Laptop prices have fallen considerably over the last few years, and even models with large screens can now be picked up for under £500. Toshiba's latest budget model, the Satellite C670D, is a good example. Despite packing a huge, 17.3-inch display, you can buy our configuration, the C670D-108, for just £400 or so.
It's pretty obvious that some corners have been cut to keep this machine's price down. For starters, the chassis lacks the elegant touches and shiny sparkles of Toshiba's higher-end models. Instead, you get a fairly dull chassis that's made entirely of matte black plastic, with just a dimpled pattern on the lid and elongated speaker grilles for pizzazz purposes.
Still, the matte finish is likely to prove more scratch-resistant than the glossy finishes on many more expensive machines. This laptop also feels pretty robust, although some of that is down to its weight of around 2.8kg.
The keyboard isn't half bad. The keys are packed together but they're wide and flat. The keys feel solid too. They don't sag into the chassis when you apply pressure to them and, although we'd like more travel, they have enough spring to feel snappy under your fingers.
The line-up of ports is rather limited. There are two USB 2.0 ports, plus a VGA output and an SD card reader. For less demanding users, that may be enough. There's no Bluetooth support either, although there is an Ethernet socket and integrated Wi-Fi.
The hard drive isn't huge, at 320GB, but that's to be expected at this price, as is the fact that you get a standard DVD writer rather than a Blu-ray drive.
The sheer size and weight of this machine mean it's unlikely that you'll want to lug it around. If you do, then you'll find it has surprisingly good battery life. In the Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep running for a hugely impressive 3 hours and 10 minutes -- and that's with the CPU being run at a constant 100 per cent, so you'll get longer battery life with normal use. That's longer than many ultra-portables last in the same test, and they're especially designed for life on the go.
Soggy AMD chip
Instead of using an Intel chip, Toshiba has supplied this machine with a dual-core AMD E-350 CPU, clocked at a rather lowly 1.6GHz. This chip includes integrated AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics, paired with 4GB of RAM.
The E-350 isn't a very speedy processor, lagging behind the CPUs in Intel's Core i3 range. The chip only managed a score of 2,945 in the PCMark05 benchmark test. It's fine for day-to-day tasks like emailing, Web browsing and Facebook stalking, but it struggles with tasks that other laptops generally breeze through, such as playing back hi-def video on BBC iPlayer.
The integrated Radeon graphics don't offer much grunt either. They only managed a result of 2,424 in 3DMark06, so playing the latest first-person shooters is out of the question, and you'll probably struggle to run even older games at acceptable frame rates.
Raw performance isn't this laptop's forte then, but it makes up ground in other respects. One of the most impressive aspects of this machine is its 17.3-inch screen. Not only is it very large for a laptop in this price range, but its resolution is surprisingly high, at 1,600x900 pixels. That's not a Full HD 1080p resolution, but it's not too far off either, so you can easily have two documents open side by side.
Some 720p HD DivX trailers that we played looked wonderfully crisp and sharp, and the screen's glossy coating helps colours to have real impact. The display's viewing angles are also quite good -- there are no big colour shifts when you sit at an angle to the screen.
The Toshiba Satellite C670D-108 is a mixed bag. It offers a brilliant screen for the money, surprisingly good battery life, and a comfortable keyboard. But it's let down by its sluggish processor. The C670D-108 just doesn't have as much grunt as budget machines that use Intel's Core i3 processors.
Edited by Charles Kloet