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Toshiba Satellite C655 review: Toshiba Satellite C655

Toshiba Satellite C655

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Dan Ackerman
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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 semi-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

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How little can you get away with spending on a midsize 15-inch laptop? According to Toshiba, it's $399, the price of the 15.6-inch Satellite C655-S5542.

Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542 - 15.6" - C B815 - Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - 3 GB RAM - 320 GB HDD
6.1

Toshiba Satellite C655

The Good

The <b>Toshiba Satellite C655</b> is about as inexpensive as a 15-inch laptop can get while having all the basics, but it's still faster than some AMD laptops.

The Bad

The bottom-of-the-barrel Celeron processor offers nearly Netbook-level performance, and the plastic body makes this feel like a throwaway laptop. It also lacks an HDMI port.

The Bottom Line

If you're still considering an Intel Celeron processor for a midsize laptop in 2012, the Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542 at least turns on and lets you surf the Web, if slowly.

Of course, a few corners are cut at that price. Most importantly, this laptop doesn't have an Intel Core i3 or i5 CPU, not even last year's version. Instead, it has an Intel Celeron B815, a dual-core chip that runs at 1.6GHz. Yes, Intel still makes Celeron chips (and Atom chips, as well), although it's hard to think of a situation where we'd strongly recommend one.

Standard Core i3 i5 systems can be found for not too much more -- Lenovo has some good deals on its Essential G570, currently $499 for a Core i3 model and $559 for a Core i5. Either would be a much better mid- to long-term investment. Usually when playing in price ranges this low, I'd suggest looking at an 11-inch ultraportable, such as HP's dm1z, where the limited performance would feel more reasonable.

To be fair, the Satellite C655-S5542 runs, if slowly, and even plays back HD video. For simple e-mail and Facebook-surfing, it'll suffice, and I found its battery life was surprisingly good (not that it has any high-end components to power).

Price as reviewed $399
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Celeron B815
Memory 3GB, 1,333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel HM65
Graphics Intel HD3000
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 15x9.8 inches
Height 1.1 - 1.6 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.6 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.1 pounds / 5.8 pounds
Category Midsize

We often joke about other unattractive, plastic, cheap-feeling laptops, but the Satellite C655 could make them all run up a tree. This is essentially identical to previous versions of the C655 we reviewed in 2011 and 2010. Back then, we said it was "remarkably pedestrian and generic-looking from a design standpoint," and noted that "a thick overall case design and a distressing amount of flex on the sides and at the seams along the front edge of the palm rest make this laptop uninspiring to behold."

All those points remain true, with an additional caveat. The past six months or so have seen a real trend toward better designs, materials, and workmanship in even inexpensive laptops, thanks in large part to reasonably priced ultrabooks, making this system look and feel even more low-budget.

Its keyboard has wide, flat keys that run up against each other, in sharp contrast to the island-style keys found on nearly every other current laptop (including Toshiba's other models). The keys feel shallow and clacky, with a lot of flex near the middle of the keyboard, but key size and overall placement are good. A separate number pad sits to the right of the keyboard, which probably counts as a featured "extra" on a $399 laptop.

For a 15-inch laptop, the touch pad was surprisingly small, although two-finger gestures were a lot zippier than I expected. The left and right mouse buttons are large, together being wider than the pad itself, but their convex plastic shape wobbles under even light clicking.

The 15.6-inch display has a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for 13-inch and smaller laptops, as well as less expensive 14- and 15-inch ones. It handled HD video streaming well, and off-axis viewing was better than expected, but don't expect much from the tiny stereo speakers.

Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542 Average for category [midsize]
Video VGA VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

Don't expect too many, or really even any, frills on the Satellite C655. Forget about USB 3.0, Bluetooth, or Intel Wireless Display -- there isn't even an HDMI port. You can live without the other ports and connections, but the lack of HDMI is frankly shocking in a 2012 laptop, and means it'll be hard to get content onto another screen if you're using this as a cheap multimedia playback device.

You might expect the 1.6GHz Intel Celeron B815 CPU in this system to come in dead last in any of our CNET Labs benchmarks. That's actually not the case, and the C655 did well in our single-app tests. But, keep in mind that that's because we kept the competition reasonable. In this price range, you're likely to find laptops with AMD's A4 CPU, or for a little more, an Intel Core i3.

Confine the comparisons to systems in that general ballpark, and the Toshiba C655 seems usable, but keep in mind a mainstream Core i5 can run our multitasking test nearly three times as fast. In anecdotal use, the C655 often felt sluggish, especially when opening Windows menus and performing system tasks. Yes, it'll work for basic office and online work, but I suspect those extra seconds spent waiting will eventually become extremely aggravating.

This is clearly not a laptop intended for even basic gaming, nor does it claim to be. In our Street Fighter IV test, at the native 1,366x768-pixel resolution, the game ran at an unplayable 10.7 frames per second.

Juice box
Toshiba Satellite C655 Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.33
Sleep (10 percent) 0.50
Idle (25 percent) 7.07
Load (5 percent) 30
Raw kWh 30.8
Annual energy cost $3.50

Annual power consumption cost
Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542
$3.50 

The one bright spot in the Satellite C655's performance is its battery life. In our video-playback battery drain test, it ran for 4 hours and 23 minutes. That's not an extraordinary score, but considering this is a $399 laptop, without the benefit of Intel's very efficient Core i-series technology, it's pretty impressive. This laptop is really too big to lug around on trips or to meetings, but you can certainly move it around the house or office without worrying too much about keeping a power outlet nearby.

Toshiba includes a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the Satellite C655. At these prices you certainly can't expect much else, nor would an expensive extended warranty make sense. If you buy this system directly from Toshiba (where it's called the C650 series), a two-year warranty is $60, while a three-year plan is $79, but in both cases, the battery coverage is not included in the extension.

The Toshiba Satellite C655 isn't a laptop you're going to want to show off at the office or coffee shop, but for only $399, it offers basic functionality and surprisingly decent battery life. That said, putting up another $100 or so would get you an Intel Core i3 system, which would be a better long-term investment.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542
1,213 

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

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

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Celeron B815; 3GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB(Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion g4-1215dx
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.9GHz AMD Dual-Core A4-3300M APU; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 6480G; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dm4-3090se
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2450M; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 520GB Intel 7,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite L755-S5166
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i3-2350M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 640GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Samsung Series NP300U1A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.3GHz Intel Core i3-2357M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542 - 15.6" - C B815 - Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - 3 GB RAM - 320 GB HDD
6.1

Toshiba Satellite C655

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 6Battery 7Support 7
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