With a small, 13in frame, a DVD burner tucked in its side and a powerful Intel Core i5-430M CPU under the hood, the Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 (PSU9NA-00600N) has all the hallmarks of a potentially great business notebook. However, it's let down a relatively poor standard battery life, its hefty weight and problematic fingerprint reader software.
Toshiba Satellite Pro U500: Design and features
These issues alone aren't enough to put us off the Satellite Pro (PSU9NA-00600N) because it really is a nice laptop to use at home, in the office or while you travel. It's also not a boring-looking laptop: the palm rest and lid have a textured finish, there is a chrome trim around the speakers and there are plenty of lights.
The lights illuminate the shortcut buttons above the keyboard, the touchpad and the Satellite Pro brand label on the palm rest, but they are very bright and can get annoying; thankfully they can be switched off. The keyboard itself isn't backlit — unlike the keyboard on the Satellite U500 — but its glossy keys are soft and very comfortable for long periods of typing. The touchpad is a little on the small side at 64x41mm, but it does support gestures and it is responsive. The shortcut buttons above the keyboard can be used to control media playback, volume, as well as invoke Toshiba's 'Eco' mode power management feature. Eco mode disables unnecessary features and tones down the screen's brightness in order to prolong battery life.
Connectivity and features are plentiful: the U500 includes HDMI, eSATA, VGA, USB 2.0 (with Sleep-and-Charge capability), Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card slot, an ExpressCard/54 slot and a 56Kbps modem (in case you're unlucky enough to ever have to use dial-up again in your life). It also has a webcam, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a fingerprint reader and a built-in DVD burner.
While it's definitely a well-stocked notebook, the downside is that it's also a little on the heavy side for its size. It weighs in at 2.2kg; this weight is definitely noticeable when the notebook is picked up with one hand. It also feels thick and bulky and, if it wasn't for the textured panels and bits of gloss, it would definitely feel like a good old office workhorse machine.
Satellite Pro U500: Specifications and performance
There is plenty of processing power under the hood of the Satellite Pro U500 for crunching spreadsheets and even for encoding videos. You get a 2.27GHz Intel Core i5-430M CPU, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 500GB, 5400rpm hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce 310M graphics adapter. In our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the U500 recorded times of 59sec and 1min 7sec, respectively. The Blender time is what we expected for a notebook using the Core i5-430M (it's exactly the same time as the Acer Aspire 5741-434G50Mn, for example), but the iTunes time is a couple of seconds off the pace.
In our video encoding test, AutoGordianKnot took 1hr 10min to transcode a DVD file to a 1.5GB Xvid file, which is a swift time — the Dell Inspiron 15R N5010, which runs the same CPU, recorded the same time in this test. The only test in which the U500 was sluggish was our hard drive file transfer test, in which the drive recorded a transfer rate of 20.78 megabytes per second. We expected a rate of at least 25MBps.
In the graphics department, the NVIDIA GeForce 310M adapter recorded a score of 3696 in 3DMark06, which is a decent result and it gives the Satellite Pro U500 a better ability to process business graphics and high resolution photos, and it also gives it the ability to run a few games (such as World of Warcraft, StartCraft 2 and car racing games in the Need For Speed franchise).