Toshiba Satellite P870 notebook
A 17.3in notebook with lots of style and plenty of speed, but it could use improvements in some areas
- Fast performance
- Good overall style
- Comfortable to use
- Screen isn't full HD
- Storage configuration could be better for the price
- Wi-Fi is single-band only
The Satellite P780 offers great performance and plenty of style, and it's very comfortable to use. It has some drawbacks as far as its screen, storage and Wi-Fi are concerned, but it's still a versatile system that's suitable for pretty much any home computing task.
Price$ 1,599.00 (AUD)
The Satellite P870 (PSPLFA-01C001) is the big boy in Toshiba's notebook range, and it's designed for those of you want a large and luxurious computer for the home. It has a big, 17.3in screen, a full-sized keyboard, a good array of ports, and it even has a Blu-ray drive so that you can use it for entertainment purposes. But considering its $1599 price, there are a few drawbacks.
Specifications and performance
The main thing you should know about the P870 is that it provides very good speed, not only for office, Web and communications tasks, but also for image and video editing, and some gaming. It has an NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M graphics adapter installed, in addition to an Intel Core i7-3630QM CPU and 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM (upgradeable to 16GB via two free slots). Its 1TB hard drive will let you store plenty of data directly on the laptop, and if you plug in a USB-based digital TV tuner, you could even turn it into a TV/PVR unit. There is also a slot for a second, 2.5in SATA hard drive in the notebook's base, in case you ever want to add more internal hard drive space.
In our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the Satellite P870 recorded times of 19sec and 42sec, respectively, which are almost identical to the times recorded by the other Core i7-3630QM-equipped notebook that we've seen to date, MSI's GT70 Dragon Edition (the Toshiba was 1sec slower in iTunes). In the Handbrake test, in which we convert a DVD file into an MP4 file, the Toshiba took 9min 52sec, which is actually a couple of seconds faster than the MSI. For all intents and purposes, the P870 is a fast machine that will accommodate you easily if you want to perform tougher tasks than just browsing the Web and sending email.
Its GeForce GT 630M graphics adapter recorded a score of 9406 in 3DMark06, which isn't indicative of what a great gaming notebook can do (great gaming notebooks generally score 15000-20000 in this older benchmark), but it will definitely let you play many games at low detail and resolution levels. The screen itself is limited to a resolution of 1600x900, which should allow you to get good performance out of many games while still sticking with the native resolution of the screen, but we're disappointed that the screen isn't Full HD, especially when you take into account the installed Blu-ray drive.
The hard drive in this notebook is a 1TB, 5400rpm model that recorded a transfer rate of 26.5 megabytes per second (MBps) in our file duplication tests, while in CrystalDiskMark it recorded 108MBps for both reading and writing. It's not the fastest drive we've seen considering its density, and you don't get a solid state cache to quicken boot times and application load times. It should be noted that there is a free Mini PCIe slot in the chassis, but the system did not detect any of the Intel SSDs that we inserted. Additionally, the notebook's HM76 chipset doesn't support RAID, which is necessary for using SSDs as cache drives with Intel's Rapid Storage Technology (which is not installed). You can consider Toshiba's X870 model if you want RAID.
That said, the notebook felt very swift during everyday usage. However, Toshiba has installed plenty of software, which runs in the background and can be very annoying. Much like the 15.6in Toshiba Satellite P840, it's a notebook that you'll definitely have to clean up or configure before you can really enjoy your time using it.
A battery with a rating of 48 Watt-hours is installed, which seems a little on the small side for such a big laptop. It lasted a decent 3hr 1min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video file. If it had an ultra-low voltage CPU rather than a full-voltage mobile CPU, it could have lasted a lot longer. For comparison, the Dell Inspiron 17R, which is a 17in notebook with a larger 65 Watt-hour battery and an ultra-low voltage CPU, lasted 4hr 33min in the same test.
Design and comfort
Physically, the Satellite P870 is well made, it features a smart, metallic look and finish, and despite being 2.9kg, it feels well balanced to carry. That doesn't mean it's easy to carry. We think it's way too big too big to carry around on a regular basis, especially if you use public transport.
As a desktop replacement for the home, though, it's perfect. Its keyboard is full, with spaced out keys and a number pad, and there is plenty of room to rest your palms — it's also beautifully backlit. The keys themselves have a soft, yet somewhat spongy, but they feel good to hit and they bounce back well; only the Enter key on our keyboard felt a little rough to press.
The touchpad is large (111x78mm) and it performed quite well in our tests. It was mostly accurate and it performed multi-finger gestures and Windows 8 swipe-in gestures without problems. However, tapping and pressing the physical buttons sometimes made the cursor move off its intended mark; this was especially noticeable when we clicked the right button.
If you're into audio, you should love the built-in speakers, which reside just above the keyboard on each side, and which are highlighted by a little bit of chrome. They provide a reasonably loud, but, most importantly, clear and well defined sound. As far as notebook speakers are concerned, these are among the best. You can use the functions keys to adjust volume (they have been set up to perform this task first, no need to press the Fn key). The only thing is, the volume sounds loud at 50 per cent, and not much louder at 100 percent.
As for the 17.3in screen, it could use a higher resolution, but its 1600x900 resolution still looks good. It's a reasonably vibrant and easy to view screen, as long as you don't use it in areas with lots of light; the glossy finish will do its best to reflect lots of light.
The Satellite P870 is great as a desktop replacement notebook. It's comfortable to use thanks to its good keyboard and mostly vibrant screen, and we like its speakers. It also doesn't get warm and the noise from its fan is reasonable when the unit is under a heavy workload.
That said, there are a few things that could be better, especially for the $1599 price tag. It only has single-band rather than dual-band Wi-Fi, its screen isn't Full HD despite the unit shipping with a Blu-ray player, and the storage doesn't include an SSD cache drive to speed up the overall performance of the unit. But despite these issues, we still think it's worthy of consideration.
Related Windows 8 laptop reviews:
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• MSI GT70 Dragon Edition gaming notebook
• ASUS VivoBook S400C touchscreen Ultrabook
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