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Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Sometimes, it takes a good retail excursion to find a deal that isn't otherwise possible. Case in point: the Toshiba T135. While we have already reviewed two different versions of Toshiba's Windows 7 entry to the thin-and-light laptop landscape, we were pleasantly surprised by this retail-only configuration. This is not uncommon; many of the configurations you see in stores are subtle tweaks of models that manufacturers sell online, trading flexibility for a better price. In the case of the Toshiba Satellite T135-S1309, it means a great price of only $550 instead of the $710 price of the Satellite T135-S1310, at the expense of 1GB less RAM, no Bluetooth, and a black lid instead of a red or white one.
We've previously noted that the T135's cheaper, single-core Pentium processor configuration, the Toshiba Satellite T135-S1300, had vastly inferior performance to the dual-core, more expensive S1310. The good news is that the S1309 has a price only $50 more than the inferior T135, but with a dual-core processor. At this cost-to-performance ratio, we'd say this is the must-get configuration of the Toshiba Satellite T135, if you're considering buying one. And the even better news is that the battery life is just as good as ever. It's still slower than higher-end thin-and-lights, but the T135-S1309 is a nice affordable balance that bargain-hunters should consider seeing in person.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$549|
|Processor||1.3 GHz Intel Pentium SU4100|
|Memory||3GB, DDR3 1066 MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.7 x 8.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.7 / 4.4 pounds|
The T135 series shares a number of design similarities to the rest of the Toshiba Satellite lineup that received an upgrade earlier this year. The T135-S1309 is covered inside and out in a glossy black checkerboard Fusion Finish; it's accented with slick chrome highlights along the edge of the palm rest and on the touch-pad buttons. However, that slickness continues literally to the keyboard, which is finished in the same glossy coating we've been less than enthusiastic about in other Satellites. While the T135 is thinner than Toshiba's thick midrange Satellites, such as the U505-S2940, it's still a semichunky 1.4 inches thick.
The flat keyboard performs better than we remembered on larger Core 2 Duo models, but it still feels a bit too greasy. A matte rectangle of a touch pad, inset along the glossy palm rest, feels decent but not spectacular. The silver button-bar beneath is one continuous piece of plastic that toggles on either side for left or right clicks, but we always prefer distinct buttons instead. Other than the power button, there are no other buttons besides the standard keyboard, so control panel adjustments such as screen brightness are all handled with function-key combinations. Volume control is oddly relegated to a function combination with the 3 and 4 number keys, which took us forever to locate.
The 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit screen on the Satellite T135-S1309 has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, sharp colors, and good brightness, and it looked perfectly crisp in our use. Above the screen is a Webcam that took fair video, but grainy and low-resolution snapshots. More disappointing were the Satellite T135-S1309's speakers, which although stereo and planted on the base below the keyboard, still sounded as if they were emanating from the middle of a pillow-lined box: the volume at maximum was so soft and tinny as to be practically worthless. We also had issues with Toshiba's Netbook speakers, but other Toshiba speakers were generally exceptional. This was a big letdown.
|Toshiba Satellite T135-S1309||Average for category [thin and light]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/sleep and charge, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
In addition to a sleep-and-charge USB port (always a nice feature to charge devices while your laptop is asleep or off), the Satellite T135-1309 also has an SD card reader and an HDMI port. One feature that's removed is Bluetooth, which is available in the T135-S1310, but for the $160 savings, we don't mind.
The included 320GB hard drive in the T135-S1309 is a generous size for the price, and the 3GB of RAM can be easily expanded up to 8GB after purchase if desired. Of course, as is the case for nearly all laptops now, Windows 7 Home Premium is preinstalled. Windows 7 worked well on this machine, and we had no complaints.
Now, for a word on the confusing landscape of Intel ULV processors. The T135-S1309 has an Intel Pentium SU4100 processor, which is in fact a dual-core processor; it's not generally as powerful as a standard Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Duo ultra-low-voltage processor, but it's a far better alternative to a single-core processor such as a Celeron or Atom. The single-core version of the T135 (the T135-S1300) uses a Pentium SU2700 processor, which we'd avoid.
While the T135-S1309 performed worse than the average budget Core 2 Duo laptop in our comparative benchmark tests, it's a big leap forward in multitasking compared with single-core budget laptops like the Toshiba L455-S5975. Don't expect gaming or high-end multimedia multitasking, but the dual-core Pentium ULV processor inside the T135-S1309 is a solid choice for a budget-minded user.
|Raw (annual kWh)||25.71|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$2.92|
With its six-cell battery, the Toshiba T135-S1309 ran for 5 hours and 55 minutes using our battery-drain test, which loops continuous video playback. You can certainly expect longer battery life results under normal work conditions. However, nearly 6 hours is a great number for a thin-and-light, and it was one of the budget laptop category leaders for our holiday 2009 retail laptop roundup. It also happens to be our most energy-efficient budget laptop in this category, with an annual energy cost of just $2.92. If this is an advantage of using the Pentium SU4100 processor, then we're all for it.
The Toshiba Satellite T135-S1309 is backed by an industry-standard one-year warranty. Support is accessible 24-7 via a toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and a Web site with driver downloads. While retail shops are happy to sell you an in-store extended warranty, they are often expensive and hard to use, so we don't recommend them.
Toshiba Satellite T135-S1309
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU4100; 3072MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 128MB (Shared Video) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T4300; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 32MB (Dedicated Video) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Seagate 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared Video) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 500GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
HP Pavilion dv4-2045dx
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.2GHz AMD Turion II Dual-Core M500; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 320MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Dell Inspiron 1