As the desktop replacement notebook market fills up, the Toshiba Satellite Pro P300 (PSPCDA-00L00D) finds itself either matched or outpaced in almost every respect: from aesthetics and performance to multimedia features and value. In fact, the Pro P300’s only saving graces are its excellent keyboard and its relatively large dual hard drives.
When lifting the screen of the P300, two words come to mind: “big” and “boring”. While this isn’t a problem for business users preferring functionality over style, it’s odd that the same company that brought out the very stylish and powerful Satellite A300 (PSAG4A-02600M) has now presented such a dull and dreary option.
Using the Pro P300 was easy and comfortable thanks to the generous full-sized keyboard and number pad, as well as the speedy internal components.
In terms of performance, the P300 is a good notebook thanks to its strong hardware. A 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor runs the show with 4GB of DDR2 RAM. It should be noted, however, that the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista Business and Windows XP provided with the Toshiba aren’t able to properly use all 4GB, leaving around 1GB wasted.
More impressive are the two 320GB hard drives, which spin at 5400rpm and provide more than enough space for most users. It’s also more storage space than most notebooks provide, even when they’re as big as the P300. The 17in screen with a native resolution of 1440 x 900 also works well, providing vivid colour reproduction.
In our iTunes test, where we strain the CPU by converting 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, the strength of the T9400 shone through with an excellent time of 1min 10sec. This was slightly slower than what we were expecting, but still indicative of a fast processor. Due to a software malfunction, our WorldBench 6 tests were unable to complete the Autodesk 3D rendering benchmarks, and this explains the relatively low score of 83.
The ATI Mobility Radeon HD3650 was able to produce a 3DMark06 score of 3901, which indicates an ability to play older games like Half Life 2 and F.E.A.R. at medium settings, but an inability to churn through newer DirectX 10 titles such as Crysis.
Sadly, this is where we have to start mentioning the similarly priced laptops that blow the P300 straight out of the water. Although NEC’s Versa P9210-2500DR is just $70 more, it offers an identical CPU along with a 3DMark06 score of 5881.
The Satellite comes with a range of expansion options. Toshiba’s four 'Sleep and Charge' USB 2.0 ports are brilliant, offering power to USB-based devices such as MP3 players without the need to power on the entire computer. One of these doubles as an e-SATA port, letting users connect to a range of products, such as external hard drives, at very high speeds. The lack of an HDMI port is puzzling, given the widespread adoption of the connection. Fortunately there is an S-video out port and a D-sub port for connecting to older external displays.
Toshiba, the main promoter of HD-DVD, stubbornly refuses to surrender against Sony’s Blu-ray format and provides dual-layer DVD-RW optical drives across its range. In the up and coming entertainment series of notebooks Toshiba partially negates this by including built-in FM radio and DVB-T tuners, but they have strangely left both out in the P300.
In contrast, the afore-mentioned NEC has both a Blu-ray player and an HDMI port while other laptops like Dell’s Studio 17 (1735) skip the Blu-ray player in favour of TV tuner cards. While these features aren’t essential to business notebooks, the added extras never hurt — especially when the prices are practically identical.
Given that the P300 is a desktop replacement equipped with a 17in screen, it’s no surprise that the unit is fairly heavy. Weighing in at 3.45kg without the power supply, the package is 4.2kg all up making it a back-breaking effort to move around. When we ran our battery rundown test by looping a DVD movie the Pro P300 held out for 81 minutes. This isn’t a particularly good result: it will cut short the majority of feature length films just before the climax.
In terms of network connectivity, the Toshiba offers the latest options with 802.11n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet built in, along with Bluetooth 2.1 for users with compatible accessories.