Toshiba Satellite R945-P440: Sturdy and so-so

The S945-P440 is a mediocre all-purpose laptop that might make a good family machine.

The Toshiba Satellite R945-P440 is a solidly built 14-inch all-purpose laptop, but it looks positively monstrous next to the Ultrabooks and ultraportables on the market today. This 14-inch laptop measures a whopping 1.2 inches thick and weighs almost 5.2 pounds with accessories, which makes it sort of a drag to tote around. So the question is, why would you choose the Satellite R945-P440 over an Ultrabook, especially when you can pick up a sleek little number for about $100 more?

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Our review model, which costs $730, sports a third-generation Intel Core i5-3210M processor, 6GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 750GB hard drive spinning at 5400 rpm. This all-purpose machine also features built-in Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and Intels WiDi technology, which allows you to connect the machine wirelessly to WiDi-compatible external displays. The Satellite R945-P440 runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.

Performance

In PCWorlds WorldBench 7 benchmark tests, the Satellite R945-P440 posted a score of 86, which is below average for the all-purpose category. The all-purpose class encompasses a fairly wide range of laptops, so its best to compare the R945-P440 against other similarly sized all-purpose machines, such as the Alienware M14x and the Lenovo IdeaPad U410, both of which have 14-inch screens. The M14x achieved a WorldBench 7 score of 143, while the IdeaPad U410 earned a mark of 117.

The Satellite R945-P440s performance looked better in individual tests. For example, in our WebVizBench Web performance test, the R945-P440 managed an average frame rate of 14.2 frames per second, a slightly slower result than that of the M14x (15.1 fps), and a better frame rate than that of the IdeaPad U410 (10.9 fps).

The Satellite R945-P440 also performed well in our content creation test, in which it beat both the M14x and the IdeaPad U410 in video encoding speed.

Since the Satellite R945-P440 has no discrete graphics card, its graphics-test performance was poor compared with what we saw from the M14x and the U410. In our Crysis 2 graphics tests, the Satellite managed frame rates from 14.0 frames per second (high-quality settings, 1366-by-768-pixel resolution) to 32.8 fps (low-quality settings, 800-by-600-pixel resolution). Those results are similar to the frame rates of the HP Envy Sleekbook 6z-1000, which is an entry-level all-purpose laptop with an AMD processor and no discrete graphics card.

The Satellite R945-P440 has excellent battery life. In our tests it lasted for almost 8 hours, which is decent for a portable machine (though not quite the 11 hours the laptop is rated for).

Design and usability

The all-purpose Satellite R945-P440 is housed in a sturdy black plastic chassis. Weighing around 4.5 pounds (sans accessories), this system is portable but certainly not ultraportable. Its also quite thick, at 1.2 inches deep, and it looks bulky due to its ridged plastic cover. When it comes to styling, Toshiba doesnt exactly pull out all the stops with this machine, which looks boxy and a little dated. That said, the laptop at least feels durable, with a solid hinge, a steady screen, and virtually no flex anywhere.

Though the Satellite R945-P440 resembles an older system, I kind of like the aesthetic. Sure, it isn't sleek and sexy like a modern-day Ultrabook, but the boxy chassis has a sort of retro-chic feel to it. The interior of the laptop is pleasing to look at, with (plastic) chrome accents and a slight bevel around the keyboard. The power button sits in the top-left corner, and two buttonsfor accessing Toshibas Eco Utility and toggling Intels WiDi featureoccupy the top-right corner.

The Satellite R945-P440 has a full-size spill-proof keyboard, which is convenient for business users or people who like to have a drink nearby while they work. The keyboard has black island-style keys that are a little close together but otherwise comfortable to type on. The keys are flat, with sharp corners and a smooth texture. The keyboard has no backlight, but the machine does offer a small button at the bottom of the keyboard for disabling the touchpad.

Unfortunately, the touchpad, which is positioned slightly off-center on the wrist rest, is mediocre. Its a little small, and although general movement is smooth, its response to multitouch gestures is a bit stilted and choppy. The touchpad has two discrete mouse buttons that are made of the same mirrored plastic as the hinges (and are therefore quite smudge-prone), sitting flush with the surrounding wrist rest. The buttons do not depress far, and they are stiff and generally difficult to use.

The Satellite R945-P440 has a great port selectionbetter than what youll find on an Ultrabook or a budget machine. The left side of the system houses VGA and HDMI-out ports, microphone and headphone jacks, one USB 3.0 port, and one combination eSATA/USB 2.0 port. The right side provides a tray-loading DVD SuperMulti drive, an SD Card reader, a gigabit ethernet port, and a USB 3.0 port. A Kensington lock slot is built into the right hinge.

Screen and speakers

The Satellite R945-P440's glossy 14-inch screen has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. That resolution is average for a 14-inch system, but I would have liked to see something a little more impressive considering that this laptop doesnt stand out in other respects. The screen's quality is merely average: Colors look a touch washed out at high brightness level settings, and the off-axis viewing angles (especially the vertical viewing angle) need some work.

Video playback on the Satellite R945-P440 is stilted and jerky. Both streaming video and native HD video suffer from lots of artifacting and noise, especially in scenes with plenty of motion. DVD playback looks okay, but artifacting (noticeable distortion, particularly in the form of fuzzy blocks) remains a big factor.

The R945-P440 has standard stereo speakers, which are located above the keyboard. Audio sounds thin and tinny at all volume levels. The speakers have little depth, which means that listening to tracks that do have depth (for example, any track in which an audience is applauding behind the hosts) can be painful and jarring. Although the R945-P440 is equipped with SRS 3D audio, it doesnt help much. Luckily, the headphone jack delivers clean sound.

Bottom line

The Toshiba Satellite R945-P440 gets a 3-star rating for a couple of reasons. Although its thoroughly mediocremiddling in its performance, screen, and touchpadit also offers a couple of highlights that will appeal to a certain market.

First of all, its a sturdy machine. Seriously, this thing is built like a tank. And since it has a spill-proof keyboard, it might make for an excellent family laptop (lets face it, family laptops dont exactly lead cushy, cared-for lives). Second, it boasts a roomy hard drive, decent battery life, and a great selection of ports. Finally, the R945-P440 is well connected, with built-in Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, WiDi, two USB 3.0 ports, and a gigabit ethernet port. Even though the R945-P440 isnt impressive in any specific way, its solidly constructed and it isnt too expensive.

WorldBench 7 test results

Office productivity test results

Games test results

Battery life test results

This story, "Toshiba Satellite R945-P440: Sturdy and so-so" was originally published by PCWorld.

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