- Attractive price
- Solid, if chunky, build
- Large hard drive
- Reflective screen, with less-than-sharp text
- Too much flex in keyboard
- Card reader is hard to access
Toshiba's Satellite Pro family of business notebooks includes 13.3in., 15.6in. and 17.3in. systems. On test here is the 13.3in. L830, a six-strong range that starts at £389 (ex. VAT), rising to £479 (ex. VAT). Our review sample, the Satellite Pro L830 10J, is at the upper end, costing £469 (ex. VAT).
There's a key visual difference between Satellite Pro and more consumer-focused Satellite (non-Pro) notebooks. The latter sport a white shell, which we've only seen in pictures but looks rather attractive; the former, including our review model, have a more businesslike grey and black finish. The lid has a hatched pattern on its slate-grey plastic, which is repeated inside on the wrist rest. It's a nice design, although the smooth and shiny finish could attract scratches and dings over time.
We're not too excited by the shiny black screen bezel and keyboard surround, both of which are prone to attracting greasy fingerprints. That's a pity given that the wrist rest and lid are quite fingerprint-resistant.
The L830's build quality is reasonably solid, although we've seen better. There's a degree of flex in the lid that suggests you might need a padded case when travelling. When the notebook is closed, the application of even a fairly small amount of pressure to the lid causes it to flex — you won't want to pile books on top of this system. With the clamshell open we found it quite easy to twist the lid section between two hands. The base feels more solid, but there's still some flex in the wrist rest.
The L830's footprint — 32cm wide by 22.1cm deep — is not huge, but it's quite thick at 2.68cm–3.06cm, and heavy for a 13.3in. notebook at 1.86kg. The weight will matter to mobile professionals.
The 13.3in. Toshiba TruBrite High Brightness LED-backlit display has a standard 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution. It's very reflective, and if you need to work anywhere with a light source beside or behind you it might be better avoided. Also, text looks strangely pixelated and fuzzy — something we noticed across a range of applications including WordPad and Firefox, and even in the Control Panel. There's something not quite right here, and we never felt fully comfortable with the L830's display.
The keyboard has its pros and cons. The keys themselves have a responsive action, although they're a little lacking in spring for some tastes. Our main issue with the keyboard, though, is that it's rather spongy with a fair amount of flex that all but the lightest-fingered typists will notice.
The touchpad is recessed in the wrist rest and bounded by a large frame. It looks a little over-designed, but is responsive enough. The buttons require a slightly harder press than we'd like, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Scroll zones and two-finger zooming are supported, the latter suffering a little from slow response times.
All Satellite Pro L830 models run second-generation (Sandy Bridge) Intel Core i3 processors. Our review unit, the Satellite Pro L830 10J, had the 1.4GHz Core i3-2367M — a relatively low-end CPU with and integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU. It comes with 4GB of RAM, which can be boosted to a maximum of 8GB.
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit was installed on our review sample, but this is only available on the two most expensive Satellite Pro L830 models. The remaining four models run Windows 8 Home Premium, so if you need the added features of Windows 7 Pro you'll be forced towards the top of the price range.
With a 750GB hard drive there's plenty of storage space, although it's relatively slow at 5,400rpm. Wireless connectivity runs to 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, with wired Gigabit Ethernet networking also available. There's 1-megapixel webcam in the middle of the top screen bezel, with Skype preinstalled for video calling.
Toshiba provides a lot of software on this notebook, including its own webcam application. This lacks the fancy effects offered by some third-party software, although it does have some rather blingy frames that can be applied. The software can capture stills and video, and you can apply 'scenes' such as office, study and conference that affect the colour depth of images (there's a 'beauty skin' scene too). A backlight compensation mode helps a little, but not a lot, if you're sitting with a light source (such as a window) behind you.
Among the many additional applications included on the L830 are Microsoft Office Starter 2010, McAfee Internet Security (30-day subscription), Nero KwikMedia, Nero BackItUp & Burn Autobackup, plus a range of Toshiba utilities and tools.
Toshiba provides a good range of ports and connectors: the optical drive sits on the left side of the chassis, alongside the power connector and, towards the back, two USB ports — one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0.
Beneath the USB ports is the flash card reader, which supports the usual range of SD-compatible formats but not Memory Stick. It's very awkward to get at, as the chassis slopes inwards slightly, making it tricky to reach into the slope and find the slot. You either have to crane your neck towards the notebook or lift it up to see the slot. Not good.
On the right edge is a pair of audio jacks (microphone and headphone), a second USB 3.0 port, HDMI and VGA ports and the Ethernet (RJ-45) port.
Performance & battery life
The second-generation Core i3 processor in the Satellite Pro L830 can't be expected to deliver blistering performance, and the system's Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 4.7 (out of 7.9) bears this out. The WEI corresponds to the lowest scoring subsystem, which in this case was for Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero).
The Processor (Calculations per second) score was 5.2; Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) and RAM (Memory operations per second) both scored 5.9, while the top score of 6.1 went to Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance).
You'll have no trouble doing basic 'knowledge-worker' tasks on the Satellite Pro L830, but we don't advise running computationally- or graphically-demanding workloads.
According to Toshiba, the battery in the Satellite Pro L830 is good for up to 6.5 hours' life (tested with MobileMark 2007). When we set the system to play a DVD movie continuously, it managed 3.25 hours. This is a demanding workload, and so Toshiba's claim seems reasonable. This isn't a notebook that'll go all day on battery power, but it'll easily see you through a commute, for example.
The system's stereo speakers deliver average audio quality, with lack of bass tones, as ever, the main issue.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L830 10J isn't a particularly lightweight or compact 13.3in. notebook. Nor does it run the latest third-generation (Ivy Bridge) Intel Core processor. The screen also had issues delivering smooth text. Still, it's quite solidly made, there's plenty of hard drive storage and the price is reasonable.