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

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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.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Battery 6

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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