Toshiba Satellite A55
Though it has neither the flash of a Sony VAIO, the performance bang of an HP Pavilion, nor the utility of an IBM ThinkPad T40, the Toshiba Satellite A55 is a decent, if nondescript, mainstream laptop. Despite its relatively dull and inflexible design, the Satellite A55 comes at a great price ($1,600 as of August 2004), equipped as it is with some midlevel components, such as a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB of 333MHz memory, and a 60GB hard drive. If you're working with big files or you like to play games, take note: Toshiba does not offer a high-performance hard drive upgrade for this system, as Compaq does for its and IBM does for its ThinkPad T42. The Satellite A55's 15-inch screen features a native resolution of 1,024x768 and uses Intel's latest 82852/855 GM/GME graphics processor, which draws up to 64MB of system memory. The laptop's versatile Super-Multi DVD drive can record and play just about any disc format, including DVD-RAM, but you can't swap it out for another drive.
The Satellite A55's black-and-silver case is as nondescript as they come, except for a bright-white, plastic touch pad, which sticks out like a sore thumb. The A55 weighs in heavy at 5.7 pounds and measures 1.2 inches thick (1.6 inches toward the rear), 13.2 inches wide, and 10.7 inches deep. That's bigger and slightly larger and heavier than the Dell Latitude D600 or the ThinkPad T42. With its 13-ounce AC adapter, the Satellite A55's travel weight comes to 6.7 pounds--perfectly acceptable for travel, though not the lightest system around.
The keyboard features comfortable 19.7mm keys with 2.2mm of depth, but the keyboard flexes too much under intense typing. We really like the convenient thumbwheel volume control and the dedicated CD control buttons, but the Satellite A55's speakers sound as hollow as most other laptop speakers, even with the unit's SRS TruSurround XT simulated 3D effects. The Satellite A55 has a nearly complete assortment of connectivity options, including three USB 2.0 ports and inputs for FireWire, external monitor, modem, LAN, S-Video out, and audio plugs. It also offers the latest Intel 802.11b/g Wi-Fi data radio. Unfortunately, there's no S/PDIF optical connection to drive high-end external speakers nor is there a flash card reader.
In CNET Labs tests, the Satellite A55's performance was adequate but hardly inspiring; it turned in a 178 on our MobileMark 2002 benchmark--about 15 percent behind the ThinkPad T42. The unit's 4,400mAh battery pack was able to power the Satellite A55 for 4 hours, 28 minutes, slightly longer than the ThinkPad T42's results but well behind the 5 hours, 32 minutes. If you're planning on working away from the socket, Toshiba's optional $135 double-capacity battery is a must-have accessory.
In addition to Microsoft Windows XP Home, Toshiba offers a solid software package, including ArcSoft's Showbiz multimedia authoring program, , , and a 90-day subscription to --but there's no office suite. Like other systems in the Satellite line, the A55 also comes with an incredible assortment of utilities, including software for managing the power, networking, and quieting the CD drive while you're playing music.
The Satellite A55 comes with a standard one-year warranty (Toshiba also generously provides service for as long as you own the computer); an additional two years costs $150--about average for the marketplace. For the accident prone, Toshiba offers three years of System Guard protection (for $200); this covers drops, spills, and anything short of intentional abuse. Toshiba's Web site is a cornucopia of support information and downloads, including firmware, drivers, and manuals. Our favorite online Toshiba resources are Ask Iris, an online persona that can help you navigate the FAQ, and the company's list of recent service updates. In addition to browsing a forum of problems and solutions, you can always start an e-mail conversation with a technician or call one using Toshiba's toll-free phone number. After navigating the automated response system, we were able to quickly reach a human being who correctly answered our test query.
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.8GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 AGP 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm
IBM ThinkPad T42
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB; Fujitsu MHT2040AH 40GB 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite A55
Windows XP Home; Pentium M 725-1600MHz; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 60GB 4,200rpm