This entry is targeted mostly towards my family, but if it helps others, great.
I’m writing this entry from my mother’s new laptop, a Toshiba Satellite C655. It was purchased to replace her Asus Eee Pc, which sadly has not lived up to the hype for us. The first Eee we got had critical hardware issues (graphical glitches and the like), and the replacement seemed to work but has had stability problems. I’ve already reinstalled WinXP on it once, but it has periodic blue screens during bootup and when sitting idle. Plus, the battery now holds zero charge whatsoever (as in, the computer sees the battery but says 0% charge, and if I disconnect the AC cord it will immediately lose all power). It’s only been maybe two years since she got it, so I hate to say, it’s been a lemon for us… and I was one of the people who recommended it.
Anyway, onto the topic of the replacement. The Toshiba was purchased from bestbuy.com for around $270 or $280. Immediately I thought “not again” because of the last cheap system we got for my mom. However, this system has fared much better.
On to the review…
- Much larger screen than the Eee. The Eee is meant to be small and works great for a geek like myself, but for my mother it makes everything too small. Lowering the resolution helps, but then everything stretches off screen. With the new laptop, we don’t need to tweak anything.
- Not too heavy. It’s heavier than the Eee, but surprisingly not too much so. It’s certainly no Ultrabook, but it isn’t a burden either.
- Faster than the Eee. The low end for laptops has gotten nicer nowadays; this laptop has 2GB of ram which is pretty decent for Windows 7. The CPU is an AMD E-300, which only operates at 1.3 GHz (translation for family: pretty slow), but has a benefit of running near silent. Plus, it seems to run my mom’s flash games better than the Eee did, although still a bit choppy.
- Did I say nearly silent? I can hear the laptop if there is no other background noise in the room. Under normal circumstances it’s pretty nice.
- Battery life appears to be excellent. I’ve been typing on here for a good 30 minutes or so with the AC disconnected, and I still supposedly have 6 hours left. That’s actually pretty attractive for someone like myself…
Just based upon the above, was the laptop a good move for my mom? I’m going to say yes.
But, since other family members are curious, and since I myself am now in the market for a new laptop (as the screen on my Japanese one just died), I must get critical and list up the bad:
- Initial impression: Super slow. Doing the initial boot-up took forever. The computer seemed to be really slow when running Chrome for the first time as well. I’m not sure if the slowness was all due to running the first time, or if it was also due to the trial Norton which was installed (I have a history with Norton causing machines to run like molasses), so I dropped Norton, installed the free edition of Avast, and rebooted. The second boot-up took maybe 1:45 to 2 minutes before the computer was -really- usable, but at that point it was working halfway decent.
- Very low horsepower. Good enough for email, word processing/spreadsheets and basic flash games, but again, it can be sluggish at times. A step up from the Eee PC though.
- YouTube test: Loaded up Gangnam Style since I know it goes up to 1080p, and tried different quality settings at full screen. At 1080p: The computer was super choppy and nearly uncontrollable. 720p: Also pretty bad, although somewhat less choppy. 480p: Playable and fairly smooth.
Okay, so I’ve rambled on enough. What’s the verdict?
For my mom: Sure, it’s good enough for most stuff.
For my wife: No. My wife does lots of streaming video and this’d be too borderline, even though the stuff she watches isn’t generally HD.
For myself: Pretty tough sell; probably not.
Really, the single biggest thing that I was disappointed with was not even being able to play 720p YouTube videos smoothly. That just seems like a red flag right there. I know 1080p is pointless since the screen isn’t even big enough for it, but 720p seems like a minimum standard for any new system nowadays in my opinion.
But for those who aren’t so much into multimedia on their computer, or for whom music is plenty, or for just light computer users: this may be a great option for the money. And seriously, the battery life seems killer – that’s one benefit of having an “underpowered” CPU is that it keeps going and going.
That’s about it. And for those who are curious what I would buy: I’d say something, probably an Ultrabook, with at least an Intel Core i3. Intel really does have a strong leg up on the competition nowadays. If you can afford an i5, go for it; I think the i5 still has more active CPU cores than the i3 and the extra cores do help. The value of the i7 is debatable, although I personally may go for it.
Also, keep in mind that many new Ultrabooks come with Intel’s integrated “HD” graphics, which is actually a halfway decent onboard graphics solution. I believe it’s supposed to handle 1080p video by design if I recall what I’ve read right. This is probably my suggestion for people who want a good solid system but without spending the premium for a “gaming” laptop.
Update: Been using this laptop a bit more, and it’s basically reinforced what I previously wrote. This does seem like a decent laptop for my mother; I don’t want her to return it or anything. However, I could do another test: Netflix. Netflix in HD is totally a slideshow. Normal netflix is mildly choppy but tolerable. (Both cases tested at fullscreen.)