Toshiba Satellite M55-S325
At a Glance
Toshiba Satellite M55-S325 Notebook
Handsome 14-inch wide-screen notebook boasts a peacock-blue lid but has cramped mouse buttons.
I loved this retail notebook's light weight and its pretty peacock-blue lid, but for $1349 I would demand a better keyboard and touchpad.
Let's start with what's right about the Satellite M-55. It weighs just 5.1 pounds (sans power adapter) and has a bright 14-inch wide screen that I could open on a cramped airline tray. The laptop's TruBrite technology supposedly makes the screen easier to read at an angle, though I couldn't detect much difference between the M55-S325 and the non-TruBrite Toshiba Tecra A5--its almost identical business counterpart. Both looked great head-on and were a little harder to read from the sides.
The M55-S325 has almost all of the features I care about as a consumer, including a DVD burner and plenty of USB 2.0 ports--four in all, including two on the right side of the case where I prefer them. The notebook also supplies a FireWire port for downloading digital video from a camcorder, a TV-out port for linking to a big external screen, and a five-in-one memory card reader. The main disappointment here is the machine's lack of built-in support for CompactFlash cards, which my camera uses.
The removable 100GB hard drive is a stunningly roomy, and you get an empty memory slot for future upgrading. A 512MB chip is sealed beneath the keyboard--not ideal but something I could live with. Bluetooth is not an option, but the notebook is Wi-Fi ready and has an on/off switch on the front.
The touchpad buttons were too small and too close to the edge of the case for me to use comfortably. Each time I tried to depress a button, my thumb struck the case, too. Using an external mouse is an option, but that's not a tradeoff I'd willingly make, especially since I'd expect to use this notebook outside the office a lot. So, while tempted, I would probably pass on this otherwise terrific little wide screen.
The M55-S325's CD/DVD button saves battery life (it held out for 3 hours, 8 minutes in our tests) by powering up just the optical drive when playing CDs and DVDs. A full set of media buttons appear in a panel running down the right side of the keyboard; these let me easily stop, pause, and move forward and backward through CD tracks and movie chapters. My full-screen version of Master and Commander looked and sounded pretty good. The M55-S325 lacks a subwoofer for boosting bass tones, but its audio was above average thanks to the Harman/Kardon speakers located in a prominent panel that runs the length of the bottom screen frame. The headphone port and a volume wheel lie within easy reach on the front of the case.
The M55-S325 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 78, so it should be able to handle any mainstream application fine. The only one other notebook with the 1.73-GHz Pentium M 740 processor we've tested was Toshiba's Satellite M45-S351, which ambled to a score of 69.
This notebook has so much going for it--topped off by a good Acrobat manual and the Microsoft Works application bundle--that dismissing it for one poorly implemented feature seems almost unfair, but there you have it.
Generous storage, great weight, and screen and eye-catching lid can't overcome this notebook's cramped mouse buttons.