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Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review: Everything you want in a laptop, save comfort

Toshiba ticks off all the right boxes, but this laptop-tablet hybrid still feels a little awkward.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
7 min read

The Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 crams an incredible number of features into a 12.5-inch Windows notebook. On paper, it looks amazing.


Toshiba Satellite Radius 12

The Good

The small and light Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 is packed with features, including a Core i7 CPU, a face-recognizing camera and a 4K touchscreen display that bends over backward into a tablet configuration.

The Bad

You won't make it through a day with the Radius 12's sub-par battery life. The keyboard is a little difficult to type on and the touchpad can be downright frustrating.

The Bottom Line

Buyers who plan to take full advantage of the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12's excellent 4K screen might get their money's worth. If you want a computer for getting work done, look elsewhere.

Say you've wanted a thin laptop with a metal chassis and a speedy solid state drive, like Apple's MacBook Air . Say you've admired laptops that can fold over backwards into a tablet mode, like Lenovo's Yoga series .

The Radius 12 has all of those things in a single Windows 10 laptop that comes with a sixth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a Technicolor-certified ultra high-definition 4K-resolution (3,840x2,160-pixel) touchscreen display. (That's more pixels than you'd find in Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display , and you don't get a touchscreen there.)


The Toshiba Satellite Radius 12.

Sean Hollister/CNET

And in the United States, you can get this laptop for an impressive $1,299. (UK and Australian pricing and availability haven't been announced yet.)

Plus, the Radius 12 has a forward-looking feature very few laptops have today: a face-recognizing camera that can automatically log you into Windows whenever you're sitting in front of your screen, with no need to type a password or PIN. No kidding -- Windows Hello is pretty convenient. It just doesn't work in bright light.

But you have plenty of choices in today's laptop market, and cramming a lot of hot new features into a computer doesn't necessarily make it great. If you want a portable, comfortable machine with long battery life and an excellent touchpad, this probably isn't it. The aluminum-clad Radius 12 is pretty rough around the edges, and generally feels a good bit flimsier than you should expect from a $1,000-plus machine.

Up close with Toshiba's Satellite Radius 12 (pictures)

See all photos

And if you don't need a 4K touchscreen display, there are some great alternatives at or below the Radius 12's $1,299 price. For a touchscreen, I'd recommend the HP Spectre X360 , which can offer better battery life and build quality (but a slightly lower-res screen) for the same amount of money. You'd also do well with the Lenovo Yoga 900 , which starts at just $1,199. If you just need a standard laptop, there's also the Dell XPS 13 , where a similarly configured model with a 1080p, non-touch screen and far better battery life costs $1,099.

If you're willing to sacrifice cash and a few creature comforts for an incredibly lightweight machine, you may also want to check out the Lenovo LaVie Z or Microsoft's Surface Book , each of which start at $1,499. Of course, there's also always Apple's MacBook Pro line , which has long been our go-to recommendation for mobile workers due to superb construction, speed and solid battery life.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12

Price as reviewed $1,299
Display size/resolution 12.5-inch, 3,840x2,160 touch display
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10

Design and features

When closed, the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 looks like a handsome, sleek and durable notebook. But open the lid and you'll find a bit of a mess inside -- a weird mix of dark brushed aluminum, dull plastic and shiny silver beveled edges that catch the light.

Instead of being constructed out of a single block of metal like many competing notebooks, the Radius 12 merely sandwiches its components together with a few brushed aluminum panels -- leaving some plastic parts between.

Enlarge Image

The Radius 12's screen folds all the way around.

Sean Hollister/CNET

The upside: The Radius 12 is marginally thinner and lighter than a MacBook Air, at just 2.9 pounds (1.3kg) and 0.6 inches (15.2mm) thick, despite fitting a touchscreen. The downside: it looks much cheaper, with loads of visible seams. Toshiba's brushed metal finish traps the grease from my fingers, making the surface feel a little slimy after a while. You'll also find bare metal connectors inside each of the Radius 12's ports, and exposed hinges.

Okay, perhaps you don't care about cosmetics. Even so, you might object to the way Toshiba connects that backflipping 360-degree touchscreen to the chassis. In laptop mode, the hinges aren't taut enough to keep that screen from wobbling if I touch it. In tablet mode, the lid isn't rigid: it'll flex and bend when you grip it, which can make it an uncomfortable tablet.

I also noticed a few quality-control issues with our review unit, such as a screen that bulges a bit where it meets the frame and a fan that wheezes when you hold the laptop a certain way. If you buy this computer, I'd recommend you inspect it carefully.

Enlarge Image

The Radius 12's 4K touchscreen display.

Sean Hollister/CNET

At least Toshiba didn't skimp on the screen. Aside from the wobble, this Technicolor-certified, factory-calibrated 4K-resolution touchscreen looks and feels pretty excellent. I definitely got a kick out of viewing some of my own own dSLR photos and videos on this bright, colorful display. That said, the extremely-scratch resistant Gorilla Glass NBT cover glass does produce an awful lot of glare.

Also, keep in mind that 4K isn't all that useful. There's not a lot of 4K content to watch, particularly on computers where big companies like Netflix and Amazon refuse to stream their 4K content, and many Windows programs haven't been updated to look good on 4K screens.

Surprisingly, Toshiba managed to deliver decent audio quality in a laptop this thin. While the integrated Harman/Kardon speakers don't have a lot of bass, they sound remarkably full and loud -- particularly in tablet mode, where they create something of a sound chamber when you fold the lid against the frame. (The downward-firing drivers sound okay on a desk, too, but they'll get muffled if you place the machine on your lap.) Between the screen and speakers, I'd definitely recommend the Radius 12 for watching movies and TV shows.

Unless you plan to plug in a mouse and keyboard, I wouldn't recommend the Radius for getting a lot of work done. The integrated backlit keyboard, while predictably shallow and with many undersized, oddly shaped keys, isn't that bad. I wouldn't call it comfortable, but I've typed this entire review so far on the Radius 12's keyboard and my fingers feel okay. These keys don't take a lot of effort to press, and they don't bottom out abruptly when you touch down.

Enlarge Image

The Radius 12's keyboard and touchpad.

Sean Hollister/CNET

But this laptop's touchpad makes me want to swear like a sailor. Not only is it difficult to glide my finger along the uneven brushed aluminum surface when I want to select something, but I constantly wind up brushing the touchpad surface with my palm when I'm typing and wind up clicking on things I don't intend. The first time this happened, I noticed that this computer's touchpad isn't actually centered or lined up with anything on the keyboard -- it's offset to the left, under my left palm, for no particular reason.

You can tweak the touchpad's settings a bit in Windows to reduce how often accidental presses occur, but there's no way to disable certain regions of the touchpad like you might have done with previous laptops. Toshiba uses Microsoft's Precision Touchpad driver to steer the Radius 12's mouse cursor, and the lack of palm-detection region correction appears to be one of the Precision Touchpad's shortcomings.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 Ports & Connections

Video HDMI (with 4K output)
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 (Type-C), SD card reader
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Connections, performance and battery

There's been a lot of excitement about the fancy new USB Type-C port ever since it popped up on the 12-inch Apple MacBook and Google's Chromebook Pixel 2 . It seemed our dreams of a single cable for power, video, and data were finally coming true. Good news: Toshiba's Radius 12 has one of those ports too!

Bad news: you can't charge the laptop with it, or connect a screen to that port -- it's only for fast USB 3.1 data. It's just a future-proofing measure so you can connect peripherals that haven't been invented yet.

On the plus side, though, it's not like you're sacrificing much to get that future-proofing. The Radius 12 still has a standard compliment of the most common, sensible jacks you'd want on a laptop, including a pair of full-size USB 3.0 ports (one on each side), a full-size HDMI port, and a full-size SD card slot which should come in handy if you're dragging dSLR photos and videos to that brilliant 4K display.

Enlarge Image

A USB 3.0 port and full-size SD card slot live on the right edge.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Just don't expect the Radius 12 to feel particularly responsive when streaming 4K video. Though the laptop's equipped with one of Intel's latest sixth-gen Core i7 ULV processors and 8GB of RAM, and even though it performed fine in our standard benchmark tests, we had some stuttering issues pulling down 4K YouTube videos to this screen.

In general, the machine felt a little sluggish in everyday use compared to similarly equipped machines. Boot times were remarkably fast, but in my usual workload of over a dozen Chrome tabs, including some push email and auto-refreshing documents, the system sometimes struggled to multitask.

Then there's the battery life to consider: We saw just 5 hours on our video playback drain test, which is a pretty poor showing these days. We've seen even thinner laptops with Core i7 processors last 8 hours in that test, such as Lenovo's LaVie Z .

You can probably chalk up some of that battery deficit to the 4K touchscreen, but we've seen high-res machines with much longer battery life too. The Dell XPS 13 lasted 2 full hours longer than the Radius 12 despite its 3,200x1,800 touch panel. In real-world use, where I simply used the machine for work, I saw more like 4.5 hours.

It's worth noting that there's another version of the Radius 12 that sells for $1,000, whose only difference is a 1080p non-touchscreen, one that comes without factory calibration or Technicolor certification, instead of the 4K touch panel. That one is likely to deliver better battery life, but the 4K panel is one of the main draws of this laptop.

Sean Hollister/CNET


At first blush, the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 looks like a sleek and portable do-everything computer, but it's not terribly good at actually getting things done. It's an average machine with below-average battery life, one that lacks the sophistication and comfort of its competitors.

Casual users looking for a Windows laptop that transforms into a tablet might find it pleasing for couch surfing and browsing photos and videos at ultra high resolution, particularly if they shoot 4K video. ( It's becoming a standard feature on new smartphones.) The ability to log into the PC just by looking at it is pretty nice, too.

Still, there are many excellent thin and light Windows laptops to choose from today. The Radius 12 isn't a bad pick, but I have a feeling that other options will better suit your needs.

It just goes to show that tech specs aren't everything.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test 3

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015) 505Microsoft Surface Book 552Lenovo Yoga 900 586Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 614
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

Lenovo Yoga 900 212Microsoft Surface Book 214Lenovo LaVie Z 360 221Toshiba KiraBook (2015) 228Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 236Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015) 261
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Lenovo Yoga 900 95Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015) 99Toshiba KiraBook (2015) 101Microsoft Surface Book 101Lenovo LaVie Z 360 101Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 127
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video playback battery drain test

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015) 946Microsoft Surface Book 684Lenovo Yoga 900 537Toshiba KiraBook (2015) 530Lenovo LaVie Z 360 460Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 300
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in fps)

System Configurations

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64.bit); 2.5GHZ Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD 520 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Lenovo LaVie Z 360 Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Book Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM ; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64.bit); 2.5GHZ Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD 520 Graphics; 512GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015) Apple OSX 10.10.2 Yosemite; 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-5257U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1866MHz; 1536MB Intel Iris Graphics 6100; 128GB SSD
Toshiba KiraBook (2015) Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 6Battery 6