You won't find many business-grade laptops with a starting price of £346.80, but that's what Toshiba's Satellite Pro range offers. There are six differently specified variants, with a further eight to be found in the Satellite C850 range. That's a lot of laptop iterations to be sure, and with the Pro range targeted at businesses, and the 'non-Pro' models at the general user, Toshiba is aiming broad.
Although that aim isn't quite as broad as it could be. When I learned I was being sent the top-of-the-range Satellite Pro model I was thinking high-end specs. But in fact, with a price of £550.80 any business buyer ought to be looking for workhorse solidity rather than whizz-bang, and for solid design rather than thin, light, look-at-me appearance. And that's pretty much what they'll get.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-10N is a laptop with a 15.6in widescreen display. I really like this as it makes working with two documents open side by side easier. As I almost always have a web browser window open regardless of whatever else I am doing, this is ideal. It'll also appeal if you do a lot of spreadsheet-based work. The more columns a spreadsheet fan can see without scrolling, the happier they tend to be.
The matte finish to the screen has business appeal, though viewing angles aren't great with the vertical plane less good than the horizontal. More irritating, perhaps, is the screen resolution. It's not that 1,366 x 768 pixels is any surprise, more that Toshiba could have thought about popping out a couple of even higher end models with higher resolution displays and not broken the bank.
The keyboard is a bone of contention. I like the fact that the width of this laptop means there is room for a separate numberpad. I'm not a big number-cruncher myself, but it could well have uses in the business world. I also like the half height row above the number row that offers all sorts of useful shortcuts. There are volume control keys; a Wi-Fi toggle; media forward, back, play/pause keys; one that turns off the touchpad; screen brightness keys; and one that switches to an external display. It's all good.
I'm not too disappointed about the lack of a backlight for the keyboard. At the price, I'm expecting some pared down specs.
What gets me down is the amount of play in the keyboard. I'm a light typist, but still the flat key panel displayed a lot of give. It isn't a feel I like. Try before you buy, and very heavy typists might like to steer clear.
It is good to see a webcam here, and even the bottom-of-the-range models sport one. Skype is pre-installed too, so video calls, if these float your boat, are immediately available. You also get Microsoft Office Starter (the ad-supported versions of Word and Excel that are free to use), and Google Chrome in addition to Internet Explorer.
Toshiba has dumped links to eBay and the BBC iPlayer on the desktop - and wouldn't you know it, the iPlayer wanted to upgrade to a newer version as soon as it was launched. McAfee Internet Security comes as a time-limited trial and Nero BackItUp is pre-installed too.
Ports and connectors are a little sparse for some business users. There are separate microphone and headphones connectors, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single USB 3.0 port, HDMI and a multi-card reader. The reader doesn't run to Memory Stick formats. There's no fingerprint scanner so if you are a fan of that login system then you might want to move along and look at another notebook.
Speed freaks might also want to cast their eyes aside, as the Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-10N runs on an Intel Core i3 2358M supported by 4GB RAM. There are no Core i5 or Core i7 models in this range. Despite this being the top model, the 500GB hard drive can be bettered by a couple of models in the 'non-Pro' range. You can get 640GB in two of the Windows 7 Home Premium-toting Toshiba Satellite C850 models.
Even the 'Pro' machines don't all run Windows 7 Professional - only the two most expensive models do. The rest run Home Premium.
Build is always important for a notebook. The stippled finish on the wrist rest, touchpad and lid sections won't be to all tastes, but it does stop you having to worry about fingerprints as it's quite resistant to them. The plastic shell is sturdy too. I wouldn't be too worried about carrying this notebook around, though its 2.3kg might cause my shoulders to grumble.
As for battery life, Toshiba contradicts itself by quoting five hours 30mins in the detailed specs at its website, but up to six hours on the 'overview' page. I ran MobileMark 2007 and got a battery rating of 263 minutes; that's four hours 23 minutes, some way short of even the lower of those two official figures.
It would have been nice to compare this top-end Satellite Pro C850 with the entry-level model just to see what the performance differences are really like. But if you are looking for a steady workhorse for straightforward office computing tasks, then this could be a good budget-conscious choice.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-10N certainly has an attractive price, and if your business computing needs are straightforward, it could do the job nicely. Just don't expect fancy build, a great keyboard, fast processor or striking, lightweight design.
Pros: solid hardware and a built-in numberpad.
Cons: lacks some features business users would like; rather spongy keyboard.
Make and Model
Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-10N
15.6in, 1,366 x 768 pixels
Intel Core i3 2350M
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Intel HD Graphics 3000
10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
VGA, Network connector (RJ-45), microphone, headphone, 2 × USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, Multi-Card Reader, HDMI
380mm x 33.5mm x 242mm (w x h x d)