Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
The Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7901 gives you a decent-looking 17-inch desktop replacement for less than $600, with all the necessary ports and connections for average day-to-day use. If the bigger screen isn't a must-have, for the same price, you can get the HP G60-235DX, a 15-inch retail model with better performance, battery life, and a larger hard drive. For maximum screen at minimal price, however, the Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7901 is one of the only games in town.
|Price as reviewed||$599.99|
|Processor||2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core RM-72|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium SP1 64-bit|
|Dimensions||15.7 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep|
|Height||1.7 inches high|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.2/8.2 pounds|
Very similar in style to the 15-inch Satellite L305D-5934 model, there's no mistaking this laptop as anything other than a Toshiba, because of the inch-high silver branding on the lid. The rest of the case is fairly generic looking, with a shiny pearlescent dark blue that retains fingerprints with every touch. The same goes for the glossy, black keyboard and wrist rest. The notebook has a comfortable, matte-black keyboard with bright, white markings (which makes them visible in low light) and a separate number pad, thanks to its large desktop footprint.
Over the keyboard is a row of multimedia controls (as on the smaller L305D) including programmable mute and CD/DVD buttons. (Out of the box they're set for mute and launching Windows Media Player.) Below the keyboard is a standard, two-button trackpad. However, the only thing delineating it as a trackpad is that the surface texture turns from smooth to slightly rough. We're always a big fan of a physical volume dial, which this system has on the case's front lip.
The 17-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is low for a desktop replacement screen, but we've seen it before in the least expensive 17-inch models. Clearly designed to sit in one place rather than travel, the screen quality is top-notch: text and icons are highly readable and movies look good.
Above the screen is a serviceable 1.3-megapixel Web cam, and necessary software is included. In fact, Toshiba includes a lot of bloatware--most of it trialware--which you can uninstall to open up hard-drive space or reduce desktop clutter.
|Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7901||Average for category (mainstream)|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, multi-format media-card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Some other systems in this class include HDMI, in addition to a VGA-out, for connecting to an external monitor, but at least we're pleased to see a full ExpressCard/54 slot--a rarity in an entry-level system.
Internal components are, on the whole, in line with what other vendors are offering at the L355D-S7901's sub-$600 price: an AMD dual-core processor, 3GB of DDR2 memory, and a respectable 250GB hard drive. Nothing stellar, but this still gets you decent performance for your buck, as long as the laptop's large size doesn't fool you into thinking it's a powerhouse.
This Toshiba's performance was slightly below average (although not by a blowout margin) in our collection of entry-level, retail, fixed-configuration laptops (with systems costing under $600). The 2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 dual-core RM-72 is good enough for basic multitasking, but we were a little disappointed in the speed at which it handled the CNET Labs' benchmark tests. The integrated ATI graphics processor doesn't support much beyond casual gaming and movie playback on its 17-inch display, but that's really all that's needed in an entry-level laptop.
The notebook ran for 1 hour and 43 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included eight-cell battery. This isn't bad for a desktop replacement, especially as these systems aren't intended to spend much time away from a wall outlet. With a massive battery, low-power CPU, and integrated graphics, however, we might have hoped for a better score.
The Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7901 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.