Toshiba has been a bit slow off the mark to produce new laptops with Haswell processors, and even the new Satellite L50T-A-130 is a fairly modest effort that is unlikely to grab any headlines. See all mid-range laptop reviews.
The L50T-A-13 has the same unassuming design as many other models in the Satellite range, with a silver-grey plastic case that looks reasonably smart but not particularly exciting – like a low-ranking Whitehall bureaucrat. It'll probably be equally deskbound too, as the 15-inch screen and built-in DVD drive mean that it measures 29mm thick and weighs in at a full 2.5Kg. See also The 8 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2013?
The build quality is perfectly good, though, with a sturdy panel to protect the screen, and a keyboard and trackpad that are both roomy and comfortable to use. The one stand-out feature is the large speaker grille that runs almost the entire width of the keyboard panel. Designed by Onkyo, the stereo speaker system produces a decent amount of raw volume, while the bundled DTS Sound software includes a 10-band equalizer, as well as options for quickly adjusting bass, treble and vocals on music. A few quick tweaks here allowed us to produce a better sound than most laptop speakers – and we even had to turn it down on occasion as they were too loud in our office.
That's the one real highlight, though, and other aspects of the L50T's design are much more mundane. The 15.6-inch screen is bright and clear, and perfectly adequate for browsing the web or watching some streaming video. However, the entry-level 1366x768 resolution is disappointing in a mid-range laptop that costs around £650.00 – especially as Toshiba is specifically positioning it as a multimedia machine.
There's also some room for improvement in the viewing angles, which were only around 120-degreeS both horizontally and vertically. Even so, that's still perfectly adequate for general use and didn't cause us any real problems during testing. It's also worth pointing out that the screen is touch-sensitive, which does add to the overall value for money – although we suspect that many people would gladly swap the touch controls for a higher quality screen.
Performance is a similarly mixed bag. There are less expensive models in the L50T range that use Ivy Bridge and even AMD processors, but the L50T-A-130 comes in at around £650.00 with a Haswell i5 running at 1.6GHz, along with a healthy 8GB of memory and 1TB hard drive.
We know that the Haswell processor is capable of strong performance even at relatively modest clock speeds, but Toshiba does itself no favours by pairing the state-of-the-art processor with an aging 5400rpm hard drive. The end result is a score of just 2850 when running the PCMark 7 benchtests. That's perfectly adequate for running Microsoft Office, web browsing, or a spot of photo-editing but, again, is still the sort of performance we'd associate with entry-level laptops costing closer to £500.00.
Thankfully, the improved performance of the Haswell processor's HD 4400 integrated graphics means that the L50T can just about handle some casual gaming action, reaching 26.5fps when running Stalker: Call Of Pripyat at 1280x720 resolution with medium graphics settings. Haswell also comes to the rescue on battery life, providing a full five hours and fifteen minutes of streaming video via its onboard wifi. That's not going to break any records, but it is above average for a model with a 15-inch screen and ensures that you will be able to get plenty of work done – as long as you have the strength to carry it around with you.