Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11Q review

Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11Q

There are several models in the M50 range, equipped with a variety of both Intel and AMD processors and with prices varying from £400 to £600. However, we reviewed the M50-A-11Q model, which typically costs £449 from a number of online retailers, and which includes a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i3-4005U processor, along with a healthy 8 GB of memory and 1 TB hard drive. That's very good value for money, and the M50 is also smarter and more portable than many of its low-cost rivals. See all laptop reviews.

It makes a good impression straight away, as the brushed metal casing of the M50 measures just 21.3 mm thick, and the laptop weighs 2.2 kg. That's slimmer and lighter than most 15-inch laptops, and you can pick it up with one hand or carry it around in a backpack without too much trouble. Take a look at the 18 best laptops of 2014.

The build quality is good too, with a firm, comfortable keyboard and trackpad, and the M50 certainly doesn't look or feel like a budget laptop.

It's well connected too, with gigabit ethernet, HDMI and a pair of USB 3.0 ports, along with one additional USB 2.0, memory-card slot and headphone socket. There's no DVD drive, though, so you'll need to provide an external drive of your own if you want to watch DVD films or install software from disc.

Overall speed is average for a laptop in this price range. The Intel Core i3-4005U processor lacks the Turbo Boost option found in most current Intel processors and produced a low score of 2511 points when running the PCMark 7 benchtest. That's as much a reflection on the laptop's hard drive than on the processor, and the M50 is more than adequate for basic web browsing and running Microsoft Office.

Its 8 GB of memory will also help when working with large photo or video files, so an occasional spot of photo- or video editing isn't out of the question.

It can even handle some casual gaming too, hitting a playable 30 fps when running our Stalker benchmark at 1280 x 720 resolution.

Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11Q review

The one area where the sluggish hard disk affects performance is during the initial start-up process. A cold boot takes about 30 seconds to get you to the Windows 8 Start screen, although using the Windows ‘fast start' option shaves about 10 seconds off that time.

However, in both cases there's still a further 15-20 seconds of cursor-spinning while the laptop gathers its wits and gets itself fully up to speed.

Battery life turned out to be a pleasant surprise, though. Toshiba quotes a maximum of 7 hours and 15 minutes, but we got a full seven hours (420 minutes) from the M50 in our streaming video test.

So far, at least, the M50 looks like an absolute bargain, but there is one aspect that shows clear signs of cost-cutting. The 1366 x 768 resolution of the 15.6-inch screen may be an acceptable compromise at this price, and it does produce a bright, colourful image that works for web browsing or watching video.

However, the viewing angles are very limited, and the image darkens quite sharply as soon as you move your head more than about 45-degrees either vertically or horizontally. The screen is also very glossy and throws off a lot of glare and reflection in bright sunlight.

That's disappointing, but the M50 can still allow you to enjoy web browsing or watching films once you've moved yourself and the laptop into the best position.

Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11Q: Specs

  • 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixels) gloss TN display
  • 1.7 GHz Intel i3-4005U
  • Intel HD 4400
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 8 GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • 1 TB hard drive (5400rpm)
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • 1x HDMI
  • 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 720p webcam and microphone
  • headphone socket
  • 41 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 378 x 250 x 21.3 mm
  • 2.2 kg
  • 15.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixels) gloss TN display
  • 1.7 GHz Intel i3-4005U
  • Intel HD 4400
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 8 GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • 1 TB hard drive (5400rpm)
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • 1x HDMI
  • 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 720p webcam and microphone
  • headphone socket
  • 41 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 378 x 250 x 21.3 mm
  • 2.2 kg

OUR VERDICT

The M50-A-11Q provides very respectable performance, battery life and build quality at a competitive price. It's not perfect, and the screen's limited viewing angles are a clear weakness. Even so, it's well worth considering if you're on a tight budget and looking for a good, basic laptop that can handle most day-to-day computing tasks for less than £500.

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