Introducing the Toshiba Satellite M645

Toshiba has spent the last half a decade carving out an interesting niche as a notebook manufacturer, with many consumer-grade notebooks that are ostensibly budget offerings but often feature a markedly different look and feel from the kinds of laptops vendors like Dell, HP, and Acer produce to serve this market segment. Oftentimes they can feel stylistically behind the curve, but every so often they produce a big winner as they did with their Portege R700 series.

Now, a trickle-down of style couples with modern hardware in a respectable new entrant in their venerable Satellite line: the M645. Our review unit features a shiny new Sandy Bridge mobile dual-core processor along with a healthy amount of memory, an Optimus-enabled NVIDIA GeForce 500M series GPU, and a Blu-ray combo drive, all in a reasonable 14-inch chassis. But it threatens to set you back a grand: is it worth it?

The elegantly titled M645-S4118X we have on hand for review is the most expensive unit in Toshiba's M640 line, and as you'll see from the specifications, it largely earns that. This is as decked out as Toshiba's 14-inch consumer notebooks get, featuring a lot of power and flexibility. Here's what you get:

Toshiba M645-S4118X Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2410M
(2x2.3GHz + HTT, 2.9GHz Turbo, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 4GB DDR3-1333 and 2GB DDR3-1333 (6GB Total, Max 2x4GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB DDR3 (Optimus)
(96 CUDA cores, 475MHz/950MHz/1.8GHz core/shaders/memory)

Intel HD 3000 (12 EUs, 650-1200MHz core)
Display 14-inch LED Glossy 16:9 1366x768
(Chi Mei N140B6-L02 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba 640GB 5400RPM SATA 3Gbps Hard Disk
Optical Drive BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive w/ Labelflash
Networking Realtek PCIe FE 10/100 Ethernet
Atheros AR9002WB-1NG 802.11n Wireless
Bluetooth 3.0+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 48Wh battery
Front Side Indicator lights
SD/MS/MMC reader
Left Side Kensington lock
2x USB 2.0
Ethernet jack
Optical drive
Right Side Headphone jack
Microphone jack
HDMI
USB 3.0
VGA
Exhaust vent
AC adaptor jack
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.3" x 9.0" x 1.12"-1.39" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.4 lbs
Extras Webcam
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
Blu-ray drive
Backlit keyboard
USB 3.0
Bluetooth
Warranty 1-year limited warranty
Pricing MSRP at $1,099
Available online at $999

Starting from the top we have one of Intel's midrange Sandy Bridge mobile processors, the Core i5-2410M. Like its kin it features 3MB of L3 cache along with Hyper-Threading, and depending on thermals and workload it can turbo up to 2.6GHz on two cores or 2.9GHz on one core. Its only real weak point is that its HD 3000 GPU tops out at 1200MHz instead of the 1300/1350MHz you get on some of the faster models, but given our next major component that shouldn't be a huge issue.

The M645 benefits greatly from the inclusion of the NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M with 1GB of DDR3 running at 900MHz (1.8GHz effective) and Optimus technology to maximize battery life while allowing the end user to enjoy both a decent mobile gaming GPU as well as Intel's Quick Sync hardware video encoder. Unfortunately, this is a point where the unit also falters: Toshiba runs the GT 525M at clocks well below spec. NVIDIA specifies the 525M to run the core at 600MHz (and thus the 96 CUDA cores at 1.2GHz), but Toshiba has substantially reduced its core clock to just 475MHz (reducing the CUDA cores to a paltry 950MHz). The cut is a brutal one that you'll see reduces performance below even a GeForce GT 420M.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Toshiba includes a generous 6GB of DDR3-1333, and while the 5400RPM spindle speed on the hard drive is slow, at least the 640GB of storage is copious. Better still, Toshiba also includes both a Blu-ray drive and a USB 3.0 port. The backlit keyboard is also a welcome touch, but the inexplicable lack of gigabit ethernet connectivity is troubling, and the mediocre 48Wh 6-cell battery is unfortunate.

In terms of the internal hardware, we really wind up with mixed feelings all around as Toshiba has been generous in some places while frustratingly stingy in others. At the price Toshiba is asking, some of these trade-offs just shouldn't have been made.

Finally, a Little Less Gloss
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  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Sadly, as you found out. eSATA from one device/system to the next is very inconsistent.

    Personally, I was in the market for something eSATA. But after reading through all the woes on user reviews (newegg) about the current state of eSATA hardware. I was "forced" to realize that USB3 is the only real option. It is a shame though, as eSATA has a few pretty nice options to offer. Connecting to a RAID array through a port multiplier would be one.

    USB3 is not however a bad option. 5Gbit/s should be more than enough to keep up with any plater based HDD. Worse case scenario I've read that you double your speed when compared to USB2. Some claim 100MB/s when using one HDD( which I personally find dubious ). I would be happy with a consistent 50-60MB/s though.

    Anyway, this might not do you any good now, for your current problem. But keep in mind that in the future, Assuming the state of current eSATA hardware stays the same. You could have used that expresscard on your laptop to put in an expresscard ->USB3 card and bought a USB3 enclosure for under $60 USD. Here, I am assuming your system did come with an expresscard slot ( which many Toshibas do ). Also, for all intents and purposes where performance is concerned, expresscard slots are in effect a mini PCIe slot. 1.5Gbit/s throughput potential.
    Reply
  • gte343z - Monday, May 02, 2011 - link

    Has anyone reviewed the lenovo e420s, It would seem to be a good competitor to the m645 in terms of price / features, although they haven't released the version with hd6630m graphics yet in the U.S.

    I'm looking for something in the 13/14" <4.5lbs range and am not that impressed. The mac air / mbp 13 have nice screens but slow processor / no discrete graphics accordingly, not to mention the high price. Still competition is lacking given the subpar screens from other vendors.

    Also how usable is the 1366x768 screen size? I'm used to my hp 8530w 15.4" 1920x1200 screen and am concerned this will be a deal breaker.

    Any thoughts are appreciated.
    Reply
  • NeilBhisma - Monday, August 13, 2018 - link

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  • benoakes11 - Monday, August 13, 2018 - link

    Compare your Battery with comfortable Toshiba Satellite M645 de la eMAG, but some reviews say that it has overheating issues and poor build quality. Also, the most kit is probably bought online so it makes them even more pointless. https://www.toshibasupportphonenumber.com/blog/fix... Reply

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