PRODUCT REVIEW

A Notebook that Mixes Pleasure with Business

If you’re looking for a laptop, you couldn’t have picked a better time. New models seem to be appearing on a weekly basis, each with its own mix of features to entice buyers.

Gateway, for instance, has introduced its M680 series, which packs power into a thin, yet full-sized package. Sharp, with its Actius AL3D, takes display technology to a new frontier: 3D — the kind you don’t need special glasses to see.

And then there’s Toshiba’s Satellite M45 notebook series.

If you want to mix entertainment with business, the M45 has an excellent set of features and components that will allow you to do both — and at a good price, from US$1,349 to $1,778 on the Internet.

Hefty Portable

The unit isn’t as svelte as some of the newer notebooks entering the market — its dimensions are 10.6-by-1.7-by-14.2 inches and it weighs a hefty 6.2 pounds, which means it’s portable but you won’t be running any marathons with it.

Unlike “lugtops”– large-form notebooks built with desktop components — the M45 has a true mobile processor at its heart, the Pentium M, running at — depending on the model –1.60 or 1.73 megahertz and uses Intel’s 915GM Express chipset as the backbone for its sound and graphics.

Even when cranked to the max, you won’t be blowing out anyone’s windows with audio levels from the M45. Its 16-bit Harmon/Kardon stereo speakers do a good job with movie DVD audio, but on the music side, the audio lacked depth.

One aspect of new computers that irks me is the way manufacturers lowball their machines on memory to make the base price more attractive. In my book, 256 megabytes of memory just doesn’t cut it anymore.

With the M45, Toshiba doesn’t take that lowball approach. The base unit has 512 megabytes of DDR SDRAM with a speed of 333 megahertz. The series has two hard drive sizes: 80 and 100 gigabytes.

Gorgeous Display

Toshiba is known for its quality displays and the M45 reaffirms that reputation.

The silver and black unit’s wide aspect LCD, which measures 15.4 inches, is gorgeous to look at. Its TrueBrite technology gives the screen a glossy look, not the matte look of many LCDs.

With a native resolution of 1280-by-800 pixels, objects on the LCD, which has a contrast ratio of 400:1, are very sharp and colors really pop.

And the display has a very wide viewing angle. I could stand at the side of the unit and everything on the screen appeared as distinct as when viewing the display head on.

When you want to take a break from entertainment and do some work on the M45, you’ll find that it has a very comfortable keyboard. The keys are broad, have a nice stroke length and are laid out in typical notebook fashion with an embedded number pad on the right side of the clavier.

System controls for the unit are conveniently placed in a cluster on the left side of the keyboard.

At the top of the cluster is a large power button surrounded by an ellipse of electric blue light. Needless to say, finding the power button on this machine is not a problem as it is on many computers — notebooks and otherwise — that I’ve seen.

Battery Life

When not running on AC power, the unit’s battery life is 2.75 hours, as measured by MobileMark202 a software program for measuring battery life in notebooks.

Below the power button are controls for accessing the Internet, playing CDs and DVDs, and common media player controls — pause/play, stop, forward and backward.

The unit has wireless connectivity for WiFi in both “b” and “g” flavors built into it. WiFi can be turned off with a switch at the front of the notebook.

Mix Business, Pleasure

Also at the front of the unit is a dial for controlling the volume of the computer; headphone and earphone jacks; and a card reader for SD, XD, SmartMedia and Memory Stick.

On the left side of the notebook is a high-speed USB port, a connector for a VGA monitor and a PC card slot. On the right side are two USB ports and a four-pin FireWire port.

With its M45 series, Toshiba has introduced a strong offering for notebook computer users who want to blur the line between business and pleasure, and it has done it at a respectable price.


John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].


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