The Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 ultraportable laptop is a slim, sleek package with a dual-core AMD chip that offers some pleasant surprises while making a few compromises.
For one thing, the glossy black chassis, accented with a subtle carbon-fibre graphic, can be a magnet for fingerprints and smudges; but the unit's subtle curves and smart tapering down (from about 1.5 inches in back to just over a half inch in the front) make it a good design for carrying in your hand or in a bag.
Along the front edge of the chassis is a row of LED status lights (power, Wi-Fi, hard-drive access, and so on), which are visible whether the laptop is open or closed. Thankfully, they're small, neatly arranged, and not annoyingly bright. Overall, the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 maintains the trim, classy look of Toshiba's Satellite line.
At a price of around £500, it's not a bad bargain - albeit that this particular sku is a US version, not directly available in the UK. You can find the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 by shopping around online, and there are UK versions with slightly different specs.
Open the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 up, and you're greeted by a 13.3-inch widescreen display that's very easy on the eyes. The exceptionally even backlighting has virtually zero aberrations, including near the screen edges. Thanks to the screen's 1366-by-768 native resolution, text appears crisp, defined, and very readable; DivX movies and Netflix streamed video look good, too, with balanced colours and deep blacks.
Though the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 laptop is tough to beat for text and video, it isn't perfect. While you can crank up the brightness to a very high level, the screen offers only eight levels of brightness, which isn't enough for fine-tuning.
We found, too, that the default colour settings were oversaturated with blue, but we easily fixed that by spending a few minutes recalibrating in the control panel. Aside from those two relatively minor complaints, the only real hit against the Satellite's screen is the glare-prone glossy finish; it isn't as shiny as some other notebook screens, though, and we were able to use the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 in a variety of lighting conditions with no real problems.
Complementing the sweet display is the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324's sound, which is somewhat better than the audio of other ultraportables but still has noticeable roll-off on the lower range (a common issue for laptop speaker systems). On the whole, the Toshiba's voice is pretty clear for a notebook, but the volume seemed low even when we turned it all the way up. Luckily, the Smart Audio utility has an equalizer function to boost the presence. While the T135D-S1324 sounds better than a good number of laptops, its speakers lack the power and precision necessary for it to be a true multimedia machine.
If you're a game player or movie watcher, you might regret not having a built-in DVD drive in this laptop, but that's an easy trade-off to make in today's download-oriented world. The system also has plenty of ports for connecting external drives and gadgets: a combo e-SATA/USB port, two USB ports, HDMI and VGA-out, and an SD Card reader should cover everything you need. Routing video through an HDMI cable to an HDTV was a snap in our tests, though once we disconnected we had to reset the audio to the speakers manually (a pain, no doubt, but something quickly accomplished in the Smart Audio utility). Another perk is the Sleep and Charge function, which lets you keep your mobile phone or other USB device powered up even while the computer is asleep.
Folks looking for extra value will appreciate the fact that Toshiba doesn't skimp on software. The Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 comes bundled with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Microsoft Works 9/a good package that's worth stepping up to, even if you're considering saving a few quid on another laptop with Vista (or even XP). You'll also find on this machine a fair collection of basic media and maintenance utilities to help lighten the tedium of computing. For neophytes and experienced users alike, the T135D-S1324's electronic and paper documents cover basic setup, Windows functions, bundled utilities, and troubleshooting in fair detail.
Once you become familiar with the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324 and get down to typing, the initial shine starts to dull a bit. The Satellite's touchpad has a slightly textured surface for easier fingertip control, but the pinch-and-zoom and scrolling multitouch functions aren't quite as smooth as they could be. The big drawback, however, is the keyboard. While the layout is good, all of the keys are relatively small, and if you use function keys a lot, you might need to use your fingernail to press the tiny F1 to F12 buttons. (Slightly offsetting this issue, the laptop has an on-screen menu that pops up when you hold down the Fn key, letting you toggle any of the basics such as screen brightness and muting.) In addition, the keyboard has no backlighting, so typing in a dim environment can be difficult. Overall, it's a decent keyboard if you like a softer feel on the keystrokes, but if you have big/or even average-size/mitts, the small keys could make typing a chore.
For all that there is to like about the Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324, its benchmark scores put it in the middle of the pack. Outfitted with an AMD Turon Neo X2, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, and an ATI Radeon 3200 graphics chip, this laptop was powerful enough to decode every digital video file we threw at it; its anemic WorldBench 6 score of 59 took a toll, however, and it finished in the middle of its class for overall performance. On balance, serious travelers will like its battery life, as it managed to last 4 hours, 55 minutes in our tests.
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