The Toshiba Satellite Pro S300 is available in a variety of flavours. At around £500, the Satellite Pro S300-120, reviewed here, is the cheapest. Designed with undemanding users in mind, it's a solid laptop that just scrapes into the budget category.
The S300-120's dark silver chassis, together with a large, shiny Toshiba logo on the lid, creates a good first impression. It also feels particularly sturdy and will certainly withstand the occasional knock.
Flip open the lid and you'll instantly notice the lack of shortcut buttons, but the well-designed keyboard, with its large, textured keys, is a delight to type on and exhibits very little flex. One minor complaint is that the trackpad and left and right buttons are unnecessarily small.
Given that the S300-120 is aimed at corporate users -- indicated by the inclusion of Windows Vista Business -- the decision to use a glossy-coated display on the 15.4-inch, 1,280x800-pixel resolution screen is odd -- office lighting will cast reflections off it. The screen is also not as bright as we'd like and, despite the glossy screen, colours look slightly washed out. On the plus side, horizontal viewing angles are reasonable.
Driving the S300-120 is Intel's T3200 processor. This comes from Intel's Pentium Mobile range and, with a bus speed of 667MHz and 1MB L2 cache, doesn't compare favourably with the more streamlined Core 2 Duo chips. Although the more expensive models in the Satellite S300 series get extras such as Bluetooth and even HSDPA, this cheaper version is light on features. Neither of the aforementioned wireless-connection options are included, and a PC Card slot is favoured over a newer ExpressCard alternative.
You do, however, get a 1.3-megapixel webcam, built into the screen's bezel, and a multi-format card reader -- SD, MMC, xD and Memory Stick cards are supported. There's also a fingerprint reader sat between the trackpad buttons.
One FireWire and four USB ports are dotted around the chassis -- three of the USB ports are on the right, while the fourth sits on the left and doubles up as an eSata port. Should you have any devices that charge via USB, these ports will provide the required power, even when the laptop is in sleep mode. Those with an interest in legacy connections will appreciate the inclusion of a serial port.
Storage is taken care of by a 120GB hard drive, which is, unsurprisingly, of the 5,400rpm variety, and a multi-format DVD writer.
With a clock speed of 2GHz and 2GB of RAM to back it up, the T3200 processor pushed the S300-120 to a score of 3,305 in the PCMark05 benchmarking test -- it's certainly not a world-beating laptop in terms of performance. Vista did feel sluggish at times when running multiple applications concurrently.
Given the slow processor, it would have been folly for Toshiba to install a fast graphics chip and, as expected, the company used Intel's integrated GMA 4500MHD. At a 1,024x768-pixel resolution, the S300-120 returned a devilishly bad 3DMark06 score of just 666, and, even at rock-bottom resolutions, gaming was virtually impossible -- ancient titles at low detail and resolution settings will be all this laptop can cope with.
Given its bulky nature and poor performance, battery life was worse than we'd hoped for -- Battery Eater's Classic test drained the battery in 1 hour and 19 minutes. At 2.9kg (3.4kg including the power adapter), it's not a laptop you'll want to lug around anyway.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro S300-120 seems expensive given that cheaper rivals, such as the HP Compaq Presario CQ70-116, have similar specs and a larger screen. But, with its sturdy design and excellent keyboard, the S300-120 is a competent desktop replacement for those with undemanding needs.
Edited by Charles Kloet