The Satellite A200 is the cheese and tomato pizza of Toshiba's laptop range -- it's designed to please everyone. It's a desktop replacement laptop, but ironically, it's quite portable. It has a faster-than-usual graphics card, and yet its mid-range CPU gives it the potential for decent battery life. It's a jack of all trades, for sure, but will its ambivalence backfire, or will its flexibility save it from obscurity?
The A200 is available in a whopping 12 different configurations. We tested the A200-A1i, which is available for around £750. For more details, visit the Toshiba Web site.
Toshiba's design team has played it safe. The lid's blue-grey colour should appeal to consumers and 'suits' alike, but the oversize Toshiba logo screams function more than fun. The inside of the laptop is even less adventurous -- the screen bezel is black and the keyboard section is, surprise surprise, silver.
In contrast, there's an almost boy-racer-esque Satellite logo on the left front edge. Its blue backlight reminds us of those cheesy neon lights beneath modified cars and its very inclusion makes us think Toshiba was just ticking the boxes of what it thinks will appeal to as broad a market as possible: inoffensively coloured lid? Check. Silver interior? Check. Blue LED lights? Check. It's a laptop, alright.
We're not fans of how the input/output ports are arranged. Our main gripe is that the LAN and Modem ports are on opposite sides of the laptop. Both are used for networking purposes, so wouldn't it be more sensible to have them side by side? We also take exception to only having three USB ports. If you're going to use this laptop as a replacement for your main PC, you'll probably need a USB hub.
Other design quirks include the ubiquitous Wi-Fi switch -- which is positioned under the laptop where you can't see it. Then there's the keyboard, which is truly lovely, apart from the enter key, which is inexplicably too small. Finally, the front-facing volume adjustment is perfect for adjusting volume quickly, but it never stops spinning -- there's no lock when you reach the absolute minimum or absolute maximum volume. Not that you'd want to use the internal speakers much anyway -- they're dire, even by laptop standards.
The most interesting aspect of the A200's design is its mouse trackpad. Look closely and you'll see a host of shortcut icons printed on the surface. Pressing the icon to the top right causes all the others to glow blue. You can then touch individual icons to launch an email client or Web browser, adjust the volume or assign up to three of your own shortcuts to the user-definable keys.
The A200 has a 15.4-inch screen. This is small enough so you have an excuse to cuddle in front of a movie with your sweetheart, yet big enough so you don't have to get too close when they've been on the garlic. The screen has a glossy coating that improves the appearance of colours and heightens contrast, though you'll need to be wary of using it outdoors -- the high reflectivity renders it near-useless in direct sunlight. The 1,280x800-pixel resolution is too low for our liking -- we'd have preferred 1,280x1,024 pixels, as this makes it easier to use multiple application windows.
Driving the display is the new Nvidia GeForce Go 7300, which has 128MB of dedicated memory. It also uses Nvidia's 'TurboCache' system, which allows it to borrow from main RAM for up to 320MB of video memory. The graphics-processing unit itself isn't compatible with the new DirectX 10 standard, but it'll run many of today's games -- just as long as you scale back the screen resolution and fancy effects.