Toshiba’s Satellite U500-178 is a highly portable laptop that’s great for either home use or a life on the move. With a 13.3-inch screen, it’s small enough to slip into most laptop bags, yet also packs in a powerful Nvidia GeForce G 210M graphics card.
The screen offers impressive colour reproduction, and the 1280 x 800 pixel resolution also provides sharp images. Unlike most of the Toshiba’s rivals, it’s not a 16:9 widescreen panel, so isn’t quite so ideally suited to movie playback, but those using spreadsheets will appreciate the extra height. The glossy finish won’t suit all users, but reflections aren’t too problematic unless you’re working in direct sunlight.
The U500 features a compact and attractive design, using textured plastics to good effect. Our review sample featured a distinctive dark brown finish, and quality throughout was very impressive. All of the plastics are tough enough for daily use and, although the weight of just over 2kg isn’t the lightest we’ve seen on a machine of this size, it’s easily light enough for the commute.
The keyboard offers excellent levels of comfort, with large and responsive keys. It’s let down by a spongy typing action, however, with the board flexing under pressure. Backlighting on our range-topping sample makes up for this slightly, making it easy to work in any lighting conditions.
Despite the compact footprint, this is a machine you’ll be able to use for any task – from video editing to playing the latest games. The powerful Nvidia GeForce graphics card can draw upon 512MB of dedicated video memory, with everyday performance further boosted by the inclusion of 4GB of system memory. Helping to offer value for money, a speedy 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 processor provides quick responses, and helps the system to run smoothly at all times.
Networking features are comprehensive, including 802.11n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, 3G/HSDPA isn’t an option, which may be an issue for those wanting to work on the move. On the left-hand side of the chassis, there are two USB ports and an ExpressCard slot.
There’s a further USB/eSATA port on the right-hand side, supporting Toshiba’s USB Sleep-and-Charge technology. Letting you charge other devices – such as your iPod or mobile phone, even when the laptop isn’t turned on, it’s a feature we’re quite fond of. Most popular memory card formats are supported, via a 5-in-1 card reader. An HDMI port rounds off the specification.
Although the quality of the keyboard lets it down, the Toshiba Satellite U500-178 is a great machine for those wanting to combine their desktop PC and laptop. It’s easily small enough to take to work with you each day, yet provides outstanding office and multimedia performance. A great all-rounder, and well worth a look.