The trend for slimmed-down laptops looks set to continue in 2013, but the Toshiba P855-32J is the meatier option to remind us why slim isn’t necessarily the healthiest alternative.
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As a bold move, the Toshiba P855-32J offers glasses-free 3D. It uses the built-in HD webcam to track head position, then feeds each eye with the relevant information.
In practice, the effect worked reasonably well as long as we remained fixed directly in front of the screen. Move around too much, and the head-tracking goes awry and the 3D starts to break down.
We didn’t find the 3D as effective as from the with-glasses options we’ve tried. But it’s a workable and easy introduction to 3D for those who don’t fidget much. Check out before you buy, if you can, to see if get on with it.
The Toshiba P855-32J doesn’t go all-out for the senses, and Toshiba has chosen to eschew the crazy case designs and colour schemes popular with the likes of Alienware. The Toshiba P855-32J tips the scales at around 2.94kg – so the laptop certainly won’t plop near-weightlessly into your bag like the an ultraportable - yet the Toshiba remains relatively sleek given its mass and bulk.
Edges are nicely rounded, and the etched aluminium veneer looks stylish yet understated. This is perhaps a multimedia machine for the executive who likes to wear Family Guy socks under their suit trousers.
Drive options are very decent. A capacious 750GB of storage space is offered from a Hitachi Travelstar hard disk. This is a 5400rpm version, and a Toshiba utility helps guard against data loss when the drive is moved around. The Toshiba P855-32J has room for an optical drive, a Matshita DVD±RW with 6x BD-ROM playback for Blu-ray films.
It would be strange for a 3D laptop to not have Blu-Ray facilities, but it’s still nice to see the smooth movie playback capable by this machine.
The 15.6in screen is a bright and colourful but twisted-nematic (TN) affair. Toshiba’s TruBrite technology helps take the edge off the glare, and viewing angles are better than on many TN displays. The resolution goes to 1920 x 1080 to support HD correctly.
No touchscreen capabilities are provided, so you’ll have to rely on the standard keyboard and mouse for Windows 8 use. The keyboard is reasonably shallow, although we were able to reach a decent degree of accuracy typing on it.
The cursor keys are tiny, and we didn’t like the way the function keys legends were obscured. A Synaptics trackpad is a little sluggish, and if you can't get on with its attempt at multi-touch control you can switch features like pinch-zoom off.
Toshiba Satellite P855-32J: Performance
Considering the four-figure price, the Toshiba comes with specifications that are more capable than spectacular. The 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M is a nice mid-range dual-core processor, but it doesn’t offer nearly the same horsepower as the quad-core mobile versions in Intel's current Core i7 range.
The 8GB of memory is pleasing, but a PCMark 07 score of 2716 is no more than adequate. In Geekbench the P855 averaged a score of 8744 points. For context, a mobile quad-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 would reap around 12,000 points.
Relatively decent gaming performance is delivered by the nVidia GeForce GT 640M graphics processor with its 2GB of video memory.
Figures such as 59.1fps in Stalker: Call of Pripyat show that the laptop is more than a cut above those relying on an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 solution.
In the Alien vs Predator test, we saw an average of 26fps running at full-HD and Medium detail, falling to just 16fps in Ultra settings.
Connectivity is good, with the Toshiba offering single-band 802.11b/g/n alongside Bluetooth 4.0. Wired network are handled by the standard-issue gigabit ethernet.
Four USB 3.0 ports are included, two on either side, along with HDMI digital and the analogue VGA video outputs, plus headphones and microphone sockets. An SD card slot is built into the front of the laptop.
The Harman Kardon speakers are easy to listen to, although they lack a little bass. Good enough to use for watching films, but you’ll want to add some meatier speakers for a better movie experience.
The battery life is a little disappointing, with the 48Wh pack mustering no more than 3 hours and 4 mins in testing. Given that this is designed as a desktop replacement rather than a portable, that's less surprising.