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Toshiba Satellite Pro A100-415 review: Toshiba Satellite Pro A100-415

For budget laptop, Toshiba's Satellite Pro A100 is seriously stylish. It has a good range of ports, too, and battery life isn't bad. We do wish it had a bigger hard drive though, and it needs more memory to be able to cope with the demands of Vista

Patrick Wignall
4 min read

Toshiba has a good reputation for being able to build budget laptops that don't look like they've been put together with the leftovers from the factory floor. Thankfully the Satellite Pro A100 reinforces this view as, despite its rock-bottom online price of under £400, it certainly doesn't have the look of a budget machine.


Toshiba Satellite Pro A100-415

The Good

Slick design; decent range of features.

The Bad

Average performer; lacks RAM.

The Bottom Line

The Satellite Pro A100-415 is an incredibly cheap laptop, yet it still manages to look seriously stylish. Its performance, however, lets it down. With more RAM it might be worth considering, but in its current configuration it's too under-specified to deal with the demands of Vista

The spec isn't exactly going to set the world alight and it's a tad on the heavy side for frequent flyers, but this laptop might still be a decent buy for general use around the home.

For a budget laptop, the Satellite Pro looks seriously stylish. The gun-metal grey finish is appealing to the eye and the lid and palm-rest in front of the keyboard curve downwards giving the machine a sculpted, high-class look. That said, it doesn't feel as solidly built as some of Toshiba's more expensive machines, or for that matter, some rivals in the same price bracket from competing manufacturers.

The Toshiba Satellite Pro A100-415 is one of the cheapest laptops we've reviewed, but it looks smart

Nevertheless, the laptop does boast a decent number of ports including four USB sockets, a FireWire port, as well as a VGA socket and an S-Video TV output. The speakers sited above the keyboard sound a touch on the tinny side, but that's to be expected on a machine in this price range.

Speaking of the keys, Toshiba has been generous with the size of the media playback buttons, but the result of that is the keys on the main keyboard have had to be squashed together slightly, making them feel cramped to type on. Matters are made worse by the fact that the keyboard also tends to flex towards the centre giving it a spongy feel.

To keep the price of the laptop down, Toshiba has loaded the machine with Windows Vista Home Basic, the entry-level version of Microsoft's new operating system. This means that you don't get to see the new Aero interface with the animated icons or the 3D task switcher. To be honest, it's no great loss, but having to go without Windows Media Center is more of a sacrifice -- it's a great way of accessing your music, photos or videos.

At 1,280x800 pixels, the screen has a good resolution and it's also bright and evenly lit. Unlike the Acer Aspire 3693WLWi and the Mesh MSI M670-S1 budget laptops, it doesn't have a glossy finish, so colours in movies and pictures don't look quite as vivid as they do on those models, although it is easier to read text on the screen in direct sunlight.

The media buttons to the left of the main keyboard give you fast access to Windows Media Player and allow you to quickly skip back and forth through playlists of music tracks. They would have probably been better placed at the front edge of the machine though, so you could use the media player when the screen is closed. As the built-in hard drive is relatively small, you'll probably find yourself backing up files to CD or DVD using the multi-format dual layer DVD burner.

Of the budget laptops we've looked at recently, the Toshiba's specification is certainly not the best. The Intel Celeron M430, which runs at 1.72GHz, has a decent amount of grunt to deal with the normal day-to-day stuff, but the laptop only has a half a gigabyte of RAM and this really isn't enough to cope with the demands of Windows Vista. With a couple of applications running at the same time, such as Windows Mail, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, hopping between the open windows can feel a tad sluggish. This was reflected in the machine's lowly PC Mark 05 score of just 1,597.

You can back up files to CD or DVD using the multi-format dual layer DVD burner

The machine's graphics duties are taken care of by the onboard Mobile Intel 945GM Express chip. Unfortunately the laptop refused to run our 3D Mark 06 test, but its poor performance in Far Cry was enough to tell us that it's not going to interest those who want to be able to play the latest games at a decent frame rate.

The other big downer is the relatively small hard drive. Most other budget machines come with 80GB drives, but the Toshiba is saddled with a 60GB model. It seems very stingy to us, especially as even the larger iPod has more storage space.

Thankfully things are better when it comes to battery performance. In our test it managed to keep going for 1 hour and 42 minutes. The best score we've seen from a budget laptop recently was the Mesh MSI M670, which managed to run for 1 hour and 54 minutes under its own steam, so the Toshiba isn't too far off that time.

The Satellite Pro is by no means a bad machine, but it's not a great one, either. The best thing about it is the sumptuous design, which is a surprise on a laptop with such a low price.

Sacrifices have been made elsewhere though, especially in terms of the memory. With just 512MB of RAM it doesn't really have enough space to allow Windows Vista to stretch its legs and this really compromises the overall performance. If you're tempted to buy this machine, we'd seriously advise you to upgrade its memory to 1GB, which will cost you an extra £60.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield