Review: Toshiba Satellite P745

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By Steven Vea

There are few laptops that can offer a wealth of unique features in an equally unique design. The Toshiba Satellite P745 promises to be that complete package, with great speakers to boot.

First off, once the Toshiba Satellite P745 is right in front of your eyes, you might have mixed feelings regarding its design. It has a textured casing, which I wasn’t particularly fond of, with horizontal lines running across the laptop’s chassis.

In retrospect, the P745 feels rugged, and with a starting weight of approximately 2.3 kg, it lands right in the middle of the 14-inch notebook weight class. While I might not fancy its exterior, the surface would do well in concealing any hidden scratches or dust, allowing it look clean and pristine for a long time.

On the left side you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, the LAN jack, DVD drive and Kensington lock. On the right you’ll find the separate headphone and microphone jacks, HDMI out, one USB 3.0 sleep/charge port, VGA port, cooling vent and the DC-in jack.

Opening the lid (which can be wonderfully done with one hand without needing to support the main chassis) reveals the work space, with the brilliant backlit keyboard and LED touch function buttons stealing the show.

The illuminated tiled keyboard is the attention grabber, although it will be a matter of personal preference, as Toshiba has opted to veer away from the super-featherweight keys that most manufacturers are adopting. The square keys feel refreshingly vintage, offering just the right amount of resistance, similar to a calculator. The all-caps text labels may take time to get used to, which initially felt intrusive, but after a while you will realize it contributes to the P745’s unique look. The keys, while wonderfully spaced, might be a little small for some people though.

The touchpad also has the same design as the rest of the body, and the horizontal lines do match it quite well. There is also a backlit strip above the touchpad (as well as the illuminated Satellite logo on the left wrist rest). However, the addition of a physical button to turn the touchpad on/off is a welcome feature and completely negates the awkward placement of the fingerprint sensor between the clickers.

With regards to the left and right buttons on the touchpad, they could use an immense improvement. They require more pressure than what’s comfortable and ergonomic to activate, and more often than not, must be pressed dead center.

On the other hand, one of the P745’s strengths is the unique LED touch function buttons above the keyboard. These provide several shortcuts to Eco, Wireless, Programmable, Play/Pause, Mute, Volume Down/Up. The Eco mode triggers Toshiba’s power management utility, which allows you to dramatically and immediately reduce energy consumption to almost half of the normal rate. If you can move past the vivid green LED that lights up when this mode is on, the utility is effective and non-intrusive.

 

The Programmable function button is the best shortcut of all, as it allows you to assign a program to launch quickly, whether it’s your web browser or word processor. When customizing this function via Toshiba’s HW Utility software, you may want to turn off the Function buttons’ sounds, as they produce an alarmingly loud beep every time they are pressed.

The P745 I tested was equipped with a second-generation Intel Core i5, but it’s available in an i7 as well. Running on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit with 4GB RAM (expandable to 8GB), the system runs smooth as expected. The P745 also comes with a vast amount of Toshiba’s pre-installed software, which is great for the average user who doesn’t have time to survey the web for tools and utilities.

Now we finally get to what makes the Toshiba Satellite great. It comes equipped with Harman/Kardon speakers which are refreshingly loud and sonically impressive, which is to be expected from the manufacturer of high-end audio systems. The bass is full without becoming too muddy, and the higher frequencies are crisp but not piercing. So whether its music or movies, rest assured that the speakers will deliver.

The P745 also comes with an Nvidia GeForce GT525M video card, which is capable of handling recent games such as Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood and playing back full HD movies. The 1366×768 LED backlit display produces vibrant and clear images, but you may need to adjust some settings, as darker colors have a tendency to lack dynamic contrast.

Overall, the Toshiba Satellite P745 is a unique product with features that help it considerably stand out among the competition. It is a very capable all-in-one laptop, and is more than adequate to serve the needs of just about anyone.

Specifications:
DIMENTIONS: 339 x 229 x 28.5/35.25mm
WEIGHT: starting at 2.27 kg
PROCESSOR: 2nd Generation Intel Core i5 or i7
RAM: 4GB DDR3 (8GB max)
CONNECTIVITY: WLAN (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth 3.0 + HS, Gigabit LAN
SPEAKERS: harman/kardon stereo speakers, Dolby Advanced Audio, Sleep-and-Music

What’s Hot:
 • Function buttons
• harman/kardon speakers

What’s Not:
• hit-or-miss design
• tough clickers

Bottomline:
If you like the P745’s design, this Satellite should make its way into your purchasing orbit.

Buy Meter: 8.5

[This review originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]