Introducing the Toshiba Satellite P755D

While the launch of Trinity isn't too far away, it's important to remember there are still plenty of Llano notebooks available today with a lot to offer on their own. AMD's APU may be weak on the processor performance side, but the GPU side achieves something Intel historically couldn't touch: decent gaming performance at a budget price.

The problem now is that with Ivy Bridge also due soon, Sandy Bridge-based notebooks are going at fire sale prices while any of NVIDIA's 500 series graphics that haven't been rebranded also need to be purged, resulting in a substantial number of notebooks with gaming potential hanging out in Llano's neighborhood. Toshiba's Satellite P755D features AMD's fastest 35-watt Llano processor and a Blu-ray drive at a reasonably low price, but is it still going to be competitive?

As product lines age, parts get refreshed and good deals begin to appear near the end of a generation of hardware in preparation for the premiums that the next generation often commands. The same can be said for the Satellite P755D; the review unit we have on hand is essentially where the AMD-equipped versions of Toshiba's P750 series peak, condensed down to one model to make room for the new blood due over the next few months.

Toshiba Satellite P755D Specifications
Processor AMD A8-3520M
(4x1.6GHz, Turbo to 2.5GHz, 32nm, 4MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD A68M
Memory 1x4GB Samsung DDR3-1333 and 1x2GB Samsung DDR3-1333 (Maximum 2x8GB)
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6620G
(400 Stream Processors, 444MHz core clock)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
LG Philips LP156WH4-TLA1
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba MK-6475GSX 640GB 5400RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Networking Atheros AR9002WB 802.11b/g/n
Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 3.0
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and mic jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 47Wh
Front Side SD Card Reader
Right Side Headphone and mic jacks
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
AC adaptor
Kensington lock
Left Side Exhaust vent
Ethernet jack
USB 3.0
USB 2.0
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.4" x 9.01" x 1.1-1.4"
340mm x 229mm x 28-36mm
Weight 5.4 lbs
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Blu-ray reader
Harmon/kardon speakers
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing $699 MSRP
tarting at $678 Online

As I mentioned before, AMD's A8-3520M is the fastest APU in their mobile lineup before jumping up to the 45W TDP chips. This is a fully equipped Llano chip featuring all four cores running at a nominal 1.6GHz and able to turbo up to 2.5GHz depending on the workload and thermals. The GPU half sports the full 400 shaders, 20 texture units, and 8 ROPs, and shares a 128-bit dual-channel DDR3-1333-specced memory bus with the CPU half.

Toshiba's other big selling point with the P755D is offering a Blu-ray reader at a price the competition generally just doesn't. While this may not be of use to many users, I can tell you that I've known at least a few people who have deliberately sought out Blu-ray drives for their notebooks. Toshiba knows about those customers, and I get the feeling that the P755D is geared towards serving them specifically.

The rest of the notebook is pretty par for the course for an entry-level system, but thankfully USB 3.0 is at least becoming increasingly pervasive. It's joined by three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, and an ethernet jack, but the battery is the kind of middling-capacity hardware you'd expect from a notebook in this end of the market. You'll also have to cope with Toshiba's slow 5,400-RPM 640GB mechanical hard drive, which gets the job done but is definitely going to be the bottom rung on the performance ladder.

Where things get a bit sketchy is that $699 price tag. Fire sale Sandy Bridge notebooks have resulted in systems from Lenovo (never thought I'd see the day the vendor of ThinkPads would aggressively chase the bottom dollar) and Acer with i5 processors and dedicated NVIDIA graphics coming in $30 to $80 below the Satellite on NewEgg. The flipside is that none of those notebooks feature a Blu-ray drive, and while that accessory is going to be of questionable value to a lot of users there's a subset that will be willing to take the performance hit to get that flexibility.

