The L550-113 isn't the most expensive model in Toshiba's new range of Satellite desktop-replacement laptops, nor does it have the highest specification. It is, however, the largest and its 17.3-inch screen also offers the highest resolution in the line-up.
The last big Toshiba Satellite we reviewed, the 17-inch Satellite L350-17P, didn't really rouse us with its dreary design, but we let that slide on account of its low price tag of around £430. At about £700, the L550-113 needs to make a bigger impression.
Alas, Toshiba has pushed the boat out only slightly further -- the L550-113 is still pretty ordinary-looking by current standards. Along with a big, silver Toshiba logo, the charcoal-coloured lid has a pleasant, light grey pinstripe. This colour scheme is reversed on the inside, although the screen is framed with a dark grey bezel. Rounded edges help diminish the apparent bulk, but, at 3kg, this isn't a laptop you'll want to haul around in a bag for long.
A full-size keyboard is always part of the appeal of any desktop-replacement laptop and the L550-113 doesn't disappoint in this regard. The keys are the traditional raised type and have a pleasantly tactile feel, but the keyboard seems rather hollow and there's more flex that we'd expect at this price.
The keyboard is at least well spaced out, with full-size keys, and the separate numeric keypad and cursor cluster are suitably separated. The wide plastic surrounds around the top row of function keys look rather odd, though. It's almost as if Toshiba has lifted the small keys from a different laptop and padded them out to fit in the oversize chassis.
There's no separate trackpad as such. The touch-sensitive area sits in the shiny wrist rest itself. Fortunately, Toshiba has applied a textured surface to this area to reduce friction under a fingertip, so there are none of the sticky finger issues that plague other similarly equipped laptops.
The extra 0.3 inches make little difference to the L550-113's 17.3-inch screen, but the 1,600x900-pixel resolution works well at this size. The screen is bright and vibrant, but it has a glossy coating, so using it outdoors, for example, may be problematic.
Although Toshiba offers Satellite models with far faster processors than the 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 used in the L550-113, this laptop is still an extremely capable performer. It racked up a score of 5,372 in our PCMark05 benchmark test and, while this hardly makes it the fastest laptop we've ever reviewed, you won't find anything that significantly outpaces it unless you pay a hefty premium for a Core 2 Extreme or quad-core chip.
The L550-113's 3D graphics performance isn't quite in the same league, but a 3DMark06 score of 4,420 means that the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 chipset can be turned to gaming without too much difficulty. DirectX 9 games, like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, should run well enough at lower resolutions, but you'll need to drop detail settings to keep more demanding titles running smoothly.
As ever with a laptop like this, the L550-113's battery life isn't something to boast about, although it isn't as bad as some lesser-specified laptops we've reviewed. A result of 1.5 hours in Battery Eater's punishing Classic test and 2.5 hours in the less intensive Reader's test means the L550-113 should, with typical use, last for a couple of hours away from the mains.
Its design won't turn many heads, but the Toshiba Satellite L550-113 has a well-rounded specification and a very quick processor. Its one relative weak spot is 3D gaming, but you'll be hard-pressed to find better performance at this size and price.
Edited by Charles Kloet