Toshiba has a good reputation for being able to build budget laptops that don't look like they've been put together with the leftovers from the factory floor. Thankfully the Satellite Pro A100 reinforces this view as, despite its rock-bottom online price of under £400, it certainly doesn't have the look of a budget machine.
The spec isn't exactly going to set the world alight and it's a tad on the heavy side for frequent flyers, but this laptop might still be a decent buy for general use around the home.
For a budget laptop, the Satellite Pro looks seriously stylish. The gun-metal grey finish is appealing to the eye and the lid and palm-rest in front of the keyboard curve downwards giving the machine a sculpted, high-class look. That said, it doesn't feel as solidly built as some of Toshiba's more expensive machines, or for that matter, some rivals in the same price bracket from competing manufacturers.
Nevertheless, the laptop does boast a decent number of ports including four USB sockets, a FireWire port, as well as a VGA socket and an S-Video TV output. The speakers sited above the keyboard sound a touch on the tinny side, but that's to be expected on a machine in this price range.
Speaking of the keys, Toshiba has been generous with the size of the media playback buttons, but the result of that is the keys on the main keyboard have had to be squashed together slightly, making them feel cramped to type on. Matters are made worse by the fact that the keyboard also tends to flex towards the centre giving it a spongy feel.
To keep the price of the laptop down, Toshiba has loaded the machine with Windows Vista Home Basic, the entry-level version of Microsoft's new operating system. This means that you don't get to see the new Aero interface with the animated icons or the 3D task switcher. To be honest, it's no great loss, but having to go without Windows Media Center is more of a sacrifice -- it's a great way of accessing your music, photos or videos.
At 1,280x800 pixels, the screen has a good resolution and it's also bright and evenly lit. Unlike the Acer Aspire 3693WLWi and the Mesh MSI M670-S1 budget laptops, it doesn't have a glossy finish, so colours in movies and pictures don't look quite as vivid as they do on those models, although it is easier to read text on the screen in direct sunlight.
The media buttons to the left of the main keyboard give you fast access to Windows Media Player and allow you to quickly skip back and forth through playlists of music tracks. They would have probably been better placed at the front edge of the machine though, so you could use the media player when the screen is closed. As the built-in hard drive is relatively small, you'll probably find yourself backing up files to CD or DVD using the multi-format dual layer DVD burner.