Toshiba – Satellite Pro S300 review

desktop replacement for those on a tight budget
Photo of Toshiba – Satellite Pro S300

Toshiba has released some interesting laptops recently, including ultra-lightweight models in the Portege range and some eye-catching designs under the Qosmio badge. The Satellite Pro desktop replacement line-up, however, is a far more sombre affair, preferring to offer value for money as opposed to stylish looks or ultra-portability.

There are actually several different models available under the Satellite Pro S300 moniker. The one we’re looking at here is the Satellite Pro S300-120, which is also the cheapest at just over £500.

The dark grey colour scheme won’t appeal to those who like their laptop to make a statement, but it feels solid and looks business-like. A DVD writer sits on the right side of the chassis, as do three well-spaced USB ports and a 56kbps modem.

A further USB port is found on the left (this doubles-up as an eSata port) and is joined by a WiFi power switch, VGA-out, mini-Firewire port, card reader and an old-fashioned PC Card slot (Expresscard slots are more common these days).

A serial port at the rear continues the retro theme and is joined by a Gigabit Lan port and the power socket. At the front you’ll find headphone and microphone ports, along with a volume control wheel and a series of activity LEDs.

Open the laptop up and the lack of shortcut buttons and controls makes the Satellite Pro S300 look very bare. However, the full-size keyboard is great to type on and the textured keys have a decent amount of travel. Sat between the two trackpad buttons is a fingerprint reader, which means there’s no need to bash in a password when logging on.

The 15.4-inch screen has a native resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels. Toshiba has also given it a glossy coating in an attempt to improve perceived definition, but we weren’t overly impressed with it; colours aren’t as vibrant as we’d like and viewing angles are a little restrictive.

To keep costs down, Toshiba has opted for a T3200 CPU. This comes from Intel’s Pentium Dual Core range, which is basically a poor man’s Core 2 Duo and features just 1MB of L2 Cache, a front-side bus of 667MHz and a 2GHz clock speed.

Graphics are similarly budget-oriented, with Intel’s integrated GMA 4500MHD chip doing all the grunt work. That’s fine for general Windows tasks, but a definite no-no for gamers. A total of 2GB of DDR2 800MHz Ram is also on hand, though Vista would be much happier with 3GB.

The 120GB hard drive is about what we expect at this price, but it’s something of a surprise that Toshiba has used an Atheros AR5007EG chip for the laptop’s WiFi, since it only supports 802.11b/g and not the newer draft-N.

In our tests, the Satellite Pro S300 produced a score of 3,286 in PCMark05, which is reasonable at this price point and indicates the laptop is fine for office tasks along with slightly more complex activities such as image and video editing. The 721 it cobbled together in 3DMark06, though, reinforces the message that you won’t want to trouble this laptop with anything more than yesteryear’s games titles.

Weighing in at 2.8kg (just over 3kg if you include the power adapter), you’re not going to want to lug this laptop around much. The advantage of a relatively slow processor is that battery life gets a boost; we managed just under one hour and 30 minutes when the laptop was running at full pelt. Be a little more relaxed in your usage and you can expect around three hours’ life from a single charge.

Software comes in the form of Vista Home Business and a suite of Toshiba utilities. As is the norm these days, valuable hard drive space is also taken up by time-limited software trials, in this case Microsoft Office 2007 and McAfee Internet Security.

Company: Toshiba

Contact: 0844 847 8944

At just over £500, it's no great surprise that the Satellite Pro S300 isn't up to much in terms of performance. However, we like the uncomplicated design and, although it's no good for gaming, this laptop will cope fine with everyday office applications. It would have been nice if Toshiba had backed the package up with more than the standard one-year warranty, but on the whole this is a decent desktop replacement for those on a tight budget.