Toshiba has an enviable reputation when it comes to laptops, so it's something of a surprise to find the 15.6-inch Satellite Pro C660 going for a bargain-basement price. Our model, the C660-17J, is currently being sold by Laptops Direct for around £345, and you can also pick it up for £295 if you trade in your old laptop too.
Cheap like a budgie
The C660's appearance is disappointing -- it looks cheaper than the cast of The Only Way Is Essex. The whole chassis is constructed from black plastic and, although Toshiba has added a dimpled pattern to the lid and wrist rest, it still looks about as stylish as a room full of geography teachers. Worse still, the chassis doesn't feel all that robust, especially around the wrist rest. If you apply some pressure to it, it flexes quite noticeably.
There isn't much to get excited about when it comes to the computer's line-up of ports, either. In fact, you get just two USB ports, which is mean even at this price. Although there's a VGA output, there's no HDMI port -- something that's becoming standard on most machines. Even the LAN port is limited to 100Mbps Ethernet, when most of today's laptops offer Gigabit Ethernet support.
The keyboard is also a big disappointment. The keys rattle quite badly as you type, so we wouldn't have massive confidence in the keyboard standing up well to long-term abuse. The keys also have very little travel so they don't feel all that comfortable or responsive.
The trackpad is better, though. It sits flush with the wrist rest and is wide enough to let you easily sweep the cursor around the screen. The two large, tubular buttons also feel quite sturdy and produce a distinct click when you press them.
Glossy coatings on screens divide opinion. On the one hand, they generally improve the appearance of colours, making them look more vivid, but, on the other hand, they tend to be very reflective, which can be uncomfortable if you're using them under bright, overhead lights.
The C660's display is sadly more reflective than most, and this, combined with its tight vertical viewing angle, means getting a comfortable viewing position can be tricky. Nevertheless, the resolution of 1,366x768 pixels isn't bad, and the legibility of text in documents and on websites is good once you've got the screen positioned correctly.
As you'd expect of a 15.6-inch desktop-replacement machine, the C660 has a DVD rewriter. Thankfully, Toshiba hasn't skimped on the hard drive. While most budget machines come with smaller 320GB drives, this one offers 500GB of storage space, which should be enough for most people.
The laptop uses a dual-core Intel Pentium T4500 processor clocked at 2.3GHz. It's a pre-Sandy Bridge processor, so it uses the older, slower Intel HD integrated graphics. Consequently, in the 3DMark06 benchmark test, it only managed to post a result of 773, which isn't much better than most netbooks. That means 3D gaming is pretty much out of the question, but at least the Intel HD graphics provide some acceleration for tasks like high-definition video playback.
The T4500 chip isn't exactly a cutting-edge processor, so we weren't expecting much from the C660 when it came to the PCMark05 test. It racked up a score of 3,918, which is pretty much what we expected. In real-world terms, this means the laptop will be fine for lighter tasks like Web browsing, watching shows on iPlayer and updating Facebook, but isn't really suitable for more demanding tasks, like compressing HD video files or adding effects in programs like Photoshop.
With a 15.6-inch screen, this isn't really a laptop that's designed for life on the road. That's probably just as well because it didn't perform particularly well in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at 100 per cent until the battery conks out. The C660 managed to keep running for just 1 hour and 16 minutes, whereas most of today's 15-inch laptops manage to creep above the 1 hour and 20 minute mark.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro C660-17J is difficult to like. Its rickety keyboard, lack of ports and pedestrian performance mean that, although it's cheap, it's not very cheerful. If you're looking for a low-cost computer that offers better build quality, we'd suggest you check out the likes of the Acer Aspire 5552 instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet