Toshiba Satellite Radius 15 review: A handsome laptop but a clumsy tablet
If you’re torn between the convenience of a tablet and the functionality of a laptop, there are several options open to you. You can spend more to buy both, spend the same and cut corners on specification, or plump for the third option: the hybrid laptop. The Toshiba Satellite Radius is far from the first to try and pull off the task, but with a 15in display, it’s certainly one of the biggest.
First impressions are pretty good. It certainly looks the part – all tapered corners and brushed aluminium, with a rubberised bar running around the edges that somehow manages to avoid cheapening the design.
At 2.24kg, it isn’t the lightest 15in laptop in the world. However, it is commendably slim at 20mm, and it makes the most of its large chassis with a decent amount of connectivity. You get three USB ports (one USB 2 and two USB 3), a headphone jack, an SD card slot and an HDMI video output. It also has both a Start button and volume rocker along the side of the keyboard, primarily for use when the machine is in tablet mode, but both work when the Radius is in regular laptop mode, too.
The screen uses IPS technology, and with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, it’s crisp and sharp. It’s bright, too, reaching a maximum brightness of 286cd/m2 – that’s plenty for use indoors – and the contrast ratio of 996:1 ensures that onscreen images are punchy and solid. Generally, it’s a decent screen all-round, with one drawback: it’s extremely reflective. This isn’t a problem if you’re viewing it head-on, but it does impact on the viewing angles.
And since the Toshiba Satellite Radius doubles up as the world’s most impractical tablet, it’s also a touchscreen. The screen hinge allows you to flip the entire keyboard around 360 degrees. Windows 10 does a valiant job of noticing and asking if you want to hop into tablet mode, but you’re still left holding a hefty 15in tablet with a non-functioning keyboard on the back.
Still, it does make the whole thing fairly flexible. The screen holds at whatever angle you decide to fix it at, so you can prop up the screen in “tent” mode to view the screen without the need for any kind of additional prop. That’s handy for video viewing, but in most instances, it’s hard to see any real advantages to this.
Touchpad and keyboard
You may find the touchscreen a welcome addition even if you don’t use it in tablet mode, but the reason for this isn’t a ringing endorsement: the touchpad is really unpleasant to use. In general use, I found myself frequently resizing windows and tapping things by accident, while it often refused to scroll, or even take the cursor where I wanted. Maddening, but amusing for nearby colleagues, who heard a series of obscenities as the laptop blocked my attempts to hit deadlines.
The keyboard fares better. The 15in frame of the machine means spacing between the keys is generous, and the keys offer a good amount of resistance, allowing for swift, comfortable typing. There’s even enough space to include a full-sized number pad on the side.
Interestingly, Toshiba has also added a dedicated Cortana button, right next to the Esc key. Toshiba (and Microsoft) really want you to know it’s there: there’s a blue sticker in the shape of a speech bubble above it saying “Hi, I’m Cortana” when you pull the laptop from its box. Calling Cortana’s attention is indeed quick and easy, although how much you’ll actually use the feature is open to debate.
Performance and specifications
In day-to-day performance, the Satellite Radius is quick and responsive. Boot-up times are around ten seconds, and loading and switching between programs is as nippy as you’d expect, given the specification.
The model we received for testing had a 2.2GHz Intel i5-5200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a hybrid 1TB hard disk incorporating an 8GB SSD. In our benchmarks – which test its image-editing, video-editing and multitasking capabilities – its overall score of 33 was roughly in line with the Core i5 Surface Pro 3 and Lenovo Yoga 3, but slightly behind the Dell XPS 13 and 2015 13in Macbook Airs.
It’s not a gaming laptop, with only an Intel HD Graphics 5500 chip. This is fine for older titles, but it struggles with modern games. In our standard Bioshock Infinite benchmarks it gained 16fps in the 720p benchmark, and 10fps at 1080p.
The battery life is a touch disappointing, too, considering the weight of the laptop. Under our standard 720p looped-video test, and with the display set to 120cd/m2, the laptop’s battery capacity fell from 100% to 56% in 2hrs 30mins. That scales up to a full battery life just shy of six hours. Pretty average, but the heft of the machine left us hoping for better.
In short, the Toshiba Satellite Radius isn’t a bad machine at all. The only weak spot is the touchpad, but that can be fixed with judicious use of the touchscreen, disabling gesture controls or plugging in an external mouse.
In performance, it matches up with similarly priced alternatives, and it certainly looks the part. It feels a touch too big to be truly useful as a hybrid, though: I can’t see people using a 15in laptop in tablet mode very often.
If you feel its tablet functions are as superfluous as I do, then it might be worth looking elsewhere for something a bit smaller and more practical: the 13in Asus Zenbook UX303LA performed better in our benchmarks, and is now available for far less than the Toshiba Satellite Radius if you shop around.
You won’t be disappointed with the dependable Toshiba Radius, but nor will it blow you away. For £699, I’d prefer just a little more inspiration.