrast to the light, thin keyboard, the mouse is large, feels awkward in the hand, and needs to be reset often. Despite their quirks, the Satellite's keyboard and mouse are a huge step forward in mobile ergonomics. Look for others to copy this feature; a Fujitsu notebook to be released later this year will have a similar setup, but for now, it's a Toshiba exclusive.

The less expensive notebooks in the Satellite 1900 family don't feature the wireless keyboard. The Satellite 1905-S301 also has a 15-inch display, a slower 2GHz desktop Pentium 4, and less RAM.

Once you get over the weight, setting up the Satellite 1955-S801 is a snap. It features a helpful poster and a detailed PDF-format manual that's preinstalled on the hard drive.

Peer under the hood of this hefty notebook, and you'll see that the rest of the Satellite 1955-S801 is no slouch either, with a 2.2GHz desktop Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of RAM (expandable to 1,024MB), and a 40GB hard drive. With a floppy drive, a capable DVD/CD-RW combo drive, and a multitude of ports, the Satellite is complete and ready for action.

The system has connections for audio, FireWire, external monitor, parallel, and a trio of USB outlets (one on the right side and two in back). With an S-Video connector, the system is ready for multimedia. Although its front-mounted controls mimic those of the Satellite 5105 and can play audio CDs when the system is turned off, it lacks the 5105's small, monochrome LCD that shows track information or the time. Thankfully, Toshiba kept the handy volume wheel on the right side. (All notebooks should be so lucky.) But it's too bad the Satellite 1955-S801's speakers seem weak and hollow in comparison to the Satellite 5105-S607, despite having more space to work with.

The DVD/CD-RW combo drive sits below the latch that unhooks the keyboard.

The CD controls on the front edge let you play CDs with the system turned off.

Although the Satellite 1955-S801 comes with Ethernet and a modem, it lacks Bluetooth or Wi-Fi wireless communication; of course, its pair of PC Card slots can be used for this purpose.

The Satellite's software offerings are impressive. In addition to the notebook world's best power-conservation utility--Toshiba Power Saver--the company also provides Intuit Quicken, Norton AntiVirus, and Lotus SmartSuite. Rather than lard up the system with software that will never be used, Toshiba gives the user the choice of two titles from a list of popular educational, entertainment, and productivity programs for an $8.95 shipping fee.

Application performance
The Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801 reigned supreme in mobile performance, beating both the Micron TransPort V1000 and the Compaq Presario 1510US by a significant margin. Note, however, that the Micron and the Compaq were tested under the Portable/Laptop Windows XP power scheme (as are all applicable notebooks), but the Toshiba uses its own Power Saver application to adjust CPU speed. This application bypasses the XP power scheme and, since it was made by Toshiba for its own notebooks, may be better optimized, resulting in faster performance.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801
Micron TransPort V1000
Compaq Presario 1510US
SysMark2002 performance
The Toshiba soundly beat the Compaq Presario 1510US in mobile performance. But that was not the case with this second benchmark; when the Compaq was plugged in and running full bore, it excelled at Internet content creation, beating the Toshiba by 9 points. In the same test, the Toshiba zipped past the Micron by 21 points.

The Toshiba came in last place in office productivity, however, scoring 20 points behind the Compaq and 6 points less than the Micron. The office productivity tests severely work the hard drive, so the scores may reflect the relative quality of each system's hard drive.

A note about the Micron's performance: Systems that use a shared memory architecture--where the integrated graphics chip borrows memory from the main RAM--suffer in performance. The Micron, however, is CNET Labs' first notebook to use the SIS 650 chipset, the company's first for Pentium 4 machines. It's also the first SIS desktop chipset we've seen used in a notebook that has a desktop CPU. In other words, it's the first SIS chipset we've seen that was made for the type of CPU it's housing. This may explain why it handles the shared memory a lot better than previous SIS chipsets we've reviewed.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation rating  
SysMark2002 office productivity rating  
Compaq Presario 1510US
Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801
Micron TransPort V1000
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
Not surprisingly, the Satellite 1955-S801 comes out way ahead in 3D graphics performance. It uses the faster mobile graphics processor, the Nvidia GeForce 4 440 (32MB) compared to the Compaq with the lower-performing ATI Mobilty Radeon 7500 (32MB). Although the SIS 650 is a great improvement over the company's previous chipsets in application performance, it still cannot hold a candle to Nvidia and ATI chips in graphics performance.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
MadOnion's 3DMark2001 SE  
Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801
Compaq Presario 1510US
Micron TransPort V1000
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses MadOnion's 3DMark2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop-replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting and at a resolution of 1,024x768.

Find out more about how we test notebook systems.

System configurations:

Compaq Presario 1510US
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Micron TransPort V1000
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 240MB SDRAM 133MHz; SIS 650 16MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go 32MB; Toshiba MK4018GAP 40GB 4,200rpm

Once again, the Satellite 1955-S801 dominated with its 14.8-volt, 5,850mAh lithium-ion battery and lasted 25 minutes longer than the Compaq with its 14.8-volt, 4,000mAh lithium-ion cell. Those 14.8 volts in the Compaq's battery aided it in beating out the Micron's 11.1-volt, 6,000mAh unit. The voltage of a battery has a big affect on the life it gets on a charge.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801
Compaq Presario 1510US
Micron TransPort V1000
To measure application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications, namely Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.

System configurations:

Compaq Presario 1510US
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Micron TransPort V1000
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 240MB SDRAM 133MHz; SIS 650 16MB (shared); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go 32MB; Toshiba MK4018GAP 40GB 4,200rpm

There is a plethora of support alternatives for the Satellite 1955-S801, ranging from a well-designed and frequently updated Web site that offers all the downloads you'll need and useful forums to toll-free phone support that's available seven days a week. Although the Ask Iris service is too rudimentary to be effective, the online remote diagnostic service is a bull's-eye.

In the final analysis, the one-year warranty that comes with Toshiba Satellite notebooks may be standard for consumer products, but it's too short for a notebook of this complexity and price tag. The warranty also includes two-day repair service and free, toll-free 24/7 tech support. An extra year costs $99, and extending the coverage to three years will run you an extra $327. If living large appeals to you, then the Toshiba Satellite 1955-S801 is your kind of mobile PC. Just be sure to get a bag big enough to haul this gigantic notebook.

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