Toshiba Satellite P200-144 review

Price when reviewed

Toshiba claims to have invented the notebook concept some 25 years ago, and it’s a format the company has remained remarkably faithful to. It may never have branched out into the full-blown desktop market, but looking at the specs of this desktop replacement in isolation it might as well have done.

With a 17in widescreen format, it’s at the very limit of anything you’d attempt to leave the house with. Not only is battery life short (it managed just over two hours under light use), the sheer physical size and 3.2kg weight make it viable only for journeys involving a car.

The advantage is that the P200-144 is pretty much as close to a desktop PC as a notebook can get, without resorting to detachable keyboards and design trickery such as that of the Dell XPS M2010 (web ID: 92150), or standard desktop componentry and a truly huge case such as the Rock Xtreme CTX Pro (web ID: 94154). With its 17in widescreen format, it’s directly up against our current desktop-replacement favourite, HP’s Pavilion dv9292eu.

The Satellite range has traditionally been home-orientated and the P200-144 continues the trend, with a curvy lifestyle design complete with glossy finish to both chassis and screen. Distracting reflections from the glossiness aside, the screen is pleasingly rich, with good viewing angles and DVD playback with no hint of smearing.

Completing its entertainment pretensions, stereo speakers are prominent above the keyboard, along with a row of transport buttons for controlling your default media player. Sound balance is reasonable at lower volumes, although bass is mostly absent and, at the levels you’d need to play music in anger, distortion takes over.

The keyboard isn’t quite full-sized but only a narrow Enter key betrays it, while a full numeric keypad awaits to the right for coping with the occasional Excel number frenzy. The keys give a good tactile response, but the silver plastic keytops feel cheap. On the subject of build quality, we’ve no particular complaints; the lid is flexible, but remained impervious to deliberate attempts at upsetting it with over-enthusiastic bending. The main chassis is solid and fails to flex or creak, even if picked up by one corner.

The P200-144 isn’t lacking when it comes to ports, but nor is it a bonanza. You’ll find a pair of stacked USB connectors on either side, and there are mini-FireWire, S-Video and VGA connectors. A hardware wireless power switch graces the front to control the 802.11n adaptor, along with rotary volume control and an SD/MS/xD media card reader. Elsewhere you’ll find a DVD writer able to cope with all formats of media including dual-layer and DVD-RAM, an ExpressCard/54 slot and, set into the bezel, a 1.3-megapixel webcam.

The guts of the machine are based around an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 mobile processor, backed by a healthy 2GB of DDR2 RAM. This can’t be upgraded easily since there are no free slots, but it’s an ample complement to begin with.

Desktop PCs still differ from laptops in the amount of storage on offer, but the P200-144 narrows the gap. There are two hard disks, each weighing in at 200GB – enough for you to rip a whole music collection and have plenty of space left over.

For standard desktop applications, there’s plenty of power on tap – an application benchmark score of 0.96 giving desktops of the recent past a run for their money. Graphics power isn’t quite up to the same levels, though: the Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 adapter performs well above the level of standard integrated graphics, but it’s still capable of only around 20fps at low graphics settings in Call of Duty 2.

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