Toshiba Satellite CL10-B review

£199
Price when reviewed

It was Windows 8 that finally killed the netbook. After several years of success, the disappearance of Windows 7 Starter Edition resulted in the supply of miniature, ultra-cheap Windows portables suddenly drying up, a gap Google was happy to fill with its Chromebook concept. Undeterred, Microsoft has fought back with a surge of low-cost compact tablets and hybrids, and now the Toshiba Satellite CL10-B is the first in a new line of cloud-focused Windows laptops. See also: Want the low-down on Chromebooks? Click here to find out more. 

Further reading: The best laptops of 2014

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Toshiba Satellite CL10-B review: not another Chromebook

In many ways, the Toshiba Satellite CL10-B is the spitting image of a Chromebook. It’s finished in a combination of matte and gloss grey plastics, and for a £200 laptop, it’s surprisingly smart and attractive. It weighs a dainty 1.1kg, and the compact 11.6in chassis means it’s the perfect size for popping in a bag and carrying around every day. It even feels like it will survive a good few years: build quality is excellent, and the sturdy-feeling base, strong-feeling hinge and overall solidity are reassuring.

The other key similarity to a Chromebook isn’t readily apparent, but Toshiba has kept costs down by opting for a tiny 32GB of eMMC storage, a decision that leaves only 14GB free after the operating system and recovery partition have taken their share. This may sound like a deal-breaker, but just like every Chromebook, the Satellite CL10-B also comes bundled with 100GB of storage courtesy of a two-year Microsoft OneDrive subscription. After the two years are up, you’ll need to pay £1.99 per month to keep that level of storage or it will drop to 15GB; alternatively you can choose to upgrade to the 200GB or 1TB plans for £3.99 and £5.99 respectively.

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Unlike some of the low-cost Windows devices we’ve seen, such as the Asus Transformer Book T100, the Toshiba isn’t bundled with a free copy of Microsoft Office. But since every OneDrive account (yes, even unpaid ones) includes access to Microsoft’s Office Online suite, you won’t have to shell out for an office suite to create or edit documents in Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint – as long as you’re within reach of a Wi-Fi network, that is. Of course, you can always stick with Google Docs if you prefer.

It’s here that the Chromebook similarities end. This laptop isn’t running a cut-down, cloud-only version of Windows. Instead, the operating system of choice is Windows 8.1 with Bing, the low-cost OEM version of Microsoft’s OS. But for the fact that Bing is selected as the default search engine in Internet Explorer, and that Microsoft is virtually handing it out free to manufacturers, it lacks none  of the features of proper Windows 8.1: it’s a fully featured 64-bit desktop OS.

Fire up the CL10-B and, while first impressions aren’t amazing, it does begin to grow on you. The Scrabble-tile keyboard lacks feel, with keys that have barely any travel at all, but in practice it’s easy to get used to. We quickly forgot about the feel and found ourselves tapping away at full-speed without any problems. The touchpad, too, is unexceptional, but it works. Our only complaint was that we found it a little too easy to activate Windows’ edge-swipes by accident.

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Toshiba Satellite CL10-B review: performance and battery life

Toshiba hasn’t cut many corners on the hardware inside, either. It has an Intel Celeron N2840 and a dual-core CPU that runs at 2.16GHz and, while the 2GB of RAM isn’t upgradeable, the Bay Trail CPU and nippy eMMC drive keep Windows feeling surprisingly spritely for such a low-end machine.

In our Real World Benchmarks, the Toshiba achieved a modest 0.36 overall. It doesn’t feel particularly slow in practice, and this is due to the Toshiba eMMC drive – in the AS SSD benchmark, it achieved decent sequential read and write speeds of 169MB/sec and 58MB/sec respectively. Bear in mind, though, that the minimal amount of RAM and modest CPU aren’t sufficient for any serious multitasking or heavyweight applications. Things start to lag a little when you push it too hard.

The flipside, however, is that battery life is excellent. A 28Wh, 3,684mAh battery is sealed behind the CL10-B’s base panel and, with Wi-Fi disabled and the screen brightness dimmed to 75cd/m2, it kept the Satellite CL10-B going for 9hrs 2mins. The bad news is that the battery isn’t easy to get at, although it’s technically replaceable if you remove ten screws and prise off the plastic underside – it should be possible to get replacements from Toshiba a few years down the line if you need to.

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In other areas, the Satellite CL10-B throws up few surprises. The 11.6in display has a bog-standard 1,366 x 768 resolution and, while the TN panel has typically narrow vertical viewing angles, image quality is acceptable. The range and accuracy of onscreen colours isn’t wonderful – it covers a mere 62.8% of the sRGB colour gamut for starters – but brightness reaches a very respectable 273cd/m2, and the contrast ratio of 363:1 is better than most budget laptops.

The features list is understandably frugal, but most of the essentials are there. Wireless connectivity stretches to single-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4, and Toshiba has squeezed in full-sized HDMI, USB 3 and an SD card reader on the left-hand flank, plus a USB 2 port and 3.5mm headset jack on the right. There’s also a 0.9-megapixel webcam that, while fairly scratchy and pixellated, is plenty good enough for video chats and so forth.

Toshiba Satellite CL10-B review: verdict

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Ultimately, the Toshiba Satellite CL10-B finds itself going toe to toe with a talented team of Chromebooks, several of which offer better-quality screens or snazzier designs. Where the Toshiba trumps them all, though, is versatility. As Windows 8 removes the need to rely on web apps and a decent Wi-Fi connection, the Satellite CL10-B will be a more appealing buy than a Chromebook for many people. For only £200, this little ultraportable is well worth considering.

Specifications

Core specs
Processor 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840
RAM 2GB DDR3
Memory slots (free) None
Max memory 2GB
Size 1.1kg
Weight 289 x 199 x 19.9mm
Sound Stereo speakers
Pointing device Touchpad
Display
Screen size 11.6in
Screen resolution 1,366 x 768
Touchscreen No
Graphics adaptor Intel HD Graphics
Graphics outputs HDMI
Graphics memory Shared
Storage
Total storage 32GB eMMC, 100GB OneDrive cloud storage
Optical drive type None
Ports and expansion
USB ports 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3
Bluetooth 4
Networking Single-band 802.11n
Memory card reader SD
Other ports 3.5mm headset jack
Miscellaneous
Operating system Windows 8.1 with Bing 64-bit
Operating system restore option Hard drive partition
Buying information
Parts and labour warranty 1 year RTB warranty
Price inc VAT £199
Part number PSKVEE-00300NEN

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