Toshiba Satellite P845T-S4310 review: a little too bulky for the price

At a Glance
  • Toshiba Satellite P845T-S4310

    PCWorld Rating

Toshiba’s Satellite P845t-S4310 is an interesting mix of budget laptop and all-purpose machine. It’s bigger and bulkier than most of the sleek machines on the market today, and its performance leaves quite a bit to be desired – even within its class. But it’s not quite at the price point ($800 or less) of a budget model, probably thanks to its sturdy aluminum body and premium speakers. This laptop is a Best Buy exclusive.

Our review model, which costs $910 as configured, has a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. The Satellite also has a 14-inch touchscreen, a DVD-RW drive, and built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with WiDi capability, and it runs Windows 8.

Performance

In PCWorld’s WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the Satellite P845t-S4310 scores 43 out of 100. This means that the Satellite is about 57 percent slower than our baseline testing model, which has a third-generation Intel i5 desktop processor, 8GB of RAM, and a discrete Nvidia graphics card. It’s perhaps a bit unfair to compare a budget all-purpose laptop with a desktop, but the Satellite still underperforms for its category. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, for example, which is both slimmer and more flexible than the Satellite (and which has the same mobile processor), managed a score of 60 on our WorldBench 8 tests. The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 managed a score of 57. So the Satellite isn’t awful, but it’s also not performing up to par when compared with other similarly-equipped laptops.

The Satellite does not do much better in individual performance tests. In the PCMark 7 office productivity it scored 822, well behind the Yoga’s score of 2115 and the TouchSmart’s score of 2058. Some of the performance difference is likely due to the hard drive, as the system lacks an SSD or even a small SSD to act as a hard drive cache.

It did manage to encode video and audio relatively quickly, though, whizzing through our tests at 206 seconds and 304.9 seconds, respectively. This isn’t great, but it’s pretty good compared to the Yoga (235 seconds and 307.7 seconds, respectively), and the TouchSmart (252 seconds and 305.7 seconds, respectively). The Satellite's lack of an SSD results in a start-up time is a bit slow at 22.7 seconds cold.

Graphics performance is slightly higher than expected on the Satellite P845t-S4310. In our Dirt Showdown test (1366 by 768 pixels resolution, maximum quality settings), the Satellite managed a playable frame rate of 47.7 frames per second. Considering this laptop has no discrete graphics card, this is pretty good – the Yoga managed 30.1 fps, while the TouchSmart lagged far behind with just 17.4 fps on the same test.

We managed to eke out four hours and 22 minutes of battery life on the Satellite, using the “Balanced & Eco” setting. This is just around average for an all-purpose notebook, though perhaps a bit low for a notebook that has one of Intel’s low-voltage processors.

Design and Usability

The Satellite P845t-S4300 is disappointingly bulky, considering its premium styling elements. The laptop is clad in etched silver aluminum, has premium Harmon-Kardon speakers, and feels solid and cool to the touch. But it’s pretty hefty for a 14-inch machine – it weighs 4.3 pounds and is over an inch thick at its thickest point. In other words, it’s a far cry from the sexy, slim Ultrabooks that dominate the market today, but, svelte-ness aside, it looks fairly expensive. On the other hand, it does ship with an optical drive, which adds to the weight and bulk.

The Satellite’s silver cover has a subtle etched pattern, along with a metallic Toshiba logo in the center. The wrist rest and the area around the keyboard feature the same etched aluminum styling, which is nice, since it feels great against your wrists. The laptop sports a full-size black island-style keyboard, a button-less touchpad, and chrome accents. There’s a small power button in the upper right corner of the keyboard deck, as well as two small speakers on either side of the laptop. The screen has a glass-to-glass “bezel-less” look, with a built-in webcam.

The Satellite’s keyboard is comfortable to type on, with decent tactile feedback and nicely spaced keys. The keys are a little on the small side, and their stiffness takes some getting used to, but overall it’s a perfectly usable keyboard.

Below the keyboard there’s a large button-less trackpad. The trackpad is not as stiff as the trackpads on Toshiba’s other Satellite models, and so it’s fairly easy to use. The pad is smooth and responsive, and left- and right-clicking is effortless.

The Satellite is well-equipped port-wise, with three USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI out, discrete microphone and headphone jacks, VGA out, Gigabit Ethernet, and a Kensington lock slot. There’s also an SD card slot on the front of the machine, as well as a DVD-RW optical drive on the left side.

Screen and Speakers

The Satellite P845t-S4310 sports a glossy 14-inch multi-touch touchscreen with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. Although this is an average resolution for a 14-inch screen, it still looks a little pixelated to me. Images and text still look relatively crisp, but if you’re used to Apple’s retina screens (or basically any high-pixel-density screen), you’ll note some fuzziness. Color fidelity is just okay, and colors look slightly washed out at the higher brightness settings. Off-axis viewing angles are average – there’s some loss of contrast when you view the screen from the side, but it’s nothing crazy.

As a touchscreen, the Satellite’s display works very well. The screen is responsive and accurate, and multi-touch gestures are fairly smooth, with just a few stutters. Video looks pretty good on the Satellite, with just a little artifacting in high-motion scenes.

The Satellite’s harmon/kardon speakers don’t disappoint – they’re certainly better than what I’m used to hearing on budget 14-inch laptops. That said, they’re also not the best speakers I’ve heard recently, and sound can be a little thin and tinny at higher volume levels.

Bottom Line

The Toshiba Satellite P845t-S4310 is a pretty nice computer, with nice speakers, a useable touchscreen, and some expensive-looking design elements. But I can’t help but think that a computer this bulky and under-performing needs a lower price-point. For just a couple hundred more you can pick up an Ultrabook that probably performs better, has the same processor, and weighs less. So unless you’re really on a tight budget, I’d look for something a bit sleeker.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Pros

    • Decent video and audio encoding performance
    • Touchscreen is smooth and accurate

    Cons

    • Overall performance isn't so hot
    • Display looks a little washed out
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