The 15.6-inch Satellite L650 is part of Toshiba's 'everyday computing' range. In other words, it's a jack of all trades that should appeal to just about everybody. Our review model, the Satellite L650-12Q, uses an Intel Core i5-430M CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and a ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145 GPU. It costs a quite reasonable £550 or thereabouts.
Look at me
Budget laptops don't tend to be very attractive, but the L650 bucks the trend. There's nothing particularly innovative about its glossy black chassis, but the slick, carbon-fibre-style pattern on the surface certainly adds a touch of class.
We were impressed by the L650's build quality. Cheap laptops can feel as if they'll fall apart in your hands, but this machine is relatively sturdy. There's little keyboard flex, the screen's hinge mechanism is tight, and we get the feeling that, if the laptop were dropped accidentally, nothing serious would go wrong.
The L650 is a relatively large laptop. Its chassis measures a not inconsiderable 380 by 28 by 250mm, and weighs 2.5kg, so getting it into a bag will be a struggle. The upshot of having such a large chassis is that Toshiba's been able to accommodate a huge trackpad, a full-size keyboard and an accompanying numerical keypad. The latter will prove useful for anyone who enters plenty of numerical data, or for people who want to assign keyboard shortcuts in their favourite games.
Display of affection
The L650 has a large, 15.6-inch display. This runs at a rather modest 1,366x768-pixel resolution, which is low given the size of the panel. But the quality of the display is undeniable. It has a wide viewing angle, particularly across the horizontal axis, so it lends itself well to watching movies side by side with a friend.
You'll want to buy yourself a set of external speakers or headphones though, because the L650's speakers are truly terrible, even by laptop standards. We've heard better audio coming out of a mobile phone.
Any port in a storm
The L650 isn't particularly well endowed in terms of connectivity options. It has three USB ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA port, a two-in-one memory-card reader and an HDMI video output. That's enough to get by, but, considering that many laptops of a similar size have four or more USB ports, we feel rather cheated.
The machine's wireless connectivity isn't the best we've seen, either. You get 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth is completely absent, which may annoy anyone with a peripheral device, such as a mobile phone, that requires this method of connection.
The L650 doesn't offer many hardware bells and whistles, but Toshiba has supplied some rather interesting software. First on the list is a copy of the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium. Alongside that, you get a host of Toshiba software, including ReelTime, which lets you browse through a list of recently accessed files in a two-dimensional, horizontal timeline. It's rather basic and pointless, but you may find it useful for tracking down that pesky image or spreadsheet you were working on a couple of hours ago.
Given that the L650-12Q is a budget laptop, we didn't expect it to have a very good specification. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to find that it has a nippy, 2.26GHz, dual-core Core i5-430M CPU and a whopping 4GB of RAM. As a result, it'll turn its hand to just about any task, including CPU-intensive jobs like editing videos. It scored a highly respectable 6,301 in our PCMark05 test.
The laptop's graphics processing unit -- a component that's usually pretty pants on budget laptops -- is decent too. The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145 isn't cut out for playing high-end 3D games, but it'll let you run pretty much anything else as long as you're willing to scale back the resolution slightly and reduce the detail settings. It racked up a plucky 3DMark06 score of 6,031.
The laptop's battery life is less impressive. It lasted a disappointing 1 hour and 58 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test. With more frugal use, it'll last in the region of 3 hours, though.
The Toshiba Satellite L650-12Q is a fabulous budget laptop. It's fast, well equipped and will cope with just about anything asked of it. Its battery life is rather disappointing, but it excels in just about every other area.
Edited by Charles Kloet