If you’re considering a desktop replacement laptop, there are certain realities that you’ll have to accept that someone purchasing, say, an ultrabook, wouldn’t consider. Portability probably won’t rank too high on your list of priorities, because a large screen with a nice-sized keyboard will typically result in a heavier machine. That said, the 17.3-inch Toshiba Satellite P775D-S7144 ($729.99 list) is a budget desktop replacement that has plenty going for it, offering an array of ports, a spacious hard drive, and a large 1,600 by 900-resolution LED-backlit display. Still, Blu-ray functionality and 1080p HD, as well as better battery performance, would have sealed the deal and nudged the P775D-S7144 from good to great.
The P775D’s plastic chassis sports a hint of panache, decked out entirely in “Platinum Fusion X2 Finish,” with raised lines spanning the lid and palm rest. Though the “platinum” aesthetic may not be for everyone, the raised lines create a distinctive look while yielding a tactile, comfortable feel for the palm rest. Unfortunately, the plastic can get a bit flimsy, and results in a noticeable amount of flexing of the lid.
The keyboard’s raised tile keys make for a comfortable typing experience, and it’s generously sized,with an ample numeric keypad. Toshiba inexplicably chose to forego a backlit keyboard, so yes, you can type with easejust not in the dark. The thin sliver of light adorning the top of the touch pad is a nice cosmetic flourish, but it fails to add any trace of visibility in low-light environments. The touch pad also features multi-touch control that allows for pinch-zooming. While this sounds useful in theory, I found little need for it in terms of everyday computing. Something along the lines of two-finger scrolling would have been far more practical. Media control buttons conveniently located above the keyboard provide easy access to the P775D’s Wi-Fi settings and volume controls, though they emit a somewhat strident beep every time they’re pushed, so proceed with caution in public settingsyou’ll turn heads, but not necessarily in a good way.
The P775D weighs 6.6 pounds, which is comparatively light to other laptops sporting 17.3-inch displays, like the HP Pavilion dv7-6b55dx ($699.99 list, 4 stars), which weighs 6.9 pounds, or the Editors’ Choice HP Pavilion dv7-6163cl($949.99 list, 4 stars), which weighs 7.4 pounds. The 17.3-inch, 720p-compatible display is easy on the eyes and perfectly suitable for everyday use, sporting vibrant color reproduction, above-average brightness, and a reflective glossy coating. Videophiles craving a truly superlative media experience, however, may be better off selecting a system with a 1080p display, such as the Editors’ Choice HP Envy 17 (2012) ($1,484.99 direct, 4 stars), but a caveat: this feature is reflected in the Envy 17′s considerably higher price tag.
There’s certainly no shortage of ports on the P775D. It comes equipped with three USB 2.0 ports conveniently located on both sides of the system. The left side of the laptop also sports the sole USB 3.0 port. Though a single USB 3.0 port may be inadequate for some, the P775D makes the most out of it, boasting Sleep and Charge capability that allows the port to charge any USB device, even if the laptop enters sleep mode. If you crave high definition on another screen, the HDMI port is your sole savior, as the P775D does not feature WiDi (Wireless Display). If you absolutely cannot tolerate dealing with HDMI cables, you’d be better off purchasing either the Pavilion dv7-6b55dx or the Aspire TimelineX 5830TG-6614 ($779.99 list, 4 stars), though that won’t immediately result in total wireless liberationyou’ll still need to connect a Netgear Push2TV HD receiver ($99 list) to your external display. The multi-format media card reader (SD/xD/Memory Stick) on the front of the laptop is an added convenience, so while you may be obliged to use an HDMI cable, at least you won’t be forced to whip out your digital camera every time you want to upload photos.
