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Toshiba Satellite A135 review: Toshiba Satellite A135

Toshiba Satellite A135

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
4 min read
Toshiba's first Windows Vista laptop, the Portege R400, was an impressive high-end convertible tablet that made a splash when was introduced at CES 2007. The company is now following up with Vista systems aimed at mainstream consumers, including the 15-inch Satellite A135. While our review unit cost only $999, the system is configurable and can run up to $1,500 if you include extras like dual hard drives. The specs and features are decidedly average, and while this system is fairly inexpensive, we still prefer the Gateway NX570 as our favorite inexpensive, jack-of-all-trades mainstream notebook because of its wide-ranging configuration options and longer battery life.

The plain-Jane, silver-and-black design won't turn many heads, but the shiny midnight-blue-speckled lid--Toshiba calls it Onyx Blue Metallic--lends an upscale touch. Too bad the glossy surface is a magnet for fingerprints. Measuring 14.2 inches wide, 10.5 inches deep, and 1.5 inches high, the Satellite A135 is small enough to carry around occasionally but big enough to type on comfortably for a full work day. The A135 weighs 5.9 pounds (6.6 pounds with the A/C adapter), which is heavier than something you'd want to tote around on a daily basis, but easy enough to take on a trip or move from room to room--and a little lighter than the Gateway NX570.


Toshiba Satellite A135

The Good

Inexpensive; decent performance; dedicated media controls.

The Bad

No high-end CPU or video card options; poor battery life; flimsy keyboard.

The Bottom Line

The Toshiba Satellite A135-S4467 is a middle-of-the-road system in every way, but it starts to look more impressive when you factor in the budget-friendly price, making it a solid choice for mainstream users.

The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. Text and icons are large and readable, and the screen is nice and bright, and it stands out against the black screen bezel.

The full-size keyboard was easy to use, although it flexed a little too much as we typed. A set of media control buttons sit to the left of the keyboard, including media player and Web browser quick-launch buttons. We expected a volume control to be there, too; instead it was relegated to a tiny, hard-to-find scroll wheel on the front edge.

The system serves up a standard set of connections, including four USB 2.0 jacks, a mini FireWire jack, a PC Card slot, a media card reader, and VGA and S-Video outputs for hooking up an external monitor. Networking connections include a modem and Ethernet jacks, as well as integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless.

Components in our review unit were reasonable for the price, including a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5200 CPU, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, Intel 945GM graphics, a DVD burner, and a 120GB 5,400rpm hard drive. For use with Windows Vista Home Premium, we'd recommend 2GB of RAM. Toshiba offers seven preconfigured versions of the A135 (we tested the $999 A135-S4467), along with a customizable model. For $1,499, you can trade up to Vista Ultimate, a slightly faster T5500 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and dual 120GB hard drives. Dual hard drives are certainly an appreciated option, but we'd like to see faster CPUs and better GPU options.

The Toshiba Satellite A135-S4467 performed well on CNET Labs' Multitasking, iTunes encoding, and Photoshop CS2 tests, matching or nearly matching the scores of two Vista laptops with the same 1GB of RAM but slightly faster T5500 CPUs: the Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057 and the Asus W7J (a Windows XP system we upgraded to Vista ourselves). The A135 is speedy enough for casual productivity use, media playback, and Web surfing although we ran into some minor stuttering when multi-tasking or accessing Vista's various options menus.

With integrated Intel 945GM graphics, gaming is best restricted to older games at lower resolutions. If you're looking for a 15-inch laptop designed for gaming, the Asus G1 is worth a look.

The Satellite A135 ran for 1 hour and 58 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. We expected better than that, given the lack of high-powered components. A larger, eight-cell battery is available as a $152 option, but bear in mind that an extended battery will protrude slightly from the back of the system. The similarly priced Gateway NX570 did much better, although that was on our older, less strenuous, battery test, so the real-world difference would be less pronounced.

Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the Satellite A135. Support is accessible through a 24/7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and both a carry-in and mail-in repair service.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Microsoft Office productivity test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:
Toshiba Satellite A135-S4467 Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5200; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express Chipset; 160GB Hitachi, 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion tx1000us Windows Vista Home Premium (Build 5808); 1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 6150; 120GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Asus W7J Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 528MHz; 512MB nVidia GeForce Go 7400; 100GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057 Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 528MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express Chipset; 160GB Hitachi, 5,400rpm


Toshiba Satellite A135

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 4Support 6