One of the advantages of the dizzying progress of computer technology is that a good deal of power can be bought for very little. The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850-11U might lack the all-round showmanship of Acer’s budget fare, but it’s still a solid laptop.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850-11U’s casing is rather more bulbous than that of, for example, the Acer V3-571. But its sober and understated colour scheme, and nicely curved casing and polished lid put it a cut above the typical sub-£500 model. The rough-hewn two-button Synaptics trackpad is vast, but isn't particularly comfortable to use. Nor is it suitably smooth and responsive.
Most of the keys are of a good size and properly spaced - with the tiny cursor keys being an exceptions. The touch isn't very satisfactory, with very little depth to the buttons, and we didn't find our typing as accurate on the keyboard.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850-11U's screen is a substantial 15.6in version. It’s good for a cheap laptop, although the resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels is limited for the size; we would expect more detail from such a large panel.
The matt surface doesn't pick up reflections, which makes it very comfortable to use. Colour palette is a little lacking in bite and vitality though. The colours aren’t incorrect, but you don’t get the same impression of photo detail that you find on shiny screens. Viewing angles are dire, so you’ll need to be sitting directly in front of the screen for the image to remain clearly viewable.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850-11U's performance is fairly standard for a sub-£500 model. It makes do with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i3-2350M procesor, yet usefully combined with a substantial 6GB of DDR3 memory.
A WorldBench 6 score of 107 points is by no means slow within this price category, although it lacks the pace of some budget laptops. Storage is more upmarket, its Hitachi 5400rpm disk packing a capacious 750GB.
Sub-£500 laptops can offer a surprising amount for the money. Where they typically fall flat on their LCDs is in the gaming arena.
Here, for instance, we see the Satellite Pro falter to its underpowered Intel HD 3000 graphics controller. This is primarily from a gaming angle, and when it comes to general computing, the HD 3000 is more than enough for smooth performance.
And remember, the Satellite Pro range within which this laptop resides is really aimed at business users, so any gaming ability is really incidental for the target audience.
A score of 15fps in the undemanding FEAR isn’t a great start – although still two or three frames ahead of typical laptops with integrated graphics.
Crysis is even less unimpressive. It remains playable in DirectX 9.0 with Low quality settings (56.9fps) but quickly fades to 34.2fps in DirectX 10 mode. At Medium quality levels, it recorded 25.9 and 20.5fps at DX9 and DX10 respectively, and tumbled to unappetising figures of 14.0 and 12.2fps at High levels.
For proper gaming, you’ll certainly be wanting to look to a model with a discrete graphics solution. Or for just ocassional gaming, the third-gen Intel Core series processor will now do the trick.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850-11U had good battery life, lasting for 5 hour 46 minutes in our MobileMark 2007 Productivity tests.
The speaker system isn’t at all bad. We don’t expect much from the audio on budget laptops, and you shouldn’t be expecting sonic fireworks from the Toshiba, but the speakers were bearable when playing musical tracks.
You’ll still be wanting to resort to the headphone socket when possible, but this is far from the worst budget speaker system we’ve heard.
The webcam is nice, with good resolution (1280 x 800) and a clear image.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850-11U has a decent sprinkling of ports and connectors. Two USB 3.0 ports (along with one additional USB 2.0) are included, as are external outputs for VGA and HDMI.
A memory-card reader caters for various flavours of SD card, and gigabit ethernet is also included. Wireless runs to single-band 802.11b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0. As a full-size laptop, you’re also treated to an internal optical drive. The Samsung SN-208B is a respectable DVD±R reader/writer specified up to 8x speed.
As a business machine, Windows 7 Professional is installed in 64-bit form. The Toshiba comes with a vast array of software titles, including limited version of Microsoft Office and Nero KwikMedia. Many Toshiba utilities carry out a wide range of tasks, from checking the laptop temperature to conserving power.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro L850 lacks the pace of some budget notebooks, and the screen and input device are trimmed to the budget price. Triumphs for the Satellite Pro include its large hard drive and usable speakers, while battery life proved quite usable too. For a business on a budget, it will handle the basics.