Toshiba Satellite A500-19X notebook

Toshiba's Satellite A500-19X is a mid-range multimedia laptop. It's considerably smaller and cheaper than the company’s own Qosmio range, yet proves every bit as able. While we've tested an A500 before, the internal specification has changed quite a bit and prices have also tumbled.

The 16-inch screen isn't quite so impressive as its larger brethren, with an average 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. It’s still among the brighter panels we've seen though, and colour reproduction is also very good. In keeping with most modern consumer laptops, it features a Super-TFT coating, limiting use in sunnier conditions.

Where this machine really impresses is in its multimedia abilities, with enough performance on offer to put much larger machines to shame. It features an Intel Core 2 Duo processor T6600, clocked at 2.2GHz and backed by 4GB RAM. On the graphics front the mid-range Nvidia GeForce GT 230M provides more than enough power to play games such as Resident Evil and Colin McCae's DIRT series at the Satellite's native resolution, even with detail settings turned up reasonably high. We also had no trouble running photo and video editing suites, with the GPU offering a performance boost in Adobe's CS4.

The A500 features a squat, attractive design. It's not the most portable - with a chassis that measures 41mm thick at the rear - but it's relatively compact when it comes to width and depth, with the screen stretching almost to the edges of its bezel. Portability is also hampered somewhat by a battery life of only around 2 and a half hours.

The keyboard also stretches most of the width of the chassis, providing large keys as a result. It offers excellent levels of comfort, with a reassuring click to each key. That said, the board does flex slightly under pressure. There's a numeric keypad alongside, although its inclusion means that some of the keys aren’t where we'd expect them to be.

The location of the delete button is the main issue, as it's surrounded by the home, end, insert and scroll lock keys, making it far too easy to hit the wrong one if you're not looking what you’re doing. Toshiba has stuck with the tried and tested media buttons above the keyboard, making it simple to control CDs and DVDs at the touch of a button.

Those wanting to connect external displays and high-definition TVs are well served by the inclusion of VGA and HDMI ports on the left side of the chassis. There’s a USB/eSATA combo port, along with a USB port, ExpressCard slot, and sockets for microphones and headphones.

On the right side, you'll find a further duo of USB ports and the optical drive. Despite Toshiba's decision to support Blu-ray, the drive is still just a regular multi-format DVD rewriter. The front of the machine houses a memory card reader, along with a hardware switch to disable the wireless antennas.

Verdict

Where the last Satellite A500 we reviewed - the A500-11U - lost out due to the same 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, at around £400 cheaper it’s no longer such a consideration for the A500-19X.

Sure, the A500 would still benefit from a higher pixel count, but if you're on the lookout for a semi-portable media centre with enough power to play the latest games, then the excellent quality and decent specification make this a difficult machine to ignore.