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Baby Steps into the Present

Credit where credit is due to Toshiba: while a lot of the design points I took issue with on their older laptops are still present in the Satellite L775D-S7206, they're still definitely progressing with each refresh. In the case of the L775D-S7206, much of the shell has been upgraded to an attractive navy blue aluminum finish. It still picks up smudges and fingerprints, but it looks nowhere near as cheap as the explosion-at-the-gloss-factory finishes of old.

I'm more liable to forgive Toshiba's design trespasses on a notebook like this one because of its low pricetag, but they're still worth pointing out: glossy plastic does not belong on the screen bezel. In fact, that's really part of the problem with this notebook: while the aluminum finish is fantastic, Toshiba has managed to put glossy plastic just about everywhere you don't want it. The screen bezel should be devoid of glossy plastic yet there it is, and worse, the keyboard is still comprised of the same flat, glossy keys that I derided last generation. There's something seriously wrong when the cheaper notebooks in your line have better keyboards by virtue of just using matte plastic instead of gloss.

What makes that more frustrating is that Toshiba's keyboard layout is honestly one of the best I've seen. While Clevo continues to be utterly perplexed by the prospect of integrating a 10-key with the rest of the keyboard, Toshiba's layout is incredibly smart and as close to ideal as you could ask for. No keys are missing, the 10-key is the bog standard layout, and document navigation keys have their own row above the 10-key. Toshiba's layout is as good as I could ask for, I just wish they'd at least upgrade the rest of their notebooks to the keyboard they're using on their Tecra and Portege lines, or at least get rid of the gloss.

You'll also notice a stunning lack of media keys or touch-sensitive shortcuts above the keyboard. I've never liked the touch-sensitive strips and I'm happy to see it gone, though a few media shortcut keys would've been appreciated even as Fn combinations.

The touchpad is much easier to use, and thankfully it isn't a part of the chassis the way most inexpensive notebooks make it. You can see clearly in the photo that it's a different piece, and it's smooth and easy to track. The action on the mouse buttons is a little stiff, but not a huge deal: if you don't have an external mouse handy, you could do a lot worse than Toshiba's touchpad. The pad itself could be a bit larger, and the buttons are perhaps too large, but it works well regardless.

Honestly my biggest gripe is that Toshiba is still futzing with flat glossy keys and bulbous shell designs on their consumer notebooks. My experiences with Toshiba notebooks, barring design decisions, have typically been very positive, and anecdotally I have yet to see one actually die, no matter the age. Toshiba offers great options for budget users, and the navy blue aluminum panels are a major upgrade, but the overall curvy design still feels unattractive to me.

Budget DTR: The Toshiba Satellite L775D-S7206 Oh My Stars: Application Performance
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  • DudleyUC - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    I never said I thought you or any anandtech staff members were biased; I don't think that is the case. I said that too much emphasis is placed on the CPU benchmarks. These synthetic numbers don't afford "real world" bearings and what you end up with is a pissing contest.

    Take the PCMark 7 Entertainment score for example. What unit is that benchmark in and how does that correlate to a users entertainment experience? What will be the observable differences to the user?

    I don't argue the quantitative rigor of these benchmarks, I just doubt they are an accurate measure of the value. While value is in the eye of the consumer (as you said, we're all individuals), I think "twice the performance" according to these tests doesn't account for much in daily use. If I'm wrong on that, please let me know and come up with a way to translate these abstruse numbers into something comprehensible.

    And yes, my Civic vs. McClaren analogy was preposterous. I intentionally chose an absurd comparison in order to succinctly make my opinion clear. I thought it was a better option than going on for two paragraphs.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    You're correct that the application performance results are hard to apply in the real world. If you do 3D rendering, obviously the CPU speed is important; same goes for video encoding (though frankly I'd give up some quality just to use Intel's Quick Sync, because it's so stinking fast -- and YouTube/Vimeo/etc. will munge the quality of your resulting video regardless).

    How much faster is an Intel CPU than AMD CPU for doing email, surfing the web, running Office apps? For a lot of people, it doesn't matter. Now my dad for instance has an Excel spreadsheet with a crapton of data, and he definitely noticed a difference when he upgraded from Core 2 Duo to Core i5 -- saves faster, calculates faster, etc. I'm guessing he'd see a difference between Llano and Core i5 as well for what he does, but I don't have a good way of benchmarking this.

    The other thing is that I really do believe Llano's iGPU is bottlenecked by CPU performance in some games. At higher quality, it doesn't really matter (and isn't playable), but I've actually got a Core i5-2410M with AMD HD 6630M in house for review, so at least we'll be able to put a specific figure on how much the faster CPU matters in gaming soon enough.

