- Review Date: 06/01/11
- Bottom line:
The Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 laptop offers plenty of processing power thanks to its second-generation Intel Core i3-2310M processor. Throw in a Blu-ray player, improved graphics and gaming options, and a sub-$800 price tag, this is an enticing laptop for buyers on a budget.
Second-generation Intel Core i3 processor. Clever features like Sleep-and-Charge and Sleep-and-Listen. Blu-ray drive is a steal at this price. Great speakers and sound.
Lackluster display. Hard drive is oh-so-average. Lots of bloatware.
It's tough to compete against the elite, even for a laptop. Most desktop replacements are overshadowed by performance-driven laptops, like the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) ($2,199 direct, 4 stars) and Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) ($1,785 direct, 4 stars), that give you premium design, features, and parts, but for a hefty price. The Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 ($800 street) can't compete with these laptops in terms of raw processing and graphics power, but it manages to snag some attention thanks to a new Intel second-generation processor, Blu-ray drive, Harman/Kardon speakers that deliver premium sound, and a price tag that the elite systems can't match.
The A665-S5176 has a charcoal grey plastic chassis with Toshiba's Fusion X2 finish, which features a two-color pattern that ripples through the plastic construction. Texturing across the lid and palm rest wards off smudges and adds a unique visual element. This textured pattern stops short of covering the entire laptop, and the edges of the lid and palm rest have a glossy finish instead. This finish does little to hide unsightly fingerprints, yet Toshiba places these glossy surfaces where the laptop will be touched the most.
This textured pattern crosses over to the touchpad as well, though it's more subtle. However, whether you like the feel under your finger is a matter of personal preference--I personally don't care for it. Along the top of the touchpad is a glowing strip, which should make it easy to find in the dark. The multitouch capability does the trick nicely, adding two-finger scrolling and zoom to your regular point-and-click repertoire. The two mouse buttons along the bottom edge of the touchpad work well, but are also covered in a glossy, fingerprint-collecting finish.
The keyboard is in the chiclet-style, with raised keys and a glossy finish that matches the plastic chassis. The keyboard is complemented by a full-sized numeric keypad. My only complaint is with Toshiba's layout, which sets the keypad a fraction of an inch out of line compared to the rest of the keyboard. Some users may actually prefer this set-up, but I find it disjointed and uncomfortable. Along the top edge of the keyboard is a touch-sensitive strip with media controls, letting you adjust volume, start and stop playback and turn Wi-Fi on and off.
The Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 has a 15.6-inch screen and a maximum resolution of 1,366 by 768. While you can find other desktop replacements with better displays they come at a steep premium. The Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge), with its 1,920-by-1,080 True HD resolution and RGB LED screen, is a fully-loaded laptop with a $1,785 price tag.
Two Harman/Kardon speakers are paired with Dolby Premium Sound software to provide crisp, clear sound at any volume setting. They even provide a fair amount of bass response for a system without a built-in sub-woofer. You can also listen to music on the speakers while the rest of the laptop is powered down thanks to Toshiba's Sleep-and-Music feature.
For a desktop replacement laptop, the Toshiba Satellite A665D-S5175 ($799 list, 3 stars) has one of the smaller, slower hard drives available. While a 500GB 5,400rpm drive might be fine for a budget system, it's not enough to compete with the larger and faster 750GB 7,200rpm drive found in the Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge), or even the 640GB drive found in the Satellite A665D-S5175. Toshiba does, however, protect this drive well, thanks to 3D Drive Guard, which senses shock and vibration and slows the rotation of the hard drive to prevent damage and data loss.
The laptop's Blu-ray drive is a big plus. In this price range, most desktop replacements, like the HP Pavilion dv6-3243cl ($799 list, 3.5 stars), or even the pricey Editors' Choice Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt), include only a DVD rewritable drive. Plus, while Blu-ray and DVDs will both look great on the laptop's 720p screen, you can also use the HDMI output to connect to an HDTV. The HDMI output offers up to 1080p resolution, and the drive has DVD up-conversion baked in, meaning that even your regular DVDs will look better when played onto an HDTV. If you want to connect to a second monitor, there's a VGA output as well.
