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Toshiba Satellite A45 series review: Toshiba Satellite A45 series

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MSRP: $1,649.00
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The Good Low price; five-and-a-half-hour battery life; great keyboard; includes DVD burner and 802.11g wireless; runs cool.

The Bad Big and bulky; mediocre display; weak sound.

The Bottom Line This laptop's low price, excellent features, and long battery life make it a top mainstream notebook, despite a few trade-offs.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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

Review Sections

Review summary

By nature, a budget laptop has to sacrifice some features to keep its price low. Happily, the mainstream Toshiba Satellite A45 makes some of the smartest trade-offs we've seen. It is far from a svelte travel machine, and it performs merely adequately, but the Satellite A45's long battery life and outstanding ergonomics impress us. The full-size keyboard has a snappy feel, the touchpad is sublimely responsive, and the unit runs cool, too. Our few mild complaints include the 15-inch display--which isn't wide screen or high contrast--and the weak speakers. But if you spend most of your time at a desk and are looking for an inexpensive laptop, the Toshiba Satellite A45 is one of your best choices. A bit bulky at 13.2 by 11.7 by 1.9 inches, the Toshiba Satellite A45 weighs a moderate 7.7 pounds--until you factor in the hefty 1.4-pound AC adapter. At 9.1 pounds total, the Satellite A45 is on the large size for a mainstream laptop--definitely too heavy for frequent flyers. It is ruggedly constructed, however, and we found the blue, silver, and dark-gray color scheme sedately attractive. But the A45's ergonomics impressed us most. The full-size keyboard is firm, and the touchpad is exceptionally responsive, even under this author's calloused fingers. The Toshiba Satellite A45 also runs cool, thanks to a hefty fan on the bottom.

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The big keyboard is firm and easy to use.
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The SD and PC Card slots on the left side.

The case design is also cool. The sparsely populated front edge of the Toshiba Satellite A45 minimizes distractions, offering only status and activity lights. On the right side, there are audio jacks, a handy volume-control wheel, a wireless on/off switch, an optical drive, and a V.92 modem port. A slot for SD flash media resides on the left side, as does a PC Card slot, a mini-FireWire port, an S-Video output, two USB 2.0 ports, and a 10/100 Ethernet port. Vents for the fan occupy most of the back edge, which also houses two additional USB 2.0 ports, parallel and VGA ports, plus the AC jack and the Kensington lock port.

With a Titanium Speaker--SRS TrueSurround XT logo emblazoned on the lower part of the screen panel, we expected to hear something other than the typical tinny notebook sound from the Toshiba Satellite A45's speakers, which are located above the keyboard. Alas, it was not to be. The speakers produced little bass and not much volume.
The Toshiba Satellite A45 starts at a commendable $1,129 for the base model. The series doesn't have a lot of configuration options, but the choices you do have are excellent. Intel Pentium 4 CPUs come in 2.66GHz or 2.8GHz flavors, main memory ranges from 256MB to 2GB, and hard drives can be had in 40GB, 60GB, or 80GB sizes. You can ditch the Atheron 802.11g mini-PCI card to save $80 if you know you'll never need wireless.

A 15-inch, 1,024x768 active color screen comes with all models, but the display isn't wide aspect and has a rather narrow viewing angle. An Intel 85855 integrated controller handles the graphics, dynamically allocating up to 64MB of main memory. You're limited to one optical storage option, but it's a good one: a 2X/2.4X DVD+RW/-RW combo drive.

The Toshiba Satellite A45 ships with your choice of Microsoft's Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional operating system. Toshiba also provides an abundant array of productivity and multimedia software: BHA's CD/DVD mastering and packet-writing software, InterVideo's WinDVD 4.0 for DVD movie playback, ArcSofts's ShowBiz DVD-authoring software, a three-month subscription to Norton AntiVirus, and either Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003.

The Toshiba Satellite A45 took first place in this small test group of mainstream laptops. Keep in mind, however, that while the Satellite's score of 125 is fine for a mainstream notebook, it lags behind results from the best thin-and-light laptops. Although each laptop in this comparison uses the same processor and offers the same amount of RAM, the Toshiba Satellite A45 comes out ahead of the others by using less-dramatic CPU throttling in concert with an extrapowerful battery. (For more information on how and why a laptop throttles its CPU, click here.) The Toshiba Satellite A45 scores 26 percent higher than the Fujitsu LifeBook C series and 38 percent higher than the Sony VAIO PCG-FRV37. In fact, the Toshiba Satellite's mobile performance score is also 26 percent higher than the average performance score of all of the 2.8GHz Pentium 4-based laptops we've tested.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Toshiba Satellite A45-S250
125 

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Fujitsu LifeBook C series
Windows XP Pro; 2800MHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 340M 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

Sony VAIO PCG-FRV37
Windows XP Home; 2800MHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 345M 64MB; IBM Travelstar 60GN 60GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite A45-S250
Windows XP Home; 2800MHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME (up to 64MB); Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm
Even though it's a solid performer, the Toshiba Satellite A45 lasted more than five and a half hours away from the AC plug. The secret? A supercapacious 10.8V, 8,400mAh (91WHr) battery that offers 63 percent more juice than the Sony VAIO PCG-FRV37 and the Fujitsu LifeBook C series, which use 14.8V, 4,000mAh (59WHr) and 14.4V, 3,600mAh (52WHr) batteries, respectively. With the Satellite A45, you can have your cake and eat it too. The only penalty for good performance and battery life is a little extra weight.

Battery life analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  
Toshiba Satellite A45-S250
336 

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark 2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (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 5.0).

System configurations:

Fujitsu LifeBook C series
Windows XP Pro; 2800MHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 340M 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

Sony VAIO PCG-FRV37
Windows XP Home; 2800MHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 345M 64MB; IBM Travelstar 60GN 60GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite A45-S250
Windows XP Home; 2800MHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME (up to 64MB); Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba backs the Satellite A45 with a standard one-year warranty, an unfortunately common warranty length in the industry (although a few three-year standard warranties remain). Toshiba offers a host of additional service plans, including a two-year extension for a very affordable $129 and a high-end, three-year onsite-repair policy for $248. Toll-free telephone support is available 24/7 for the length of the warranty but is $35 per incident after that.

Toshiba packs the Satellite A45's box with well-written documentation, including a quick-start sheet and a resource guide, but we found it light on some technical details, such as how to access the BIOS during boot. The copious online support for the Satellite A45 includes FAQs, downloads, and a searchable knowledge base.

To find out more about how this product's warranty really stacks up and what you should look for in terms of service and support, take a look at CNET's hardware warranty explainer.

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