Sometimes you just need a basic laptop that won't hurt your wallet or your back. Toshiba Satellite L645D strives to fulfill that role. But while all low-cost laptops make some compromises, the L645D sacrifices some usability to achieve its target price.

After living with a number of different Toshiba laptops over the past few months, we were struck by how bare-bones and utilitarian a notebook the Toshiba Satellite L645D is. This Satellite lacks even basic media transport controls, any form of digital video output, and a fingerprint reader. It's a 14in laptop and, as such, it subscribes to one of life's odder maxims: 14-inch laptops are never made generally available in the UK. You can  buy the L645D, but you'll have to shop around online.

On the other hand, Toshiba does come with a webcam and an integrated microphone, so you'll be able to make VoIP calls. Also present are three USB ports - two on the left, and one on the right - though one of these is a dual-purpose USB/eSATA port. A five-in-one memory card reader is built into the front of the Toshiba Satellite L645D, and a gigabit ethernet port appears on the left side.

The biggest weaknesses of the Toshiba Satellite L645D budget laptop are related to audio and video playback quality. The speakers sound terrible, though some of Toshiba's more ambitious units offer some of the best-sounding audio we've ever heard on a laptop. Meanwhile, headphone audio sounded as though it were being played inside a barrel, even when when we listened to it through high-quality headphones.

Video playback is subpar, with high levels of noise visible in DVD playback, particularly in scenes containing broad swaths of light color; the problem was especially noticeable in some scenes from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, but it also appeared in the Serenity DVD. Some noise was evident in WMV playback in sky scenes, too. Worse, visible moiré patterns appeared in the high-def content. The LCD display proved perfectly adequate for normal desktop use, however, so it's acceptable for web browsing and normal office chores.

The Toshiba Satellite L645D's keyboard felt very comfortable during touch-typing, although the trackpad lacked precision and the button presses required more force than we initially expected. We were happy to see a button for deactivating the trackpad - useful when you need to plug in a mouse on short notice.

Toshiba includes Microsoft Works (full version) and Microsoft Office (a 60-day trialware version). Also included is trialware for Symantec Norton Internet Security and Toshiba's own DVD utilities, which are convenient for backing up data to DVD recordable discs.

The Toshiba Satellite L645D is built around a triple-core AMD Phenom II P820 that has a clock speed of 1.8GHz. The presence of three cores is sure to help in multithreaded applications, but the relatively low 1.8GHz limits performance. Of the 4GB of RAM, 256MB is taken up by the integrated Mobility Radeon HD 4200 GPU. These various limitations resulted in a pedestrian WorldBench 6 score of 76. Though the Radeon Mobility HD 4200 is one of the better integrated GPUs available, the Toshiba Satellite L645D is not a good laptop for games.

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NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Toshiba Satellite L645D: Specs

  • AMD Phenom II P820, 1.8GHz
  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Mobility Radeon HD 4200 GPU
  • Windows 7 HOme Premium
  • 14in Active Matrix TFT Colour LCD
  • 500GB HDD
  • DVD-Writer (DVD-RAM/±R/±RW)
  • IEEE 802.11n
  • webcam, integrated microphone
  • AMD Phenom II P820, 1.8GHz
  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Mobility Radeon HD 4200 GPU
  • Windows 7 HOme Premium
  • 14in Active Matrix TFT Colour LCD
  • 500GB HDD
  • DVD-Writer (DVD-RAM/±R/±RW)
  • IEEE 802.11n
  • webcam, integrated microphone

OUR VERDICT

In the end, the Toshiba Satellite L645D hits its low-price goal, but at the cost of noticeably poor audio quality and mediocre video playback. The keyboard is quite good, however, so if you're looking for a laptop for basic office use and nothing more, the Toshiba Satellite L645D may just fit the bill.

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