First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 (PSU9NA-00600N) notebook
Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 (PSU9NA-00600N) review: A great little business laptop, but it could use better battery life
- Built-in DVD burner, ExpressCard/54 slot, good keyboard, good office application performance
- Relatively poor battery life, fingerprint reader software had to be manually updated in order to use Firefox, sluggish hard drive
The 13.3in Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 looks good, performs well, has plenty of built-in features and is comfortable to use for long periods of time. Unfortunately, it has relatively poor battery life and it ships with fingerprint reader software that needs to be upgraded if you want be able to run Firefox. These issues notwithstanding, the U500 is still a good machine for business users, but it could be much better.
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Satellite Pro U500: Battery life and Eco mode
In our standard battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise the screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the Satellite Pro U500 lasted 1hr 39min. This isn't a great result for a 13in laptop — it's even worse than some 15in laptops we've tested recently, such as the Samsung R590-JS02AU. You have to bear in mind that the Satellite Pro U500 it is using a discrete NVIDIA GeForce 310M graphics adapter, which consumes more power than an integrated Intel adapter. But even so, the Satellite Pro U500 didn't last as long as the NVIDIA Optimus–equipped Samsung Q330-JS03AU, which lasted 2hr 51min in the same test using its GeForce 310M adapter (albeit with a 2.26GHz Core i3-350M CPU instead of a Core i5-430M).
When all we did was browse the Web and write documents with a medium brightness setting, the U500's battery lasted 2hr 20min, which is a much better result, but still a far cry from the Samsung notebook. When we enabled Eco mode, the U500 gained an extra 21min, lasting a total of 2hr 41min. Overall though, this isn't a good showing, but it's understandable considering the U500's battery has a battery rating of only 3700 milliamp-hours (mAh). The Samsung has a 5200mAh battery, for example. Toshiba gives you the option to purchase 4700mAh ($154) and 9000mAh ($199) batteries if you want better life, but these will protrude from the notebook's body and also add a few more grams to the overall weight — not to mention lighten your wallet.
Satellite Pro U500: Fingerprint reader software upgrade
The Satellite Pro U500 has a fingerprint reader nestled in between the left and right touchpad buttons. It can be used to log in to Windows 7, or it can be used to access Web sites that require a password. Unfortunately, the latter function only works in Internet Explorer and not in Firefox. In fact, the Toshiba Fingerprint Utility software version that comes installed on the U500 causes a conflict with Firefox so that the browser can't even be launched.
A resolution posted to this Toshiba support page says that you won't be able to run Firefox unless you update the Fingerprint Utility software to version 18.104.22.168. Following the link on that page, and going through the support pages on Toshiba's local site, the only version we could find was 22.214.171.124, and this did not resolve the problem. We had to perform a Google search for the newer driver, and ended up finding it on the Userdrivers.com download site, which had many confusing advertisements posing as download buttons — the link to the fingerprint software is at the top of the page in a small font size. We hope Toshiba can rectify this issue and install the most up-to-date fingerprint driver by default on all models, or at least offer an easy way to download it.
It may be a tad heavy and have underwhelming standard battery life, but the Satellite Pro U500 has plenty of features, performs well for the most part and it's comfortable to use. We'd like it if a more powerful battery was installed by default and we also hope that Toshiba updates the fingerprint software on all its shipping models. We also wish the fingerprint utility would also work with Firefox.
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