It's tempting to dismiss the 4K display of Toshiba's new P50T-B laptops as simply being a bit of a gimmick – especially given the graphical limitations of Windows itself. But there's no denying that the 4K display is a treat for the eyes, and we can imagine that it might appeal to professional photographers or video-editors who need to play back 4K video. See also: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?
Toshiba Satellite P50T-B-10K: laptop with 4k display
The 15.6-inch display of the P50T-B-10K boasts a resolution of 3840 x 2160 and pixel density of 282 ppi. That's four times the resolution of a conventional 1920 x 1080 high-definition display, easily surpassing the 3200 x 1800 resolution of other Windows rivals such as the Dell XPS 15, as well as the original ultra-resolution 2880 x 1800 Retina display of Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro. (See also: Dell XPS 15 review: thin and light Ultrabook with amazing Quad HD display takes on (and beats) the MacBook Pro.)
And, not surprisingly, it looks absolutely terrific, with its pin-point clarity, and also shows strong contrast and rich, warm colours. Viewing angles are good and our only minor complaint is that the mirror-like glossy finish on the screen is annoyingly reflective. Even so, the sheer clarity and rich colours of the 4K display are quite outstanding and the P50T-B-10K will be hard to beat if you need to look at ultra-high definition video or at photography
The main real problem here lies with Windows itself. As we found in our review of the Dell XPS 15, the Windows 8 desktop can scale text and graphics elements so that they are clearly visible at such high resolution. However, that's not true of many third-party Windows programs, which will leave you squinting at tiny toolbars and miniature menus as you try to locate the tools you need.
The rest of the laptop's design isn't in the same league as the screen, but it's still quite a smartly designed laptop. The aluminium/plastic chassis is light and sturdy, and the P50T-B-10K only weighs 2.3 kg. That's below average weight for a 15-inch laptop that includes a built-in Blu-ray drive, although it's a shame that Toshiba couldn't slim its fat 28 mm profile down a little.
The Blu-ray drive is specified as BDXL, able to write discs up to 100 GB capacity. (See also: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air comparison.)
Toshiba Satellite P50T-B-10K: connectivity
Connectivity is good too, with the latest 802.11ac W-Fi and gigabit ethernet along with an HDMI 1.4 interface that supports both 4K and 3D output to an external display.
There are no less than four USB 3.0 ports, and the SDXC card slot supports the latest UHS II (ultra-high speed) memory cards, which will be useful for importing high-definition photos and video files.
Performance is something of a mixed bag, though. We reviewed the ‘entry-level' P50T-B-10K model, which costs £1200 with a quad-core Intel Core i7 running at 2.4 GHz, 8 GB memory, 1 TB hard drive and AMD Radeon HD8800M graphics.
That's a good specification for the price – especially when you include the touch-sensitive 4K display as well – but the 5400 rpm hard drive did slow things down considerably. (See also: 20 best budget laptops of 2014.)
Toshiba Satellite P50T-B-10K: performance
The P50T-B-10K could only manage a score of 3610 points when running the PCMark 7 benchtest – a score that is bettered by numerous less-expensive laptops equipped with faster solid-state drives.
Meanwhile the Home and Work suites in PCMark 8 produced similarly mediocre scores of 2877 and 2528 points.
We also noticed the sluggish hard drive whenever the P50T-B started up. The Windows 8 ‘fast-start' option allowed it to recover from hibernation into the Windows Start screen in 15 seconds, but that was followed by about 30 seconds of cursor-spinning before the laptop could actually start to launch programs and get down to work.
Fortunately, once it's up and running, the P50T-B did feel fast and responsive, and the Core i7 processor provided enough raw horsepower to handle high-definition photos and video.
However, we would suggest it's worth spending another £100 to get the ‘10T' model that uses a 1 TB hybrid drive with 8 GB solid-state module to enhance performance.
Toshiba informed us that they plan to upgrade the graphics to a newer AMD Radeon R9 part in the near future at no extra cost.
Toshiba Satellite P50T-B-10K: battery life
Another weakness is battery life. We only managed to get 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of streaming video even when switching to integrated graphics; even Toshiba only quotes a maximum battery life of three hours and fifteen minutes.
That's disappointing, and it means that the P50T-B-10K is really only suitable for use as a desktop replacement system and will be of little use for anyone that needs to work on the move. See also: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?