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  • jamawass - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    Why is the Toshiba being compared with laptops that cost more than twice as much? A llano is comparable to an i3 based laptop which is inexplicably absent from the charts. Secondly I for one will be looking for a blu-ray drive in my next laptop purchase so there's a market for it or the OEM's wouldn't be manufacturing them.
    The reviewer should either only have laptops in the $699 price range or comparably performance equipped laptops with blu ray drive. I'm sure if you did a price/performance graph this laptop would be much more favorable. The current review does not tell me whether this is value for money at this price point.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    It's called context, plus most of the ~$700 laptops we get aren't well equipped for that price (and are often running AMD CPUs). We specifically called out the Lenovo and Acer laptops that have i5-2450M with GT 630M/540M, however, which if you look in the charts you can see right about where they would fall. The CPU is slower than the i7 CPUs in some of the other laptops (e.g. XPS 15z), but graphics performance will be the same ballpark as the GT 540M (e.g. faster than the GT 525M). So if the review was "unhelpful", it's only because you were unable to read the text and glean additional information from the context.

    FYI, we can only compare performance with laptops that we've actually tested. For obvious reasons, most companies don't want to send their entry level models and opt for faster variants. Case in point: we have never managed to receive an i3 equipped laptop for testing. However, when you look at the clock speeds of i3 vs. i5 (the 2350M runs at a steady 2.3GHz while the 2450M runs at 2.5 to 3.1 GHz), you can start to fill in the blanks. Lightly threaded tasks will be up to 35% faster on the i5, but heavily threaded tasks will fall a lot closer to the base frequency--around 15% faster on i5 would be my estimate.

    Heck, while we're at it, the Acer 3830TG actually has throttling issues on the CPU because it can't handle the heat of the CPU + GPU under full load. In many of the tests, the 3830TG will actually be slower than the i3-2350M that you can find in inexpensive laptops, and yet from a gaming perspective it would still beat Llano by a fair margin. (The GT 540M GPU is roughly 20% faster than the A8-3520M.)

    Hopefully all this information helps put the value in context for you and makes the value proposition a little more clear. As the conclusion notes, you're basically trading faster CPU and GPU performance for the Blu-ray drive. If you're willing to do that, fine, but consider that you CAN upgrade the optical drive to Blu-ray for around $80 aftermarket, while you're forever stuck with the GPU (and often CPU) on most laptops.
  • bji - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    If a description of how similarly priced notebooks would compare to this one takes that much verbage to report, then your assertion that anyone should be able to "read the text and glean additional information from context" is way off the mark.

    If you don't have similarly priced notebooks to compare against, then perhaps you can at least find some way to report on the price/performance ratio rather than just reporting performance numbers.
  • bji - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    By the way, not trying to sound overly critical. The reviews on this site are good, which is why we read them; I'm just trying to suggest how they could be better.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    The first paragraph is more than sufficient to explain the situation. The remaining paragraphs are to provide specific examples and additional details and are not particularly necessary. Nearly all of the information necessary to draw such conclusions is also in the graphs, assuming you know what the various model numbers mean.

    Ultimately, though, the conclusion already summarizes the above, and the rest of the review provides all the necessary information. I believe the problem is the OP either didn't actually read much of the accompanying text, didn't understand what the model numbers represent, or just disagreed on principle with showing a range of laptops. He also comes off rather confrontational: "I for one will be looking for a Blu-ray drive in my next laptop purchase so there's a market for it or the OEM's wouldn't be manufacturing them." Um, yes, and we specifically say that this laptop targets that niche, right?

    As for reporting price/performance ratio, that's a huge discussion separate from the above. Let me address that topic, again with a rather lengthy post. Price/performance is a completely flawed metric for laptops, as it leaves out a lot of other elements.

    Take something like the Dell XPS 15z vs. the linked Acer Aspire AS5755G-6841. Price/performance says the Acer is the better laptop, as it will be faster in many graphics tasks, close enough in CPU tasks, and it costs half of what the reviewed XPS 15z costs. But in the 15z review, we already point out that the i7 CPUs are very overpriced for what you get, and we recommend a configuration that would cost closer to $1000. With similar/worse performance to the Acer, which is the better value? From a build quality and screen quality perspective, the Dell wins hands down, but from performance scores you'd probably err more on the side of the Acer laptop. That's why our reviews discuss all of these other areas first, before we get to the benchmarks.