Built-in Harman/Kardon stereo speakers with Dolby Advanced Audio technology deliver crisp sound that doesn’t distort at the highest levels, though the bass can be charitably characterized as effete regardless of the volume. Of course, the 3.5mm audio-out connector lets you plug the system into the speaker set of your choice. There’s no Blu-ray drive, but if Blu-ray capability is not absolutely essential to you, the tray-loading 8x DVD +/-RW drive is perfectly adequate, reading and writing DVDs with relative ease.
The capacious 750GB (5,400 rpm) hard drive is loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium. Toshiba’s 3D hard-drive impact sensor technology also protects your data by moving the drive head into a “safe” position whenever the system detects vibration. It’s a nice added touch that affords peace of mind despite the fact that laptops of this size generally aren’t lugged around on a daily basis. Be warned, though: When you set up the P775D for the first time, you’ll confront a considerable array of bloatware. In addition to the usual suspects (a trial of Norton Internet Security, toolbars, the WildTangent games suite, dedicated links to services like Amazon and Skype), Toshiba also included a copious amount of proprietary programs bearing its name. Their usefulness is dubious.
The P775D sports a 1.6GHz AMD A8-3520M quad-core processor and 6GB of DDR3 memory, a combination that fared somewhat poorly when compared to other laptops in the same price range. Its PCMark 7 score of 1,564 was considerably lower than that of the Pavilion dv7-6b55dx (2,406), the Asus K535D-DS51 ($779.99 street, 3 stars) (1,956), and the Acer 5830TG-6614 (2,388). To be fair, each of those three laptops come equipped with faster CPUs, which explains why the P775D turned in the lowest score for the Cinebench R11.5 test (2.10) and the slowest times for the Photoshop CS5 test (7 minutes 11 seconds), and Handbrake multimedia test (3:12).
As far as graphical prowess is concerned, the P775D’s AMD Radeon HD 6620G discrete GPU fared slightly better, scoring 4,028 on the 3DMark 06 benchmark test while running in its native (1,600 by 900) resolution, besting the HP dv7-6b55dx (3,761) and falling slightly below the Asus K535D-DS51 (4,433). The Acer 5830TG-6614 trumped both with a score of 6,985. The P775D proved it has the guts to handle visually complex games; on our Crysis (DirectX 10) benchmark run at 1,024 by 768 at medium-quality settings, it ran at a smooth 39 frames per second (fps), handily outpacing the HP dv7-6b55dx (13.6 fps) and eking past the Asus K535D-DS51 (37 fps). While the Acer 5830TG-6614easily outgunned both the P775D and the Pavilion dv7-6b55dx in our Crysis test with an impressive 58 fps, its 39 fps barely squeaked by the P775D’s 37 fps in our Lost Planet 2 (DirectX 9) benchmark test run at 1,024 by 768 at medium-quality settings, whereas the HP dv7-6b55dx fell far behind at 20 fps.
One of my biggest gripes with the P775D is its subpar battery life. Compared with the other laptops, its 6-cell, 48Wh battery lasted a mediocre 4 hours in our MobileMark 2007 testresoundingly trounced by the HP dv7-6b55dx (9 hours 33 minutes), the Asus K535D-DS51 (5:31), the Acer 5830TG-6614 (9:01), and the Editors’ Choice HP dv7-6163cl (8:24). Even if you’re willing to overlook the P775D’s other shortcomings, it’s difficult to ignore this unimpressive numbersure, you may be content with watching a film on DVD rather than Blu-ray, but can you really enjoy it if you’re worrying about the battery the entire time?
The Toshiba Satellite P775D-S7144 has plenty to offer for casual users seeking a desktop replacement with a large display. In addition to its array of ports, including USB 3.0, its AMD Radeon HD 6620G discrete GPU makes for a surprisingly solid gaming experience. If you’re willing to spend an extra 50 bucks, however, you’re better off with the Acer Aspire Timeline X 5830TG-6614, which outpaced the P775D in every benchmark test and also offers superior battery performance. Because of its affordable price tag and strong graphics processor, however, the P775D is still worth consideringjust be sure to stay close to a power outlet.