Having seen the popularity of Apple’s very stylish but none-too-light MacBook, other manufacturers have got on the 13.3-inch laptop bandwagon; with, it has to be said, varying degrees of success. Toshiba’s foot-hold in this market sector is the Satellite U300 series. Currently there are six models in the U300 family line-up, with our review model, the U300-134, sitting at the mid-way point.
The U300-134 certainly looks the part, with the familiar Satellite glossy blue finish to the lid and the traditional large Toshiba logo in bold, silver lettering. Opening the lid reveals the silver finished keyboard and surround, which is neatly set off by gloss black panels above and below. A blue, LED-backlit Satellite logo sits in the left-hand corner of the bottom panel, matching the backlit system indicators on the other side. Sitting directly above the keyboard are the power button, quick-launch Internet and CD/DVD buttons, and four controls for playing CD/DVDs.
Overall the build quality of the U300-134 is up to the usual high standard we have come to expect from Toshiba, and weighing in at around two kilos it’s certainly easy to carry around.
At the heart of the Satellite U300-134 lurks an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 processor which, clocked at 2.0GHz, has an 800MHz FSB and 2MB of L2 cache. If you want more or indeed less power, you can simply choose a different model in the U300 range: they are available with 1.50GHz (U300-13U), 1.66GHz (U300-14B, U300-133), 1.8GHz (U300-11V) and 2.4GHz (U300-13V) processors.
Our Satellite U300-134 came with what appears to be the standard amount of memory for a notebook these days, namely 2GB of PC2-5300, 667MHz, DDR2 memory. If you want to upgrade then the U300-134 motherboard will support a maximum of 4GB through two SO-SIMM slots.
Performance-wise the U300-134 provides few shocks. PCMark05 produces a score of 4,032, which is about average for this combination of processor and memory, although holding the score down is the graphics performance of the integrated Intel X3100 chipset.
The 13.3-inch widescreen display comes with Toshiba’s TruBrite coating to improve the screen’s brightness and has a native resolution of 1,280 x 800; perfectly set up for office work and watching films on, but beware of the viewing angles as they aren’t the best.
Storage comes in the shape of a 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive with a SATA interface and there’s an 8x Super Multi DVD burner so you can back-up data easily. You also get an Express Card slot and a 6-in-1 card reader supporting SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MMC and xD cards.
The keyboard is a bit of a mixed bag: while it’s a decent size and well laid out, the keypad bed has a fair degree of flex to it and the keys themselves feel a little spongy with little feedback to the user. On the other hand the trackpad is good and responsive, as are the two mouse buttons in front of it.
To connect to the outside world there is 802.11a/b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, 10/100Mbps Ethernet and, if all else fails, a 56Kbps modem. The ports for the wired LAN and modem are built into the right-hand side of the chassis along with a single USB port, the optical drive and the Express Card slot.
The other side of the chassis is dominated by a large cooling grill, which leaves just enough room for two more USB slots, two audio ports (with a volume control dial) and a VGA port. Unfortunately this leaves no room for either DVI or S-Video ports, or an HDMI port for that matter.
Battery life for the Satellite U300-134 is pretty good: using it for normal office work with the power setting in the power safe mode, the battery lasted for three hours and forty five minutes. It lasted for a shade under three hours while watching a DVD.
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