Toshiba – Satellite Pro A120SE review

basic business laptop for £400
Photo of Toshiba – Satellite Pro A120SE
£399 + VAT

The Satellite Pro A120SE is the latest addition to Toshiba’s well known family of business notebooks and at this price even the smallest business on the tightest of budgets could be interested.

Part of the reason for the low price is the choice of processor and, it has to be said, the totally unrealistic amount of memory fitted to the Satellite Pro A120SE. At the heart of the system lies an Intel Core Solo CPU, the T1350. Clocked at 1.86GHz it has an FSB speed of 533MHz and 2MB of L2 cache.

But backing this is a mere 256MB of PC2-533MHz DDR2 memory, which is very poor for a laptop these days, even a basic one like the Satellite Pro A120SE. If your budget allows it, the first job should be to upgrade this machine to at least 512MB. Because of the low memory count, the performance of the Satellite Pro A120SE isn’t going to set the world on fire; it scored just 130 in SYSmark 04SE.

Despite its budget price it has the usual Toshiba build quality, and even includes a feature normally found on more expensive notebooks; hard drive protection. If you drop the Satellite Pro A120SE, sensors in the hard drive park the drive heads to keep them out of harm’s way. It’s not the lightest of laptops, though, weighing in at just over 3kg including the AC adapter.

The keyboard feels good and responsive to the touch and doesn’t flex too much, and even this has some protection built in: under the keyboard is a small reservoir to collect any accidental spillages of liquids so that none of the major components underneath get damaged. The touchpad is, if anything, too sensitive and takes a fair bit of getting used to, but the mouse buttons are a good size and easy to use.

Toshiba has used a 15.4-inch WXGA widescreen display for the Satellite Pro A120SE, which has a native resolution of 1,280 pixels by 800 pixels and, unlike most of today’s laptops, has a matt finish so you don’t get those annoying screen reflections.

The graphics are what you would expect from a business system, using the integrated Intel chipset which can share up to 128MB of system memory. Because of the low amount of memory in the Satellite Pro A120SE the graphics can actually use only 8MB of the system’s memory, which means pretty basic performance – it wouldn’t even run FarCry.

Keeping to a budget obviously means cutting down on features and other aspects of the specification. You get a 60GB hard disk and the optical drive is only a CD-RW/DVD combo unit, so if you want to back up the drive properly you’ll need some other form of backup device.

There is a flash card reader but this only supports SD and MMC cards and there is no Express Card slot, just a standard PC Card slot, although this isn’t a problem as there isn’t exactly a multitude of Express cards to choose from yet.

But the usual suspects are all there when it comes to connecting the Satellite Pro A120SE to the outside world; 802.11b/g wireless, 56Kbps modem and, surprisingly, a Gigabit Ethernet LAN port. There are three USB 2.0 ports but no Firewire port.

Despite the slow speed of the processor and the integrated graphics, the battery life isn’t exceptional, just under four hours doing office apps and just over two hours when playing a DVD.

It may be a budget notebook but Toshiba knows better than most the area of the market to which it is targeted, hence the useful features such as the spill protection and, more importantly, the hard drive protection.

Company: Toshiba

Contact: 01932 841 600


Verdict
It may have a pitiful amount of memory but if you want a simple notebook that just does the basics well and you're on a tight budget, then the Satellite Pro A120SE might be what you are looking for, especially at such a good price.