Toshiba’s Satellite Pro A300 is a rather drab-looking workhorse that will satisfy business users looking for a device that’s better than an entry-level laptop but cheaper than a mid-level unit.
We weren’t impressed with the A300’s identically designed cousin, the Satellite Pro P300 (PSPCDA-00L00D), because of its boring grey aesthetic and dearth of features relative to its price tag (particularly because Toshiba is the source of the excellent and attractive Satellite A300 (PSAG4A-02600M)).
Fortunately for Toshiba, many business users won’t mind their laptop having the complexion of an elephant and, cosmetics aside, this notebook offers decent performance and a great range of expansion options for a price that's much more competitive the Toshiba Satellite Pro P300's .
Opening the hood reveals a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 CPU and 2GB of DDR2 RAM, as well as a 200GB hard drive that spins at 5400rpm. While this isn’t much space for those looking to store lots of movies or play high-end games, business users who limit themselves to office functions should find the capacity adequate.
That’s not to say that the A300 lacks gaming performance, however, with the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 providing a 3DMark06 score of 3803. The result isn’t mind-blowing, but it certainly is refreshing for around $1500, and will allow for faster frame rates when playing games. Even though we all know office workers would never game at work [Yeah you were just testing that graphics card — Ed], this notebook will be able to handle older games like F.E.A.R. at middle to low settings. Newer games like Crysis will probably barely run.
More relevant to all types of users is the excellent keyboard, which is easy to use and has great key response. The touchpad lacks traction but has fairly responsive tracking along with a fingerprint scanner between the left- and right-click buttons for more convenient security.
The A300’s 15.4in screen, with its native resolution of 1280x800, is fairly good and has decent colour contrast. Using it in sunlight is bound to cause reflectivity problems, but then this is a widespread issue found in almost all brands of notebooks.
Most users won’t mind the lack of Blu-ray drive, especially given the low price of this device. The dual-layer DVD-RW that is provided should continue to be relevant for some time to come thanks to the relatively slow take-up of the next-gen format.
Thankfully the notebook offers great future-proofing in the form of expansion options. Older ports like D-sub and S-video out are provided, and there is a built-in dial-up modem, too. Sleep and charge USB 2.0 ports continue to be a Toshiba staple and four of them are present, with one of them doubling as an e-SATA connection. There is also a FireWire port, which is a useful addition, and it sits below an ExpressCard/54 slot. This slot is great for attaching a 3G data card or digital TV-tuner.
When put through its paces in our worst case scenario DVD rundown test, the Pro A300 survived for 1hr 30min, which is pretty much the average for a 15.4in notebook. The laptop is a little on the heavy side, coming in at 2.8kg without the power supply and 3.5kg with it included.