Toshiba Satellite Pro M300

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Toshiba, who built one of the world's first notebooks, clearly has a head start in the race to put a laptop on every desk. The AU$1,210 Satellite M300 is a step in the right direction, being a modest, yet high quality desktop replacement at a reasonable price.

Design and Features
The M300 is a modest, but classy laptop. Dressed in silver and black, the Toshiba Satellite Pro is a fine looking machine — even with the propaganda stickers swathed across the palm rest area. Given the need for the modern notebook to serve as an entertainer when you are not at work, the Satellite has a built in webcam and DVD play/recording software. The M300 has tiny speakers that are typical of a notebook, but with very good sound quality. Multimedia keys and the power switch can easily be found above the keyboard — right between the speakers.

With a 14.1-inch screen, the M300 weighs a lot less than some laptops with larger screens. Are we the only ones that hate the shiny screens on modern notebooks? This feature may provide better colour quality when watching videos, but we get really peeved when the light outside our window is reflected on the screen with an intensity exceeding that of the text we are typing.

The keys are a little unusual in appearance, though attractive. It would have been better to have the second functions marked with larger text and in another colour.

Three USB ports are present along with VGA-out, FireWire, modem jack and gigabit Ethernet. There is an Express card slot plus a combined reader for SD, MMC, Memory Stick and xD cards.

The M300 is supplied with a variety of software tools for disk management, system recovery and security. The manual can also be found on the disk. DVD creation and player software is included as well as Acrobat Reader 8 and trial versions of Norton Internet Security 2007 and MS Office 2007. The operating system, as tested, was Windows Vista Business SP1. (Yes, service pack one is out, in case you didn't know.)

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Optional extras for this machine include a port replicator which has extra USB ports, DVI and S/PDIF, which connects via USB.

As we expected, the test results all indicate great performance in terms of office productivity, but somewhat limited graphics performance from the integrated Intel 965 chipset (which is not to say you can't watch a DVD on this machine). Hard drive performance and general processor performance is excellent. Windows Vista gives the machine the following performance scores: Processor, 4.9; Memory, 4.5; Graphics, 3.0; Gaming graphics, 3.3; Hard drive, 5.2.

Battery life is not spectacular at only three hours, but largish machines are expected to chew up power. If you're after a longer lasting notebook, Toshiba has made it so you can exchange the 6-cell battery for a 9-cell unit. Refreshingly, the specifications claim no more than the three hours we measured.

A plethora of service and warranty options are available to you. The basic level is a 12-month warranty with complementary pick-up and delivery when servicing. Warranties can be extended to three years and other options include theft insurance and data recovery.

Test Procedure
We used 3DMark to test the M300's graphics capabilities, and Sandra Pro to see how well the notebook's processor, memory and drive performance fared when under pressure. The -Windows Experience Index" scores from Vista are also provided.

PCMark assesses the machine's overall performance with specific scores given for CPU, Memory, Graphics and HDD (hard disk drive); this gives us a useful indicator of performance dealing with typical office tasks. Battery life is tested with Battery Eater (Reader's Test), which gives scores very similar to MobileMark.

Aside from raw performance, a number of physical design issues are taken under consideration. Usability issues include location (and type) of ports and buttons as well as image quality (where monitors are provided) and additional software utilities. Construction elements of interest are case material quality and ease of opening for maintenance and upgrades. Sound quality is also considered along with the software included with the Toshiba M300.