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Toshiba Satellite A100 Review
Posted on 10-May-2006 10:49 by H Willan. | Tags Filed under: Reviews.


Toshiba NZ recently sent me one of their latest Core Duo notebooks for review, the Satellite A100.

Here’s a list of the things that identify the main features notebook.
  • Intel Core Duo processor T2300 @ 1.66Ghz (2MB L2 cache)
  • DDR2@667Mhz FSB. Comes with 512MB and one free slot
  • 5400rpm, 60GB SATA hard disk
  • TruBrite widescreen display @ 1280x800
  • Biometric fingerprint reader
  • Multimedia remote control (stored in PCMICA slot)
  • nVidia GeForce 7300 with 128 main and 128 of shared memory
  • DVD RAM integrated drive
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)
  • 802.11 abg
  • 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet (gigabit)
  • IEEE1394 Firewire a (400Mbps)
  • 5-in-1 card reader (SD, Sony MS, Sony MS Pro, MMC, xD)

    More standard notebook features include
  • Realtek integrated audio
  • 4x Hi-speed USB2.0 ports (480Mbps)
  • Dual mode touch pad
  • Multimedia keys (Play/Pause/Stop/Forward/Back)
  • Infrared input (for controller)
  • S-Video output, D-Sub (VGA) output
  • Microphone, Headphone, Volume dial
  • Harman/Kardon stereo speakers
  • Windows XP Professional
  • Toshiba specific software
  • 1 year warranty on parts and labour

    This model, as descibed, retails for NZ$2,799 inc GST (US$1760).

    Rather than a hugely detailed review of the exacting performance benchmarks, I’m going summarise with my impression of the notebook.

    Construction
    Well constructed. Nice teal cover on the top adds some colour to the otherwise drab market of notebooks.


    Nice curves to the notebook when closed, front view.


    Left side, from left to right. VGA port, S-Video port, IEEE1394 port, PCMCIA slots with the multimedia control housed in one for convenient storage.


    Right hand view. From left to right, Wireless control switch, 2x USB ports, DVD-RAM, Modem jack and secure locking point to attach it to a desk with cable.


    Rear view. From left to right, lpt cover, battery pack, two more USB ports, Ethernet port, power jack.


    Top down view. Running 3D mark 2006. Power led on left with multimedia controls. Feedback LEDs down the front left, Touchpad and fingerprint reader on right.


    LED lights on the front right of the chassis. Mains indicator, Power mode, Battery charge, disk activity and 5-in-1 reader.







    The multimedia keys are located on the inside on the left, the speakers produce acceptable, but not astounding sound. The multimedia remote control, which is small and thin, runs on a little round lithium ion battery and works with Windows Media Player and InterVideo that are installed on the system.

    Touchpad
    In normal operation, the pad acts as a means of moving the mouse pointer. By pressing the switch mode button, top right you can now change to alternative mode, giving access to email, wireless config and printer. Also there are custom shortcuts you can add yourself. There’s also the volume control on the right.




    When activated in its alternative mode for the other buttons, the Touchpad glows a soft blue.


    Biometric finger print reader, placed on the right of the chassis in the palm rest area. A simple swipe of your finger from knuckle to tip unlocks the machine (Once you’ve programmed in your patterns).


    The battery is long and plugs in across the back of the machine. By default it comes with a 4000mAh, which is good. I’d say using Word and Excel and connected to the internet via the LAN, you’d get about 3 to 4 hours out of this. Much less if you gamed with it.


    Gaining access to upgrade the memory or change the hard is easy.


    Once turned on and programmed, the finger print reader then integrates with Windows for secure access. This appears in the top left hand corner of the screen. At either password protected resume or login.

    Performance
    This was tested using 3D Mark 2006, advanced edition.


    Performance was okay for 640x480. So I increased it to 800x600 and 1024x768. These then dropped the overall results to 913 and 730 3D marks respectively.

    Next, I used SiSoft Sandra Pro to test some other factors and pulled in items of a similar spec for comparison.


    CPU performance is fairly good, especially when classed against similar processors (Click here for full size picture)


    Again for arithmetic performance another good result. (Click here for full size picture)


    The disk performs well too. I compared it against my Hitachi 7K100, 100GB 2.5” ATA100 drive in my Dell that I upgraded recently, that drive scored 44MB/s. (Click here for full size picture)


    Can you game with it?

    Yes. I loaded in Half-Life 2, the game engine is pretty good in that the defaults it detected for the system were spot on. Basically, it was 1024x768, with medium texture and model detail, no anti-aliasing or anistropic filtering (just trilinear). The game looked good and ran smooth. There was the occasional glitch during some of the action scenes, but these were hard drive based (spooling). Most likely an extra 512MB of RAM would see these relieved and if you wanted to take it a step further, you could upgrade to a 7200rpm hard disk.

    Conclusion
    The Satellite A100 performs well and it’s nice and quiet. Even under the stress of gaming, the CPU cooling was still quiet.

    The multimedia remote is an item that would make using this as a means of watching DVDs convenient.

    I’d be happy doing software development with the system, straight out the box. The hard drive is fast enough, there’s just enough memory and there are of course two processors thanks to the Core Duo.

    If you can play a game like Half Life 2, then playing Doom3 or Unreal Tournament 2 series shouldn’t be a problem, not to mention the RTS ones like Age of Empire III. I’d say that any Unreal Engine 3 games will be out of the question.

    The only draw back in being a permanently setup desktop replacement (monitor with stand etc) is the lack of DVI output and some minor annoyances in having to access the power button.

    If you’re looking for a mobile desktop replacement system that will perform well with all aspects of things, then you won’t be disappointed with the Satellite A100.

    It’s clear from using it that the new mobile chipset from Intel has some serious improvements in performance, coupled with the Core Duo and the integrated nVidia 7300GO these system herald a new level of performance from the notebook in general.

    The Good
  • The display is good, bright and clear
  • Easy access to both the memory and hard disk
  • Hard drive is mounted in sturdy rubber frame for shock resistance
  • Firewire connector
  • Wireless on/off switch
  • Under load, the cooling fan is quiet

    The Bad
  • No DVI output
  • No front/side facing power switch, making it more annoying to power on/off when being used as a desktop replacement

    Netao Things
    -- Multimedia IR remote is a really handy
    -- Toshiba’s dual mode pad is a handy and works well
    -- Fingerprint reader makes security quick and easy, works well too


    Minor Annoyances
  • Not quite enough USB ports. Once you’ve connected a mouse, keyboard, printer and your digital camera/cradle, you’re out of ports. Really needs another one or two for say an external USB drive and your mp3 player (though you do have firewire as option for the drives)
    vMultimedia buttons on the left were quite fiddly to use. Well, for someone with fingers my size anyway.
  • The “Windows” key should be down where they have tilde (~). I mean how often do you use tilde! I’m quite fond of the windows key for desktop (Window+M), explorer (Window+E) and to bring up the start menu, of course this is from the usual keyboard layout.

    Things I’d like to see in the next model
  • Remove the LPT port and replace it with a DVI output, then remove the VGA port (now have DVI) and put two extra USB ports and a power button there too. Finished off with a side mounted finger print reader and this would make the system more appealing as a full desktop replacement configured to have the lid closed, peripherals connected and a larger LCD connected.
  • Move the power led (which right now is 2/3rds of the way up the notebook on the left) to the top of the LCD lid. Right now, in the dark this is still on, so it’s distracts from watching a movie of playing a game (yes, a very very minor gripe). This way, with the lid shut you could easily see if the device is in standby/hibernate or off and it won’t be in your vision when gaming or watching a movie.




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