The Toshiba Satellite A500 is a budget laptop aimed at those who don't earn a banker's salary but still want a machine that will let them watch movies, listen to music and play the odd game. There are two versions available: the A500-17X and the A500-19X. Here we review the slightly inferior A500-19X, which is available for around £600.
The A500 isn't particularly adventurous in terms of its design. Its chunky chassis, large, upwards-facing speakers and prominent Toshiba logo are all to be expected from the Satellite range. It all comes together rather well, though. We especially like the fact that the entire laptop -- even the keyboard -- is coated in a glossy black finish with a subtle isobar-style wave pattern, and the oversize chrome mouse selector buttons are also appealing.
That glossy finish has its drawbacks, though. It looks gorgeous when clean, but, if you lay a finger or palm or even breathe on it, it'll attract grime and smudges quicker than Usain Bolt can smash a world record. Even the screen has a glossy finish. While that's useful for enhancing the appearance of colours and contrast, it has the same annoying habit of becoming easily soiled on contact with human skin.
One of our favourite things about the A500 is its solid build quality. It feels almost bomb-proof, and will inspire confidence in its users. Its keyboard is worthy of particular praise. Its springy, positive action feels absolutely phenomenal and is so satisfying to type on that it's almost reminiscent of popping bubble wrap or walking on crisp autumn leaves. The aforementioned ludicrously oversized mouse selector buttons feel great too, with a positive action that'll leave you in no doubt as to whether you've clicked them.
The A500 is designed as a multimedia laptop, so it should be best-suited to watching movies, playing music and generally helping users enjoy the lighter side of computing. Unfortunately, it's not as good as it could be in this regard. Its most important feature, its 16-inch screen, has a relatively low resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. That's what we'd expect from machines with displays of around 11 inches.
The good news is that the A500-19X's Nvidia GeForce G210M graphics card is decent. It scored 3,957 in the 3DMark06 benchmark test, which indicates that it's quick enough to run modern 3D games, although you'll need to dial back to an even lower resolution than the screen supports natively, and scale back the image quality in order to get the best frame rates. The A500-19X also packs a quick, 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 CPU, which, although reluctant to run PCMark05, feels relatively speedy in anecdotal use.
The Toshiba Satellite A500-19X isn't spectacular in any regard, but it's unquestionably a very good all-round laptop that offers decent value for money. It's slightly more expensive than the Advent Roma 3000, for example, but the A500-19X delivers slightly more.
Edited by Charles Kloet