Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Toshiba Satellite A300 (PSAG4A-02600M)
- Nice design, powerful processor, effective face recognition software, "Sleep & Charge" USB ports
- Quite heavy, no full-HD capable screen or optical drive, screen can be excessively reflective under direct lighting
The Toshiba Satellite A300 provides excellent processing power and a sleek design for a price that won't break the budget.
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
Notebooks in Toshiba's Satellite series have previously been steady performers with a no-frills design. The new Satellite A300 (PSAG4A-02600M) represents a different approach, in terms of both hardware and style.
Previous iterations of the Satellite series have had a standard blue lid and a silver keyboard. The A300s feature a new look with mercury silver covers that open to reveal an attractive piano black interior.
Inside is a hardworking system with a 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 CPU, 4GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 graphics card. The PSAG4A-02600M model we tested has two 320GB Serial ATA hard drives. These spin at 5400rpm and provide 640GB of space.
While other models in A300 series have the physical space for two hard drives, some of the budget configurations don't have the motherboard connectors required for two drives, leaving an empty space where a second drive would normally sit.
The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 graphics card displays its wares on a 15.4in widescreen with a native resolution of 1280x800. Although the images produced are crisp and movies come out with almost no ghosting, the screen suffers from reflectivity issues in outdoor environments and it has a limited viewing angle.
When watching movies using the dual-layer DVD-RW drive, the audio track is reproduced with good clarity by the two built-in Harmon Kardon speakers. Other audio features include a headphone port, a microphone port and a built-in microphone.
If you plan travel with the PSAG4A-02600M, be prepared for some heavy lifting: the unit weighs 3kg without its power supply, and a hefty 3.75kg with it.
In our WorldBench 6 testing, the A300 managed an excellent score of 101 thanks to its powerful processor and the 4GB of RAM. This means that everyday applications will run with ease. Moreover, video editing can be efficiently done — good news when combined with the large disk capacity. Our tests revealed that multitasking won't be a problem.
The CPU's strong performance was confirmed in our iTunes test, where we convert 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s. The Satellite completed the process in just 68sec. In 3DMark06, the A300 scored 3896: this means older DirectX 9 games like F.E.A.R can be played at low- to mid-level settings.
One new and interesting addition to the Satellite series is a set of four software-controlled "Sleep and Charge" USB 2.0 ports. These ports allow users to power a USB device even when the notebook is powered down, thus saving energy that would normally be wasted keeping the laptop fully powered up.
An FM radio tuner is also present, along with a bundled antenna. The sound produced will vary depending on the reception in your area, but it was certainly clear in our tests. The HDMI port is CEC-enabled, meaning that multiple compatible devices, such as Toshiba flat-panel TVs, can be controlled with a single Toshiba remote control device.
Also new for Toshiba is its facial recognition software, used in conjunction with the built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam. Although it's similar to Lenovo's Veriface software, (as seen in the IdeaPad Y510-300), this system wasn't fooled by our test using a photograph. The software prompts the user to move their head in different directions to create a 3-D image. This adds an extra layer of security to unit — in addition to the biometric scanner located below the touchpad.
Standard ports are accounted for. A D-Sub and an S-Video out port allow for connections to display devices and a five-in-one card reader (SD, MMC, MS, MS-Pro, xD) allows for the easy downloading of images from cameras. The FireWire port can be used to grab video off a camcorder.
Networking is easy with Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking. The ExpressCard/54 slot offers additional expandability and Bluetooth 2.1 is present, too, so you can transfer data off a mobile phone or use a wireless mouse.
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