We never thought we'd see the day, but it's finally arrived: Toshiba, purveyor of the doomed HD DVD format, has swallowed its pride and released its first laptop to use the rival Blu-ray disc format -- the Satellite P500. The laptop comes in two forms. The £1,000 P500-12F ships with a Blu-ray drive and a slightly faster processor than that of the £800 P500-12D, which uses an ordinary DVD Super Multi drive. Here we review the P500-12F.
Kind of a big deal
The P500 is massive. It measures a quite staggering 443 by 42 by 294mm, and weighs 4.4kg. It's that big for a reason -- it houses a gigantic, 18.4-inch display. It's not quite as sizeable as the freak of nature that is the Dell XPS M2010, but, once you've got this sucker home, you won't be taking it anywhere else.
Blu movie connoisseur
The P500 is available with a DVD combo drive, but its biggest selling point is that it's also available with a Blu-ray drive. This is of the BD-RE variety, which means you can record, rewrite and play movies on it.
Don't think you can watch these films in their full, 1080p glory, however, as the P500's display -- despite being gigantic -- has a relatively puny resolution of 1,680x945 pixels -- well short of the 1,920x1,080 pixels needed to fully exploit such films. On the plus side, the integrated Harmon Kardon speakers are better than those on your average laptop. They're loud enough to fill a small bedroom and offer surprisingly good fidelity.
Hook up, line in and sync her
Those who demand 1080p in all its glory have the option of outputting the video signal to an external display via the P500's HDMI port. This, you'll be pleased to hear, pipes the laptop's audio signal over the same cable, so you can use the P500 as a proper alternative to a standalone Blu-ray player.
Unfortunately, it doesn't ship with a remote control, but the laptop does have capacitive, white-backlit shortcut keys to the left of its keyboard that allow you to control the volume and playback of your media. In addition, the P500 has a VGA video output, four USB ports (one of which doubles as an eSATA port), 4-pin FireWire, and mic and headphone jacks.
Eek! A mouse!
Most large laptops have comfortable keyboards and mice that are easy to use. Not so with the P500. Its keyboard can feel as fiddly as a netbook's at times -- not due to its size, but due to the keys being so tightly packed together. They're also totally flat across the top, which means it's all too easy to mistake one key for another. We're not too fond of the mouse either. The trackpad is fine, but the large, chrome buttons are loud and clunky, and have a slightly cheap feel about them.
Both versions of the P500 are well-equipped. The P500-12D uses a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 CPU, while the P500-12F has a slightly quicker 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo P8700. Both machines have a healthy 4GB of memory, although this is of the DDR2 800MHz variety, and not the faster DDR3 type.
Both also have 500GB of disk space (we'd have liked more, since the P500 is supposed to be a serious multimedia machine) and a mid-to-high-end Nvidia GeForce GT 230M graphics card. All in all, the spec is slightly above average, although owners of Alienware machines won't be quivering in their boots.
On your marks, get set, whoa!
Our P500-12F test model put in a good showing in our performance tests. It felt smooth and responsive in everyday use and returned a decent PCMark05 benchmark score of 4,805, reinforcing our opinion that there are very few desktop tasks this machine can't cope with.
Its graphics performance is good, too. Its Nvidia GeForce GT 230M graphics adaptor managed a 3DMark06 score of 6,167, which, while hardly mind-blowing, shows it's fast enough to run 3D games, as long as they're not called Crysis.
The Toshiba Satellite P500 isn't quite perfect. Its keyboard and mouse are suspect, and its screen resolution is disappointing. It's definitely worth looking into, however, if you're after a solid multimedia machine that can also double as a Blu-ray player.
Edited by Charles Kloet