The P100's teal green lid is a welcomed departure from the usual drab colour palette adopted by most notebook manufacturers. Popping the hood reveals a brushed silver chassis with a black keyboard inset, but the overall look is both attractive and professional.
Weighing 3.3kg and with dimensions of 314 x 259 x 34.9mm, the P100 is firmly in the desktop replacement category. It's clearly been designed for use as a multimedia powerhouse rather than a mobile workstation.
The notebook's most innovative feature is by far its touchpad, which as well as being a mouse, doubles as a bay of quick launch buttons to easily access your most-used applications. This is designed for those using an external mouse, as in these cases the touch pad usually remains idle. Switching between the two modes is done at the tap of a button, and assigning applications to the three customisable buttons is painless.
The touchpad doubles as a bay of quick launch buttons.
(click for larger image)
Continuing the innovations, it's also among the first notebooks we've seen to include a numpad attached to the right of the keyboard. This is handy for those who spend a lot of time on data entry tasks, but it also results in the keyboard feeling quite cramped. The letter keys are full-size, but most other keys have been shrunk to fit which had us frequently hitting certain keys unintentionally. It's not as much of an issue once you're used to it, but we'd prefer a true full-size keyboard to a tacked on numpad any day.
Lined horizontally along the top of the keyboard are six handy buttons for controlling audio/video playback. In addition, the front bezel contains headphone and microphone jacks, as well as a volume wheel so you don't have to drop everything to fiddle with audio settings mid-film.
The glossy finish on the display reduces glare when you're outdoors and makes colours appear more vibrant, but it's annoyingly reflective when used indoors. In our opinion, the negatives outweigh the positives in the glossy display finish debate.
One aspect of Toshiba's notebooks that continually impresses us is their superior audio hardware. The P100 uses the Intel High Definition Audio sound chip like most Centrino Duo products, but Toshiba has gone the extra mile with its integrated speakers, adopting a premium Harmon/Kardon set. If onboard speakers matter to you, the P100 should definitely be on your shortlist.
Thankfully, the notebook's visual features look just as impressive as its audio options, with Toshiba adopting a 17" SXGA+ display that offers up a high 1680x1050 widescreen resolution. Driving said display is an Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics chip with 128MB of onboard memory, which should handle most games without issue. The processor used is a Core Duo T2400 (1.83GHz), which seems to be the most common Core Duo chip, judging by the notebooks we've seen so far.
Your storage needs are catered for by a 100GB SATA hard drive, while backing up files is trouble free thanks to a dual-layer DVD writer that supports all of the major optical media formats.
The notebook's port layout is impressive and there are no notable omissions. Connectivity options include four USB 2.0, Firewire, S-Video, D-Sub and even a DVI output for hooking up an external display digitally.
A neat feature that's garnering increasing popularity among notebook vendors is a one-touch start-up button that enables users to play multimedia files without waiting for Windows to boot up. Toshiba's implementation has been dubbed "Express Media Player". EMP is quick to activate and proved useful during our testing, but we were disappointed to see that it can only play media from a CD or DVD, not from the hard drive.
Those requiring additional security will be pleased at the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor that can biometrically lock down all data. This feature has previously been exclusive to business notebooks, so it's great to see it filtering down to multimedia products as well.
The P100 performed well in all our tests, but it lagged behind the ASUS V6J (also a Centrino Duo notebook), particularly in our battery life tests. While running a constant DVD loop -- which by the way looked stunning on the 17-inch widescreen display -- the P100's battery lasted for a little under 100 minutes, while the V6J managed 140 minutes. Thus, the P100 may struggle to play longer films on a single charge, but this isn't a significant issue since it's not designed to be used away from a power point for long periods of time.
The raw performance differences between the two in SYSmark 2004 SE and 3DMark06 aren't significantly noticeable in the real-world but they're tangible nonetheless. At this level of performance, the P100 should be able to run most applications without issue, albeit it'll struggle to run the very latest game titles at high frame rates.
BAPCo SYSmark 2004 SE performance rating
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2005 (DVD playback test) battery life rating
(Longer bars indicate more battery-life minutes)
3DMark2006 performance rating
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
The notebook comes with a one-year parts and labour warranty, which includes a courier pickup and return service should your unit require repairs. Judging by the other notebooks we've tested, this is on par with competing offerings. If desired, users can opt to purchase a more attractive warranty package that includes up to three years of next business day onsite service.
Toshiba's Satellite Pro P100 is a competent multimedia workhorse that could easily replace most regular desktop PCs. It boasts powerful graphics and storage subsystems, while the Harmon/Kardon integrated speaker set beats most competing offerings hands-down.