Not everyone needs a super-thin laptop that's lightweight enough to carry all over the place. If you only plan to travel from your desk to your sofa, you can happily sacrifice portability for power.
The Toshiba Satellite P855 10G is such a machine. Its 15-inch frame is hardly wieldy but it packs an Intel Core-i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 640M GPU for gaming. It also has a Full HD resolution screen and a Blu-ray drive for movie fanatics.
It's available now to buy for £1,200
Design and build
If you were asked to draw a picture of a laptop that you thought embodied everything you knew about Toshiba, odds are you'd come up with the P855. It's a pretty chunky chappy, wrapped in some sort of grey metal/plastic alloy.
It's not the most exciting design but it at least has a textured finish to stop it from being so dull it sends you to sleep at your desk every time you see it. The same material finds its way around the keyboard and onto the wrist rest so if you're not a fan of plain grey, you might want to buy a different laptop. Or a can of spray paint.
It's not exactly ugly, but nor does it offer any style -- like all of Toshiba's laptops in recent years. Things don't get any better around the screen, where you can spy an enormous shiny plastic bezel that looks extremely cheap -- it can be easily bent if you get a fingernail under it. I've griped about Toshiba's bezels before -- with a better bezel, it would be a smarter machine.
The P855 is certainly a chunky beast, measuring 385mm wide, 252mm deep and 30mm thick. You could slip it into a bag and haul its 2.94kg weight around town but you'd be much better off keeping it on your table at home, or most ambitiously, on your lap on the sofa.
There's quite a lot of flex in the lid but it seems generally well made enough to put up with a few knocks -- although I can't say the same for that horrific bezel. Seriously, how did nobody question that before it went on sale?
The speakers are loud and punchy and will certainly do the job for watching YouTube clips and TV shows, but if you want to hear every bullet fired in Battlefield 3 in sparkling definition, I suggest grabbing a decent pair of closed-back cans or a speaker set with a sub-woofer.
Around the edge you'll find a VGA port, HDMI-out, four USB 3.0 sockets, an Ethernet port, headphone and microphone jacks, a Blu-ray drive and an SD card slot tucked away under the front ridge.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is another Toshiba standard that's been lifted straight out of the stockpile. That's not necessarily a good thing as the keys are a little rattly and it's far from attractive.
Still, it's reasonably comfortable to type on once you get used to it and it's well spaced across the body of the laptop. There's also a dedicated numeric keypad on the right-hand side.
The trackpad is reasonably sized and is clickable, rather than having separate buttons, meaning all the space is available for sliding your finger around. It's pretty responsive, which helps make speedy web browsing easier but you'll still want to use a proper mouse for gaming.
The 15.6-inch display on the P855 goes some way to making up for the dull design of the body. It offers a Full HD 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. It's perfectly poised to handle all the high-definition content you can load into its Blu-ray drive. Small text and icons look deliciously sharp, which makes reading long passages on websites much more comfortable.
It's also very bright and handles colours well, so movies and TV shows will be displayed at their best. The screen has been given a glossy coating that threw up a few reflections under the harsh CNET UK office lights, but if you crank the brightness up to the max you'll find that many of them are eliminated.
It also uses Nvidia's 3D vision technology so you can enjoy that special third dimension with a pair of the supplied active 3D specs. You can buy more pairs if you want your mates to watch 3D movies with you but they'll cost £40 a pop.
Shoved inside that grey metal jacket is a tasty line-up of specs including an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor clocked at 2.3GHz, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GT640M graphics card with 1GB of VRAM. That processor is from Intel's latest range of Ivy Bridge chips, replacing the older Sandy Bridge silicon. Ivy Bridge offers better built-in graphics performance and improved overall efficiency, so I was looking forward to seeing what the P855 could do.
Unsurprisingly, it gave an excellent performance during my barrage of benchmark tests, achieving the impressive score of 11,000 on the PCMark05 test and a searingly good 13,812 on the Geekbench test. By comparison, the Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition achieved 12,704 on the Geekbench test and I found that to be extremely competent -- although it is several hundred pounds cheaper.
I found it to be very capable of handling the demanding tasks I threw at it. It flew threw editing high-resolution photos in Adobe Lightroom 4 and encoded my 11-minute 1080p video test file into 24 frames per second H.264 video in the lightning fast time of 4 minutes 45 second. That's one of the fastest times I've seen from a laptop. If you hope to tackle photo and video editing then the P855 is well equipped to handle it.
It boasts an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card to help it chug through games. To see how it handles the polygons, I booted up the rally racer Dirt 3 and sent my car for a spin. With all settings set to high, it achieved a very pleasing frame rate of 30 frames per second, which made gameplay smooth and lag free. When I knocked the settings back, that jumped to around 45fps, which was very smooth but the reduction in visual quality was noticeable.
The P855 certainly has enough gaming grunt to tackle most of the less demanding titles -- games like Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike, Dirt 3 and even Skyrim will play fine if you knock the quality down. If you hope to boot up more robust efforts like Metro 2033 or Crysis 2 then you'll probably want to cast your eye over hardcore gaming laptops like Toshiba's Qosmio X870.
The Toshiba Satellite P855 isn't likely to take any prizes for style, but it offers a very healthy serving of power and a Full HD screen. If you're after a laptop to tackle games and photo editing from the comfort of your sofa then it's certainly worth a look.