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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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  • alxnet - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    There's a number of 30% off or $300 off coupons floating around which gets you a substantial discount off a minimum $1000 custom laptop purchase from HP. Just google HP-30%-Coupon. Got my 9cell dv6z with an A8-3500 and a 1920x1080 screen for under $800. I've got a OEM Vertex 3 240GB which I got for less than $400 after rebate. Combined, it's one hell-uv-a laptop. Eight hours of runtime on average and it boots so quick I don't even bother putting it into sleep mode. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Yeah, that's pretty slick. The SSD is of course a huge upgrade, but even without it, $800 for that sort of setup is far better than most $800 laptops you normally find. Since I'm not usually in the market for buying laptops, I don't scour around for coupons much. Maybe we need a guy dedicated to doing that and making little Pipeline posts? :-) Reply
  • Novaguy - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    My HP A8-3530MX system was $820 pre-tax/shipping using one of the 30% coupon, like alxnet mentioned. Base configuration price was $50 at the time (I should demand a price correction) but that works out to a $35 difference once you factor in the coupon. Not worth the aggravation of spending a couple hours on the phone with customer service.

    If I had to do it again, I might have aimed the processor lower (an A8-3510MX, probably) and maybe skipped the 6750M (maybe, it's kind of fun to have it just to see if it ever works).

    I wouldn't skip the 1080p, though. It's my must buy upgrade, especially since the HP comes with blue-ray and one of things I use the laptop for is a portable DVD/blue ray player for when I travel. One negative - just like the toshiba here, HP has glossy plastic crap on the bezel. Why?

    Also, I think that the 30% coupon only kicks in at the 999.00 base price, so when you get close, there is an incentive to get over it.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    If it runs cool then it should be overclocked. If it cannot be overclocked then it is useless. Again, the benchmark results seem to indicate that the chip only turbos up to 1.8GHz. Clearly the turbo is not functioning as it should. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    I'd say the Turbo is functioning exactly as expected. 2.3GHz is the max it can hit, but just like Intel I'm guessing you mostly won't get max -- maybe max minus a bin or two. Then again, with a 17.3" chassis the CPU ought to have more than enough cooling to be able to run faster. Personally, though, I don't believe in overclocking laptops at all. They may work fine for six months, or even two years, but most laptops already start to run pretty toasty when you start running games or other CPU/GPU intensive apps. I never find laptops to be so slow that I'd worry about a 10% overclock, and 33% usually pushes too far (outside of CULV, where that just made a CULV into a slightly lower clocked Core 2). Reply
  • DudleyUC - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    I know companies like things in sets of 3, but I'm not sure there's a lot of need for the A6. The A4 gives you 2 cores at a higher clock (1.9 GHz) translating into better performance on single threaded CPU applications. It also gives you a faster clock (444 MHz) but on fewer shaders, yielding only slightly lower graphics performance.

    If you need 4 cores, it's not that much extra money for an A8 that gives you slightly better CPU performance than the A6 and substantially improved graphics performance.

    So what niche does the A6 fill? Does the lower clocked GPU improve battery life? Is this just a marketing tactic (appealing to customers who don't want buy the cheapest option or the most expensive option)?
    Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    I think I can agree on this one. A proper (read: not with disabled cores) dual core Llano would result in less power usage and lower temperatures, so they could easily afford to throw out a much higher clocked variant. The productivity scores wouldn't suffer (they might actually be an improvement) as long as the Turbo Core implementation isn't significantly reduced.

    Having said that, I still can't help but wonder what a different cache implementation would achieve - unified L2 isn't an AMD thing so we can rule that out, but some L3 cache, perhaps? We've also learned that fast, low latency RAM is a big help for APU performance, and with the relative proximity in terms of pricing, the only thing you'd need to worry about with faster RAM would be the power usage... but again, if we're going dual core, that's nicely offset provided you don't go completely mad with the CPU clock. Manufacturers also have to remember that, with a discrete-level card, we can't have anaemic batteries on these machines, something we saw all-too-often with Phenom II laptops, so it's good to see some common sense with some Llano implementations. Regardless, look at how well they've gotten the power consumption down from 45nm to 32nm.

    Llano is certainly niche, but some people will find value in the principle of a good enough CPU for most tasks paired with a decent GPU. Of course, for those with more money, it won't be as attractive, but not everyone is in that position (especially nowadays).
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    It's been my experience looking at the differences between the Athlon II X4 and corresponding Phenom II X4 that the L3 cache doesn't actually have a major impact on performance, maybe 10% at most. The problem is that the Stars core just sucks. :|

    Also, Llano's memory controller is actually ridiculously efficient for the GPU. DDR3-1600 may help but I don't know how much and I'm not sure it's worth it in a notebook.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    Would you say that Llano's revised Stars cores are close in performance to those in Phenom II thanks to the extra L2 and the architectural tweaks?

    Additionally, one thing people have to remember about Llano is that it won't have a DDR2 memory controller taking up space, so that's good for reducing cost.

    You're probably right as regards the memory controller. The laptop version of Llano has a much lower clocked GPU than is present on the desktop so that would reduce the need for faster RAM, but it'd be nice to see the effect.
    Reply
  • Jawadali - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    The article did point this out, but I just want to reiterate that similar versions of this laptop are often on sale. I have noticed that Staples' version goes on sale for $500 quite often (like it is now):

    http://www.staples.com/Toshiba-Satellite-L775D-S72...

    I think I even saw it for ~$450 at one point. Compared to the one linked at Office Depot, I think the main differences are that is has a 500GB drive (instead of a 640GB), and does not have Blu-Ray. It also doesn't seem to have bluetooth.

    I'd say it's a pretty decent general-purpose DTR in this price range.
    Reply

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