Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Appraising the Toshiba P300 - reposted to display photos

This posting is so overdue if it was a sick patient more than one reader would have been asking if it had shuffled off the mortal coil.

My apologies to jack of TalkToshiba for the inordinate delay. (It has increased my already substantial respect for people like James and Kevin of jkontherun and Matt, a blogger in his own right, who podcasts with them on Mobiles on the Run. With my new job and the rush to the end of the old one I haven't breathed never mind blogged).

Whenever I have been asked what laptop someone should buy I have always responded by asking the enquirer to write down on apiece of paper all the things they want to be able to do. I then look at the list and compare it to the laptop I use. I end up either recommending the one I have or, if their IT useage is a lighter one than mine, something of a similar size. You see, I love the 10" (25cm) or 12" (30cm) screen size notebooks.

Ask me about buying a 15" monitor on a laptop and I could be seen drawing in my breath. Make it a 17" screen and I would also start shaking my head; suggest that I might be wrong and I could get to tutting mode (I know I hate it when people do that too).

Time has passed since my initial excitement at trying something new on this blog. As you are reading this I would like to thank you for your patience.

Out of the blue I had the opportunity to try out a laptop that was new to me. For me this is a blogging dream. I get my hands on some new kit without the worry, nay fear, of having to explain to my long suffering wife why I needed another piece of technology.

So a little over 3 weeks ago, I took receipt of a Toshiba P300 laptop computer. For those of you who have not encountered this beast you can click on it's name in this sentence and be taken to the Toshiba website for a view. I have decided to make this an opinion piece rather than an in depth technical review, since the majority of my readers are currently non-geeks (I mean that in a nice way folks - honest). The technical specs are listed on the Toshiba site and elsewhere if you care to Google.

The first thing I noticed, if it was a dog it would have leapt up and bit me, was the proportions of the thing. 17" (42.5cm) of laptop monitor clip_image001and the rest to support it really is big; especially seem against this HP 2710p in the photo on the right. Working for NCH, my previous employer, I often worked on desktop machines that had 15" screens but this form factor made the Toshiba's real estate look even bigger than it's 17".

Compensating for the size was the weight of the laptop. I didn't have scales to hand but I could carefully pick it up using just one hand and it was lighter than I expected. The chasis was rigid and gave me confidence in it's ability to stand up to knocks. Not that it should have too many. This is definitely a machine in my eyes that is built to be a desktop replacement. It would be a rare occasion indeed where someone intended to lug a 17" laptop around all day as their portable solution (queue the hoards of blog comments saying otherwise).

clip_image002On the cosmetic side the glossy appearance to the surfaces (see photo left), including keys appealed to me. It felt like the sort of machine that Darth Vader might choose to use. I only ever had clean hands when I handled the P300, out of respect for it being my first trial machine. (I wonder, do reviewers not out to test to destruction try out equipment with everyday dirty hands?) The glossiness seemed to help me select keys when typing but was no help when trying to type in dark conditions (well, we can't all be touch typists like my friends James and Kevin over at Another pointer to it being a desktop machine, other than the size, is a lack of built in illumination as I have on this HP 2710p and my x60s Thinkpad.

Firing up the P300 I was impressed with the speed that it booted into Windows Vista. It was faster than either of my normal machines laptops or my current desktop Lenovos in my new job. There wasn't a huge amount of software on the computer so it was lacking in those attractive little add ons that seem to fill machines i own for more than a couple of years. (Every so often I go on a purge and remove a bunch of memory sapping, start-up programmes that I think are well worth loading but then hardly, if ever, use - mental note to self, about time I had another purge I think).

I had the choice of setting up a bunch of software on the machine itself but decided to make use of programmes that could be run from a memory stick. Partly my decision was because I had some teething problems getting the Toshiba recognised by my wireless network; not a fault of the P300 hundred in my opinion rather a vaguery of my setup. For reasons of much delayed interior decoration it wasn't practical to work while wired to the router in the other room. I also reasoned that working from the usb memory stick would tax the system and help me see how quickly it would run. I am not familiar with the various benchmarks used by technical reviewers and wasn't prepared to go down that route blind. The Toshiba continued to run with speedily despite a number of programmes running at the same time as a DVD. clip_image003

I used the VLC video programme to watch a number of DVDs, in particular the Lord of the Rings trilogy, my thinking being that it would tax the processor and graphics more than a less effects orientated film. The picture quality was excellent, the colours rich and the glossy screen enhanced blacks in much the same way as my brother Nigel's Sony Vaio laptop does.

In addition to films I listened to podcasts and found that the sound was very clear and sufficiently loud that I never found a reason to have the volume at more than halfway. The Harmon Kardon speakers are prominent in the corners at the top of the keyboard but I think the sound quality is compensation enough and if you want people to see small and discreet, you're not going to be lugging a 17" beast about with you.

I often watch programmes from the BBC and Channel 4 in here in the UK on my computer when it suits me and so could easily see me doing this with a P300 at my desk (once I get the pesky decorating sorted - I have long come to the realisation that I hate Do-It-Yourself and DIY hates me). Don't get me wrong, I love sitting in a comfy chair catching up on all sorts of things with this hp2710p on the arm of the sofa but there are times when 1) a bigger screen would help and 2) a more formal setting is required; I am sure that I am the only one that finds it hard to get any writing done when I am too comfortable.

The controls are neatly laid out at the top of the keyboard and enable multimedia control, always a handy feature and helpful when watching in the dark as it saves trying to look for keyboard combinations or bringing up onscreen ones.

All in all I have to save that I enjoyed using the P300.  For me it's particular strength is as a desktop replacement, offering a certain amount of portability (say,  when away for the holidays) and providing a very enjoyable media experience.  While I have my options covered at present, it would definitely feature in my shortlist of choices for when I need to replace my ageing desktop computer.  clip_image004

Thanks Jack for the opportunity to see life from the sunny side of the street.

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Cornwall, United Kingdom
A married Cornishman who is getting an inkling of what he wants to be when he grows up. I currently work for the NHS. [See bottom of page for Blog Archive and Links.]