Toshiba Satellite L855-118 review

Pros

  • Good value
  • Fast Core i7 processor
  • AMD Radion HD 7670M graphics
  • Blu-ray combo drive
  • Decent performance

Cons

  • Limited battery life

Intel's regular processor update roadmap shows no signs of abating. Toshiba's Satellite L855-118 is our first taste of the company's latest generation, called Ivy Bridge, which is the successor to 2011's Sandy Bridge. It's essentially a miniaturisation of Sandy Bridge, but with a few extra improvements. So it's a little bit faster than its predecessor, and consumes less power, with otherwise similar specifications, rather than a radical new range.

Toshiba's new Satellite uses one of the performance-oriented Intel Core i7 processors, the 3610QM. This is nominally a 2.3GHz quad-core chip, but it incorporates Intel's usual high-end bonus features, in the shape of Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost 2.0. Hyper-Threading splits each physical core into two virtual ones. So the processor is detected as an eight-core CPU. It doesn't provide anywhere near the performance of eight real cores, but there are noticeable benefits for highly parallel tasks, like 3D rendering. Turbo Boost 2.0 allows a single core to step up to 3.3GHz under load, and multiple cores can run at between 2.3GHz and 3.3GHz for extended periods. So the Satellite will be ideally suited to a wide range of tasks.

The L855-118 seems just about the right size for this reasonably meaty processor, too. It weighs in at an acceptable 2.3kg and sports a 15.6in widescreen display with a 16:9 aspect and 1,366 x 768 resolution. This isn't a bad display, and sports a high contrast surface. Horizontal viewing angles are decent, but vertical angles are not so impressive. The chassis is a little thick at 32.5mm, but the lid and palm rest have an attractive polished metal finish, while the base is made of plastic. The keyboard has a reassuring action, although perhaps a little light. The large touchpad is comfortable, with support for some multi-touch actions such as pinch-to-zoom, and has responsive buttons. So ergonomically the Satellite acquits itself well.

Toshiba has partnered the Core i7 with a reasonable but not outstanding 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory, although up to 16GB is possible. However, while one of the other major enhancements of the new Intel processor is much improved integrated HD 4000 graphics, they are still not quite at the level of discrete graphics if you're an avid gamer. So the L855-188 ships with AMD Radeon HD 7670M acceleration. This is still a mid-range graphics chipset, with 480 stream processors, but it sports a very healthy 2GB of dedicated memory. So it has plenty on offer if you do fancy a bit of gaming.

Storage is generous but conventional. There's a 750GB Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 hard disk, rather than a solid state alternative. This is also a 5,400rpm disk, so won't be particularly quick even among the company of mobile hard disks. But it is reasonably capacious. The optical drive is a Matshita BD-CMB UJ-160B Blu-ray combo, allowing you to watch Blu-ray discs as well as write and read DVDs and CDs. This will be great for every form of disc-based multimedia, while the stereo speakers with SRS Premium Sound HD provide reasonable, distortion-free volume, but lack bass. There's a 1-megapixel webcam in the screen bezel, too, for video calling.

The L855-188 is reasonably well endowed for connectivity, too. There are a couple of USB 3.0 ports on the right plus a lone USB 2.0 on the left. Also on the right are HDMI and VGA, plus mini-jacks for headphones and a microphone. An SD memory card slot lurks under the front lip of the machine on the right. Gigabit Ethernet can also be found on the right, and both 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth wireless are available, providing comprehensive networking options.

To test performance, we ran a selection of standard benchmarks. Maxon's workstation-oriented Cinebench R11.5 provides a good indication of brute processor power. Its rendering test returned a score of 6.19, which is very respectable, showing the raw power of the Intel Core i7 3610QM processor. The OpenGL score of 35.52 is also very respectable, showing that the L855-188 will be up for professional 3D work if required. The 3DMark11 score of 1200 in the Performance preset of the test is mid-range, but shows that this notebook will support gaming at a much higher quality than even the latest Intel integrated graphics could muster. Over the coming weeks, we will be adding more benchmarks to our suite of tests, so check back on future reviews to see how the Toshiba L855-188 compares in performance with its competitors.

Battery life was one of the few weak areas for the L855-188. The system lasted around an hour on our most gruelling processor-intensive battery test in balanced power mode, whereas Toshiba claims up to 4.5-hours in general usage. So it will just about be able to play you an entire Blu-ray movie on the move, and give you a useful European flight's worth of work time away from a power socket. But it won't let you work on battery all day.

This Satellite may be a good deal lighter and more portable than a heavy-duty desktop replacement, but in reality it's only going to give you a little bit more battery life, although Toshiba has included an Eco mode, which judicially turns off and reduces the performance of key components to extend duration.

Verdict

While the Toshiba Satellite L855-118 is no super-thin style merchant, nor a shoulder-destroying gaming powerhouse, it is well suited to lots of different tasks, and at £729.99 it's very reasonably priced. The battery life will make it better matched to hot desking rather than road warrior duties, but it's otherwise a very flexible machine. If you're after a portable companion that will be comfortable turning its hand to most tasks, from business to gaming and entertainment, the L855-118 shows Toshiba's Satellite range has kept its reputation for giving you a lot for your money.

Manufacturer and Product

Toshiba Satellite L855-118

Processor

2.3GHz Intel Core i7 3610QM

RAM

4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

AMD HD Radeon 7670M with 2GB

Hard disk

750GB Hitachi Travelstar 5K750

Optical disc

Matshita BD-CMB UJ-160B Blu-ray DVD rewriter combo

Display

15.6in Toshiba TruBrite HD TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0

Interfaces

2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, SD card reader

Width x Depth x Height

380 x 242 x 32.55mm

Weight

2.3kg

Warranty

1 year collect and return