Not everyone is looking for the slimmest, lightest little laptop to take off on their travels. If you need something to replace that enormous desktop tower you've had since 1998, then a powerful laptop with a large screen is just the ticket.
Toshiba's Satellite P875-102 boasts a 17.3-inch screen and the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processor and Nvidia GeForce graphics card to offer serious grunt for office tasks and gaming.
It's available now for £1,100 from Amazon with the same 16GB of RAM as my review model. Toshiba's website points you in the direction of PC World, which offers a lesser 12GB of RAM for the same price. It's not exactly pocket change, but it's very reasonable for the power you get.
Design and build quality
The P875 packs a 17.3-inch screen, which should immediately be a strong indicator that this isn't going to be your lightweight travelling companion. It measures 418mm wide and 272mm deep, which is standard for a 17-inch machine. It's 33mm thick and weighs a hefty but unsurprising 2.99kg.
The P875 is certainly not built for sliding into a canvas messenger bag and being whisked off on a quick-footed adventure. Its true home is on your desk or lap while watching the superb Roy Walker on Catchphrase.
It's wrapped in a fairly sturdy-feeling alloy shell that's reassuringly free of flex and creaks under my aggressive pokes. If you did need to take it out and about, rest assured it won't shy away from a few bumps. It's unlikely to shatter the first time it falls to the floor when you spill your coffee and jump up.
The alloy shell is industry-standard silver, but it has an interesting texture that gives it an element of attractiveness -- it just about saves it from being lumped in with all the other silver laptops. The texture helps it shed fingerprints well so you don't need to be too careful about your cake-greased fingers when you sit down to work.
Under the lid you'll find more of that silver on the wrist rest and around the keyboard. It's nice to see Toshiba not cutting corners by slapping a load of cheap, shiny plastic inside here. I just wish it had taken the same care with the bezel around the screen. It's a shiny black affair that's horrifically flimsy -- get your fingernail underneath and you can pull it far from the screen. Not only does it feel as though it's a sneeze away from falling apart, it spoils an otherwise attractive machine. I can only assume the quality control team responsible for the silver coat played no part in the bezel design.
Above the keyboard are two grilles, each hiding two speakers provided by Harmon Kardon. Given the backing of HK, I expected a loud and full sound. What I experienced instead was a half-hearted mew that lacked definition, bass and volume. Laptop speakers are never much to write home about but I wouldn't be happy using these even for watching YouTube clips. You should really factor in the cost of a good pair of headphones or speakers if you value audio quality.
The edge of the laptop is wrapped in a lighter-coloured band and houses a very generous four USB 3.0 ports -- of which two support charging while the computer is in sleep mode. There's an HDMI-out socket, an Ethernet port, VGA-out, an SD card slot and headphone and audio jacks. There's also a Blu-ray drive, which I'll come back to later.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard's large, square isolated keys aren't the most attractive I've ever seen, but that's a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things. It's comfortable to type on though, even for long periods, and has a separate numeric keypad on the right. For some reason, Toshiba has decided to make the arrow keys half the size you'd typically find on tiny netbooks. That's pretty unforgivable on a machine of this size -- it's not as though space is tight. If you use the arrow keys a lot for scrolling through documents or gaming, you may quickly become annoyed.
The trackpad is particularly big and offers a matte texture, which makes sliding your finger about particularly easy. It's reasonably responsive and is entirely clickable, dispensing with separate buttons that would only take up valuable swiping space.
The P875 provides a whopping 17.3-inch screen for you to wrap your eyeballs around. If you're keen on films or glossy new video games then a big 17-inch screen size will appeal much more than the 11 or 13-inch screens found on smaller laptops.
Sadly though, the resolution on offer is only 1,600x900 pixels. That falls short of the full 1080p resolution offered on similar 17-inch machines like Toshiba's own Qosmio X770.
Given the not insubstantial price tag, it's rather odd why Toshiba hasn't plumped for Full HD -- especially as you also get a Blu-ray player that plays at 1080p. That means your screen can't display any of your high-definition discs in their full glory. If you mainly want a laptop to tackle your extensive Blu-ray collection then the X770 is a better option for you.
The screen is at least bright and pleasantly vivid. I put on my Blu-ray copy of The Art of Flight and was chuffed at the crisp snow and bold colours on screen. It might not be Full HD but it's not a million miles away and HD content still looks good. It'll do the job fine for DVDs and YouTube clips. If you need any extra definition, you could hook it up to a big HD telly using the HDMI-out port.
If your laptop sacrifices portability, then it should at least be powerful. Judged this way, the P875 isn't going to disappoint. It's packing an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor clocked at 2.3GHz, along with a whopping 16GB of RAM.
The '3' in '3610QM' indicates that this processor is the latest Intel Ivy Bridge model, rather than the older Sandy Bridge found on last year's laptops. Ivy Bridge promises various performance improvements over its predecessor but particularly with built-in graphics, which Intel claims is double that of the Sandy Bridge chips. The P875 is among the first Ivy Bridge-touting laptops I've tested so I was looking forward to throwing my set of benchmark tests at it.
I fired up the PCMark05 and Geekbench benchmark tests and was given scores of 11,396 and 13,701 respectively. Those are some spicy scores and indicate that this definitely isn't a laptop just for opening Word documents. It beats the results achieved by the X770, which I found to be particularly powerful when I reviewed it.
You'll of course have no problems doing any kind of office tasks so you can confidently tear into massive spreadsheets or exciting 90-page Powerpoint presentations. It'll also happily chew through editing your holiday snaps in programs like Adobe Lightroom 4 -- helped along by the built-in Intel HD 4000 graphics -- and will be able to handle intense editing of high-resolution pics in Photoshop CS6. Just don't expect it to run quite as smoothly if you're applying filters to super high-res raw image files.
It managed to encode my 11-minute 1080p video file into 24 frames per second H.264 in just 5 minutes. That's an extremely fast time and easily beat the X770's 11 minutes, showing that the boost in the new chips is definitely lending a hand in graphics tasks.
The 16GB of RAM also helps make the P875 an epic multi-tasker. I opened various web browser windows, each with numerous tabs, while simultaneously playing music in Spotify and watching high-definition video in VLC media player -- I didn't notice any kind of lag when I browsed through folders and opened photos.
It's not just about raw computing power though. The P875 comes with an Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card to help tackle your favourite games. The 630M is built with Nvidia's latest Kepler technology, which simply means it aims to offer increased performance with lower power consumption. I've previously seen Kepler -- albeit a higher-end card -- in action on the Acer Aspire Timeline U M3, which performed seriously well with games.
The P875 was capable of handling 3D titles. I fired up the shiny new beat 'em up Batman: Arkham City and sent the caped crusader on his mission to put a fist in the face of all he encountered. I experienced average rates of 33 frames per second and a high of 51, making gameplay very smooth.
My favourite rally racer Dirt 3 was able to play at an average of 30fps with the resolution and detail set to maximum. Oddly, when I knocked the detail settings down, I didn't notice any increase in frame rate. Still, 30fps is perfectly playable and was free of lag between pushing the button and the corresponding action taking place.
The Toshiba Satellite P875 comes with an attractive metal shell stuffed with the latest Intel chips and Nvidia graphics cards. As such, it's superbly powerful for office tasks and gaming.
It's a big shame not to see a Full-HD screen, given there's a Blu-ray player included for watching high-definition discs. And that plastic bezel is nightmarishly poor. But it's still a great performer for a reasonable price.