Windows 8 has given computer manufacturers a good excuse to reconfigure their ranges, with updates of existing products or entirely new models. The Satellite L875-12P is a refresh of the L875 range, but in this case there isn't any noticeable change to the underlying hardware, because this was already a fairly recent release with the latest Intel processor generation.
The L875 is a fairly conventional desktop replacement system, with a 17.3in widescreen display and a relatively sober appearance. Most of the chassis is adorned with a classy grey-blue metallic finish, with the keyboard embedded in a glossy black plastic surround and the speakers and power button within a grille just below the screen. Overall, the look fits the L875's status as a multimedia machine that's not an Alienware-style gaming powerhouse. The chassis corners are fashionably rounded, but this is a wide system at 413mm and relatively heavy at 2.7kg too.
The core specification isn't far off the Dell Inspiron 17R we looked at recently. The processor is the same mid-range Intel Core i5 3210M, which runs at a nominal 2.5GHz, but a single core can be increased to 3.1GHz via Intel's Turbo Boost 2.0. This is a dual-core CPU, although Hyper-Threading means it can masquerade as a virtual quad-core. The Intel processor has been partnered by a healthy 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory. The two 4GB DIMMs can be swapped for 8GB modules, too, to provide a maximum of 16GB. So this laptop has room for improvement should this be required in the future.
Like Dell's Inspiron 17R, the L875-12P augments its HD 4000 graphics with a discrete addition, to boost 3D power. However, where Dell opted for Nvidia graphics, Toshiba has chosen the AMD route, supplying a Radeon 7670M chipset. This comes with a very healthy 2GB of its own memory, too, although it is only DDR3, rather than the GDDR5 supplied with the Dell's Nvidia chipset. The Radeon 7670M sports 480 stream processors, so has plenty of processing grunt on offer, and supports both DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.2.
Storage is relatively generous, although it doesn't venture into the more expensive and high-performance territory of the solid state disk, not even as a hybrid cache. Instead, a decidedly capacious 1TB Toshiba MQ01ABD100 hard disk takes care of main storage, although this is only a 5,400rpm model rather than the generally quicker 7,200rpm variety. A Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology 8x DVD rewriter and SD card slot provide removable storage options.
The 17.3in display sports a resolution of 1,600 x 900, which is what we would expect at this size, although 1,920 x 1,080 would also have been possible. It produces vivid colours and has decent horizontal viewing angles, but as with most TFTs the vertical viewing angles are decidedly poor, and this isn't helped by the glossy surface of the screen, which can be rather reflective in bright conditions. The speakers have plenty of volume on offer, although not as much bass as the Dell Inspiron 17R, so the sound is not quite so rich.
The keyboard is rather comfortable, with well-proportioned keys and a clearly defined action. There's enough room for a separate numeric keypad on the right, and the row of function keys along the top conveniently doubles up as media playback controls. The touchpad is relatively large, but still includes discrete buttons. It executes multi-touch functions with efficiency, and the buttons offer a comfortable click.
On the left can be found just a single USB 2.0 port, alongside the power connection and optical drive. The SD card slot lurks under the front corner on the right, where you might not even notice its presence.
The right-hand side is home to the majority of ports, including VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, twin USB 3.0, and separate minijacks for headphones and microphone. Like the Dell Inspiron 17R, however, there is no ExpressCard slot for internal peripheral expansion. There's no option for 3G mobile data, either, but the usual 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are on offer.
Since it has the same CPU model as the Dell Inspiron 17R, raw processing power isn't much different. The score of 2.9 in the rendering portion of Maxon Cinebench R11.5 is only a slight improvement. The OpenGL result of 34.84 is better, although not by enough to be tremendously noticeable in the real world.
Conversely, the Toshiba L875-12P doesn't quite keep up with the Dell in the DirectX-based 3DMark11 and 3DMark06 tests. The result in the former of 1,197 is close enough, but the score of 8,453 in 3DMark06 is noticeably behind. Nevertheless, the L875-12P will provide better gaming performance than notebooks equipped with just Intel integrated graphics.
Battery life is slightly ahead of the Inspiron 17R, however. Toshiba quotes four hours in MobileMark 2007, and the L875 managed 93 minutes with processor and graphics both running at 100 per cent, which is around 20 per cent longer than the Dell Inspiron 17R could manage. Since the latter already offers decent endurance for a desktop replacement notebook, managing more than three hours in MobileMark 2007, the L875 might just muster a whole movie away from the power. It certainly will provide a useful amount of general office work or presentation time un-tethered for around the quoted four hours.
The Toshiba Satellite L875-12P is slightly more expensive than Dell's Inspiron 17R, but it does come with more memory and storage to compensate, and a better battery life. However, as we pointed out in our analysis of Windows 8, the Metro interface doesn't really work for a notebook without a touchscreen, although this isn't specifically a criticism of the L875-12P hardware per se. If you're used to the last 17 years of Windows, you will be reaching for the traditional Start button and finding yourself constantly frustrated by Metro. This aside, the L875-12P makes a very similar argument to Dell's Inspiron 17R as a desktop replacement you can use on the road for a reasonable length of time. We'd just suggest specifying it with Windows 7 instead, or installing a third-party Start button replacement.