Toshiba has a strong reputation for being able to put together budget laptops that have the look and feel of more expensive machines. The L300 has a rock-bottom price tag of just £390, so we were intrigued to see whether Toshiba had managed once again to avoid the usual pitfalls of budget machines, such as flexing cases and poor keyboards.
It's pretty obvious from the L300's case that this is a budget machine. There's none of the glossy finishes that you'll find on Toshiba's more expensive laptops. Don't let that put you off, however, because the L300's sliver and matte-black colour scheme still manages to look very professional. The chassis feels sturdy, with little of the flexing we'd usually associate with budget machines.
When you pop the lid open, you're greeted by the 15.4-inch widescreen display. It has a glossy X-Black-style finish, so pictures and movies look very impressive, although you'll see reflections if you're in a bright environment. Thanks to the 1,280x800-pixel resolution, it offers up plenty of desktop space when you're working on documents or surfing the Web.
The L300's keyboard is also very good. The layout is sensible and the keys are not only large, but also have good travel. Add to this a roomy trackpad with responsive buttons and you've got a usable combination that's comfortable for both work and fun.
The laptop's powerhouse is an Intel Mobile Dual Core T2370 running at 1.73GHz and backed up by a decent 2GB helping of RAM. Running Windows Vista Home Premium, the machine posted a PCMark 05 result of 3,341, which is not too shabby for such a low-priced offering. In use it certainly feels sprightly enough, even when running multiple applications, and there's plenty of room on the 160GB hard drive for storing music, pictures, videos and documents.
Connectivity is also pretty decent. You get three USB ports, an ExpressCard slot and a D-Sub VGA connector for hooking it up to an external screen. Naturally Wi-Fi is present, but sadly there's no Bluetooth support. You do get a webcam built in to the top of the screen for making video calls over the Internet.
Like most budget laptops, the L300 relies on an Intel integrated graphics chip for 3D support, so isn't going to win any prizes when it comes to gaming performance. In our 3DMark 06 test it posted a score of 530. This means that you'll be able to play older games as long as the detail is turned down, but the frame rate in the latest 3D titles will be horribly slow.
Unfortunately battery life wasn't an area that the L300 excelled in either. In our battery run down test it managed to keep going for just an hour and nine minutes before it was crying out to be plugged back into the mains. In real-life situations you're likely to get significantly longer, but it's still more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner. Anyway, we doubt the L300 will appeal to those who are constantly on the road -- at 2.49kg it's a tad on the heavy side.
The L300's weight and short battery life mean it's not suitable for road warriors. But if you're looking for a basic, no-nonsense laptop for use around the home then its sub-£400 price tag and sturdy build quality make it an attractive option.
Edited by Nick Hide