    Would I prefer a $600 Llano system or a $700 Intel i5 system? Actually, I'd have to say neither! Personally, I want a good keyboard and a good display first and foremost, so I'd recommend a Dell XPS 15/15z with the 1080p display. Performance is fine, but it's the overall build (particularly of the 15z) that I find compelling. That's another forthcoming review. :-)

    If I had to choose between $600 Llano and $700 for a family member or friend, most of my family doesn't care about gaming performance at all, so the major advantage of Llano isn't its better graphics but is simply the bottom line. $600 for a decent laptop? Yup, that works for me. Then again, I'd start looking at the budget $400-$500 laptops as well to see if there's something "good enough" for even less money than Llano.
    Reply
  • Roland00Address - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    But when you get an ASUS with an a6+ a dedicated gpu for $450 like best buy had on sale this week

    Staples also has a similar laptop to what you tested here with only two changes for $500. For the lost of $200 dollars mark up you lose the blu ray and you only get a 500gb hard drive.

    Llano is great for the average user. The average user is pretty much buying for price and is going for the $400 to $600 dollar market.

    If you want an awesome screen instead of a crap tn go with intel, for laptops with nice screens they are already costly and once you are spending $800 or more what is another $100 or so for a better cpu and gpu.
    Reply
  • jabber - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    Hmmm Optimus...from what I've seen its a 50/50 gamble whether it works or not.

    Seen a few customers struggle with that.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    Our experiences with Optimus have been pretty positive. It hasn't been 100%, but it certainly works well enough to be out in the wild. Reply
  • seapeople - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Something as simple as a Windows Update can be CPU limited for a significant portion of the time. Or even reopening that large spreadsheet that you just closed which is reading from RAM. Many of these actions can be blocking actions too, such as waiting for your scheduled Windows Update to do whatever it is that pegs your quad core at 25% processor for some horrible reason so your computer can start up.

    If you're not interested in ultra fast response times, then this may not matter to you. If you're the type of person who just recently realized that 28kbps DSL from AOL is not as great a deal as you thought it was, then you probably won't care about the myriad tasks that complete slightly faster with a fast threaded processor.
    Reply
  • thetuna - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Maybe I'm missing something here, or maybe I just got a good deal.
    I just picked up an HP dv6 which is superior in every way to this toshiba... for $585.
    A8, 6GB ram, 7200rpm HDD, bluray, gig-e(since when does that even have to be mentioned?).
    The only difference is a smaller screen, which many don't even consider a con.
    Reply
  • DudleyUC - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Yeah, the dv6 and the g4 (also by HP, but only at best buy) are substantially cheaper than Llano offerings from other manufacturers. Not sure why, I have the g4 and it is the best budget laptop I've ever seen. Reply
  • Novaguy - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    The dv6 is what I've got, and I went for the 1080p and 6750M options, plus 640gb 7200 rpm. I did pay for the A8-3530MX, but it appears that either the A8-3510MX or the A6-3410MX are the best bang for bucks if you are going to do the undervolt/overclock thing. And the 3530MX is apparently unavailable. As far as I can tell, there is not much difference in overclocking potential between the MX's with the latest version of k10stat, and the potential gpu bandwidth increase is appreciated for future memory upgrades.

    My feeling on the screen - I really like the 1080p, and for me it's the must buy upgrade because I have no problem reading at that resolution. But if you like/need the 1366x768, do that. 6750M is probably overkill, but you really either want to go with the 6620g/6520g or the 6750M - the 6400M discrete crossfire doesn't seem to work well and I don't think there is much difference between the 6400M discrete and on chip 6620/6520 graphics.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    So what did you end up paying for the dv6 with A8-3530MX, 1080p, and 6750M? Looking at HP's configuration utility, I can't even select the A8-3530MX on the dv6zqe (dv6z Quad Edition), but maybe you used a different model -- link please!

    With the A8-3510MX, dual-graphics (I'm guessing 6750M, though HP doesn't specify), 6GB RAM, 750GB 7200RPM HDD, and 1080p LCD, the price from HP comes out to $1100. That's not exactly an inexpensive laptop at that point, though I suppose it's less than $1150 for a Dell XPS 15 L502x. I configured the Dell with 1080p and GT 540M graphics paired with an i5-2410M CPU.

    So that's $50 in savings to downgrade CPU performance (it's probably pretty close in multi-threaded tasks) and have somewhat faster GPU performance. I'd have to handle both laptops before making that call. Of course, if you paid more like $1000 (or less) for the dv6 you purchased, then it's a much better deal.
    Reply

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