    Honestly, I could tell most people 95% of what they need to know about a laptop by looking at it and typing on it without running a single benchmark. The benchmarks are simply there for those who are not as informed on what the parts represent in terms of performance. For people that are just looking for an inexpensive laptop, find a sale at Best Buy or Office Depot or whatever and you're done. It will be an "okay" laptop, very similar to this Toshiba in all likelihood, only without Blu-ray. For those that want a quality laptop, however, you need to look at the display, use the keyboard, and basically poke and prod the tires and check under the hood to see if anything is amiss.

    That's what our laptop reviews try to do, and if you're only looking at the charts without reading the text, you're missing the real point of a review. Buying a laptop based off performance charts would be like buying a car based on horse power, top speed, or acceleration -- without regard for handling, styling, or features and accessories.
  • PolarisOrbit - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    I would like to see this in a review series, "Jarred's Laptop Summaries" or something. Just cover as many different laptops as possible! Maybe let people mail you their laptop with a return envelope to cover as much ground as possible!
  • PolarisOrbit - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    Oops I forgot the quote: "Honestly, I could tell most people 95% of what they need to know about a laptop by looking at it and typing on it without running a single benchmark."
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    We try to do this sort of "executive summary of the laptop market" about twice a year with our mobile buyers' guide. Speaking of which, once Trinity and Ivy Bridge get here it will be an excellent time to do so! Or maybe I should do it now before the back to school craziness hits?
  • jamawass - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    Pardon me for expecting to find whether this blu-ray equipped notebook is value for money in an article titled "nearing the end for Llano". As you stated, the market niche that requests blu ray is being addressed so it would only be logical to include intel based systems with blu ray drives that are close in price to the Toshiba. I reiterate that there's no point including a $1500 laptop in the chart just because you have the data from a previous analysis. It only results in polluting all the data, why do I have to find the Acer's bar on every chart to get a close to apple to apple comparison? A journalist's job is to present the facts in the clearest manner.
    I've been following this site since Anand's groundbreaking AMD K III article back when his Mum had to accompany him to the tech expos but the quality of articles has deteriorated of late.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    "Pardon me for expecting to find whether this blu-ray equipped notebook is value for money...." Apparently you can't read the conclusion? Let me try to help you:

    "It's pretty clear that Toshiba made a series of tradeoffs to get the Blu-ray drive into a notebook at as low a price point as possible, and a visit to NewEgg will see that they were mostly successful in that respect. The only notebook NewEgg offers that isn't a refurbished model and is less expensive than the P755D is a strikingly similar Gateway unit, but you sacrifice hard drive capacity, USB 3.0 connectivity, Bluetooth, and carrying weight in the process. If you're in the market for a notebook with Blu-ray, that's something you'll have to weigh on your own."

    So, if you're after the least expensive laptop with Blu-ray that you can find, this is probably it right now (outside of sales). Does it help to say things like, "Dell's XPS 15 with Blu-ray can be had for $900 with a faster CPU and GPU, but the $200 price difference is more about the overall design than just those elements"? In a similar vein, HP has the dv6t that can be purchased with a quad-core i7 processor and Blu-ray, plus HD 7470M graphics, for $850. Which is the best value? It really depends on what you're after.

    Personally, I'd say get a good quality laptop with a good display first, and worry about features like Blu-ray only after you've selected a laptop that won't fall apart after a couple years. After all, the whole point of a laptop is to have a device you can carry around, and that means it's more likely to suffer some bumps and bruises. You can by a cheap plastic desktop tower and not have to worry much about build quality, but if you buy a cheap laptop, it's far more likely to have issues within a year or two. And whatever laptop you buy, if it has a DVD you can spend $80 and make it a laptop with Blu-ray.

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