By Mike Jennings
Introduction and design
Few companies are as experienced or prolific as Toshiba when it comes to mid-range laptops, and its Satellite L50-B-1DV ticks most of the right boxes. It’s got a Core i5 processor, plenty of memory and a 15.6in screen, and it costs a reasonable £500.
Toshiba has factored some keen design into the budget, too – the lid is covered with glossy red plastic that bears a smart lined pattern, and the interior is brightened up by the same colourful material.
The L50 looks better than its rivals. Toshiba’s own Satellite S50D-A-10G was saddled with dull, metal-effect plastic throughout, and the Lenovo Flex 2 15 didn’t stand out because of its subtle brushed effect.
Toshiba’s latest is more portable than the competition, too. Its 4.85lb (2.2kg) weight undercuts the 5.24lb (2.38kg) S50D and the 5.51lb (2.5kg) Lenovo, and the red-tinged Toshiba is 0.94in (24mm) thick – the same as the S50D, and a little thinner than the Flex.
There’s one area where the L50 is only level pegging with its competitors, though, and that’s build quality. There’s only a little flex in the wrist-rest, which is good for this level of system, but the rest of the Toshiba isn’t as sturdy – the underside is easy to depress, and the screen is unusually flexible, with too much wiggle-room across the whole panel and a dose of desktop distortion when we pressed the rear. It may not weigh much, but we wouldn’t leave the house unless the L50 was coddled inside a sleeve or case.
The reasonable strength on the wrist-rest carries over to the keyboard, which has a sturdy base. The layout is decent, with a numberpad, and sizeable Return and spacebar keys. It’s not all good news, however: the keys suffer from a drastic lack of travel, which means that typing feels distant and unsatisfying. The lack of responsiveness from the typing gear means that the L50’s keyboard is only good enough for emails, IM and web browsing, rather than serious work.
The trackpad suffers similarly. The surface is large and reasonably responsive, but the two buttons incorporated into the red plastic weren’t light or responsive enough for us – they required too much pressure to click.
A standard selection of ports are scattered around the Toshiba’s edges. Two USB 3.0 connections are joined by a slower USB 2.0 port, and display outputs are handled by HDMI and D-SUB. There’s a card reader, but only one audio jack.
On the inside, the Toshiba is dominated by an Intel Core i5-4200U. It’s got two cores and is clocked to 1.6GHz, which is 100MHz slower than the i5-4210U inside the Lenovo system. It doesn’t sound able to keep up with the other Toshiba, either, which has an AMD A10-5745M APU that runs at 2.1GHz.
Elsewhere, Toshiba deploys 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk. That’s 2GB more memory and double the amount of storage space as the Lenovo, and exactly the same amounts that are offered inside the AMD-powered Toshiba. There’s little to shout about in terms of connectivity: dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit Ethernet is now a conventional selection.
- PCMark 8 Home: 1,878
- PCMark 8 Home battery life power saver 25% screen: 3 hrs 0 mins
- PC Mark 8 Home High Performance 100% screen battery life: 2 hrs 19 mins
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 37,216; Cloud Gate: 3,884; Fire Strike: 512
- Cinebench R11.5: CPU: 117cb; Graphics: wouldn’t run
- Cinebench R15: CPU: 1.54; Graphics: 11.08fps
The Core i5 chip and its 8GB of memory scored 1,878 points in PCMark 8’s Home performance test. That’s a reasonable result, but it’s not able to match the competition: the Lenovo Flex 2 15 and its slightly faster Core i5 scored 2,254, and the AMD-powered Toshiba Satellite S50D-A-10G cantered to 2,611. There’s enough power inside the L50’s processor to get daily computer and general work done without complaint, but more grunt is available elsewhere.
This is no gaming system, either. In 3DMark’s easiest test, Ice Storm, the Toshiba scored 37,216. That’s almost 2,000 points behind the Lenovo, but it’s a long way behind the 44,210 scored by the other Toshiba, which benefits from an AMD Radeon integrated graphics core. You’ll be restricted to retro and indie games with the Toshiba.
The L50’s battery life falls in line with the competition. We ran PCMark 8’s Home test with the laptop in High Performance mode and the screen at 100% brightness, and the Toshiba lasted for 2 hours and 19 minutes. We were able to hit exactly three hours by using Power Saver mode and reducing the screen’s brightness to 25%. The Toshiba’s longevity is on a par with the Lenovo and a little behind the AMD-equipped Toshiba – and it’s not enough for long stretches away from a plug.
The upside to modest, efficient components is decent thermal performance. During our tough stress tests the Toshiba didn’t make a peep of noise, and the processor never exceeded 65°C. None of that heat made it to the outside of the chassis, either.
The 15.6in non-touch screen has a glossy finish and a resolution of 1,366 x 768. That’s standard on budget notebooks, but it’s still an annoyance – it’s simply too few pixels for full HD films and proper work. It also falls behind the Lenovo, which has a 1,920 x 1,080 panel.
The Toshiba’s basic screen is further highlighted by benchmark results. It gets off to a good start with a 250cd/m2 brightness level – enough to cut through the glossy coating – but the 0.72cd/m2 black level is poor, and renders deep black shades as dull greys. The contrast ratio of 347:1 is a little better than the AMD-powered Toshiba, but it’s still poor.
Colours aren’t just hampered by a lack of depth and contrast, either. The 7,004K colour temperature is too cool, and