The A665-S5176 has plenty of other connections and features on board as well. 4 USB 2.0 ports provide connections for an array of peripherals, and you can even charge your devices with the laptop powered down thanks to Toshiba's Sleep-and-Charge. Networking is simple with 802.11 Wi-Fi and a wired Ethernet jack.
Toshiba doesn't hesitate to shovel on the bloatware, and this laptop has a full load. In addition to the usual software trials, like a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Office 2001 Starter, you'll also find an array of pre-installed software. These range from dedicated website links to sites like Amazon, to browser toolbars and games. Plus, Toshiba includes no less than 27 proprietary programs, running the gamut from useful to useless. Either way, there is enough here to warrant taking an afternoon to clean up the new laptop. Toshiba does include more than bloatware with their laptops, however. They also back up their laptops with a 1-year limited warranty that covers parts and labor.
The A665-S5176 features one of Intel's second-generation processors. The 2.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3-2310M processor offers expanded graphics capability over the last processor generation, so while it lacks a discrete graphics chip, it will still be able to play some medium to low-end games.
When stacked against other desktop replacements with Intel's new processors, the Toshiba Satellite A655-S5176 performed well with its Core i3 processor, managing 4,990 points in PCMark Vantage and 2.04 points in Cinebench R11.5. By comparison the Samsung RC512-S02 scored 4.83 in CineBench and 7,201 in PCMark Vantage, but it did so with a substantially more powerful second-gen Core i7-2630QM quad-core processor. In day-to-day tasks, however, you will see little difference.
Where the laptop really shined is in the graphics department. Previous Intel CPU iterations required a discrete graphics processor in order to handle 3D games, but the second-generation processors offer significantly improved graphics capability. The A665-S5176 produced 14.26 frames per second (fps) in Crysis on Medium settings and 4.51 fps on Very High. In our other gaming tests, Lost Planet 2, it managed 17.6 fps on Medium, but couldn't run the test on High settings. While these scores won't impress competitive gamers, they are a quantum leap beyond previous Core i3 systems, which required a discrete graphics processor just to run the tests.
In 3DMark06, the A665-S5176, with its revamped integrated graphics, scored 4,543 points on medium resolution settings, and 2,364 points at native resolution. Current high-end desktop replacements can easily surpass these scores, however, thanks to more powerful Core i7 processors and discrete graphics. For example, the Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) puts these improvements to shame with 3DMark scores of 9,787 (medium) and 5,115 (native). The hardware necessary for these improved scores is significant though, and may effectively put the Dell XPS 15 out of your price range.
The A665-S5176 can also be used for multimedia authoring, as indicated by our Photoshop CS5 photo manipulation test and Handbrake video encoding test. It pushed through Photoshop in 5 minutes 34 seconds and completed our Handbrake test in 3:09. Granted, these scores pale when compared to those of the Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) (Photoshop CS5 4:06, Handbrake 2:11) and the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) (Photoshop CS5 3:58, Handbrake 1:53), but they are sufficient for occasional dabbling.
The A665-S5176 also performed well in our MobileMark 2007 battery run-down test. With a 6-cell (48Wh) battery, it lasted 4 hours 37 minutes, easily long enough to get some work done or watch a movie or two. This score is nearly identical to 4:40 of the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt). The Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) managed significantly longer battery life (6:58) but did so with a battery nearly twice as large (92Wh).
When stacked up against the finest desktop replacements, like the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) and Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge), the Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 feels like a low-rent pretender, unable to compete with the high-grade components or command $2000 prices. But when measured against bargain laptops, like the Editors' Choice Acer Aspire AS5742-647, the A665-S5176 can be seen for the steal that it is, offering the latest components, like a second-generation Intel processor, premium sound, or a Blu-ray drive—for an affordable price.