Toshiba Satellite A15-S127

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Toshiba's Satellite A15 series excels in performance, besting other entry-level, mainstream notebooks, including the Dell Inspiron 1100 and the Compaq Presario 2100. Unfortunately, little else about this series justifies its comparatively high pricing. The notebook weighs a hefty seven pounds, offers limited configuration choices, and it lasted slightly less than three hours in CNET Labs' battery-life tests. The Satellite A15 series may be adequate for students and home users, but even though its higher-end configurations include 802.11b wireless, we wouldn't recommend the A15 series to the small-business users that Toshiba also targets for this machine.

Toshiba may intend the Satellite A15 series for consumers and small business, but to us, it screams home and school. Its sleek, metallic-blue design should appeal to teens and college students--at least until they take it to class. The Satellite A15 series' seven-pound travel weight, including AC adapter and cables, feels even heavier because of its bulk; it's 13 inches wide, 11.5 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick. (To be fair, the Dell Inspiron 1100 weighs even more--eight pounds--because of its larger battery.) Despite the system's heft, it still contains only one fixed drive, but it's a nice one: a DVD/CD-RW combo. An external floppy drive costs $49 extra.

The 15-inch display, with a native resolution of 1,024x768 pixels, isn't as bright or crisp as that in higher-end notebooks, though it's certainly adequate for most users. The firm, responsive, full-size keyboard is also user-friendly. We navigated just fine with the big touchpad and the mouse buttons. You can access many of the Satellite A15-series controls via a combination of keystrokes--typically Function plus another key. An indicator light goes on when you hit the Function key--a nice touch. The big palm rest should offer ample room even for big hands.

The speakers, mounted at the back of the keyboard, were surprisingly loud for a notebook. Unfortunately, they sound only marginally better than average. The external volume dial is good to have, though it might have been better placed above the keyboard instead of buried on the front edge of the notebook. The Satellite A15 series comes in two configurations. With the exception of the DVD/CD-RW combo drive, the entry-level, $999 Satellite A15-S127 is modest. It comes with a 2GHz Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM, and a 30GB, 4,200rpm hard disk. For $200 more, the Satellite A15-S157 offers slightly better specs, including a 2.2GHz Celeron processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 40GB, 4,200rpm hard disk. For graphics, the Satellite A15 series uses Intel's integrated 852GM controller, with 32MB of shared video memory.

Expansion is limited to a single PC Card slot and two USB 2.0 ports. In addition, you'll find both a V.92/56Kbps modem and an Ethernet port. Integrated 802.11b wireless networking comes standard on the Satellite A15-S157. Wireless is an extracost option on the Satellite A15-S127, but Toshiba still includes a wireless On/Off switch on the notebook, which could confuse entry-level users.

Both the Satellite A15-S127 and the Satellite A15-S157 ship with a decent bundle of software, including Windows XP Home Edition; Microsoft Works, Norton AntiVirus 2003, and Intuit Quicken Basic 2003.You also get Toshiba's Notebook Maximizer software, which provides a snapshot of your system's resources and performance, along with some irritating shopping links on the right-hand side of the screen.Mobile application performance
The Toshiba Satellite A15-S127 is the fastest Celeron-based notebook we've tested, easily beating out its two competitors. The Satellite A15-S127 houses a 2GHz mobile Celeron processor, while the Compaq Presario 2100 and the Dell Inspiron 1100 use 2GHz desktop Celeron processors. All three systems throttle down the CPU speed when running on battery power, but the Satellite A15-S127 does it to a much lesser extent, which helped its mobile performance.