Cheap items have always been in fashion. Especially cheap laptops – it feels like people are always looking for them. There are hundreds to choose from, and for this review we picked Toshiba Satellite C55D-B5160. These laptops don’t sport great performance – this one featuring a low-end AMD E1-6010 – so a question about their usefulness is valid. We’ll try to answer that below.
Released a year ago, the AMD E1-6010 isn’t too powerful a processor. The measly 1.4GHz clock frequency doesn’t promise a lot, and indeed in benchmark tests the processor ranks very low (CPU Passmark grades it around 850, Intel Celerons get ~1000 points). So it’s safe to assume similar or even worse performance than modern Celerons. This means suitability only for easy-on-the-system programs, such as web browser (including video streaming) and some MS Office work. For a budget laptop that is understandable and expected.
The memory amount of 4GB is, in my opinion, adequate. You can run lightweight software on Windows 8.1 (64-bit) without the laptop getting noticeably slow. Also, multi-tab browsing is possible. But what if you want more memory? Well, the manufacturer says this model has “not user upgradable” RAM. But I’ve heard people adding memory to their Toshiba Satellites, totaling at 8GB. So the manufacturer statement might be only there to make you visit a certified Toshiba tech and pay them to do the RAM upgrade.
A 500GB hard drive is installed, half of what cheap desktops have but in line with other affordable laptops. If it’s not a lot of data you’ll be downloading off Internet, chances are the half a terabyte is more than enough for the lifespan of this notebook. But the 5400RPM speed might be questionable and you might wish to upgrade to SSD. Again, doing that yourself is possible, but requires some technical knowledge and/or a solid how-to guide.
Display and graphics
Like all cheap laptops, also Toshiba Satellite C55D-B5160 doesn’t have a great display. It’s 15.6″ diagonal non-touch screen at 1366×768 resolution. Not much can be said about such a display: casual users will find it alright to work with, power users with Full HD IPS panel requirements not so much. But that’s the “price” of an affordable laptop, and it comes in the form of a non-professional screen.
Graphics engine AMD Radeon R2 is integrated to the processor, offering very little for gamers. It is slower than the (in)famous Intel HD 4000, so only old or otherwise lightweight games will run smoothly. For example, in the lowest settings World of Warcraft should average around 30FPS which is very playable for that kind of a game. Minecraft should also work, but recent action games starting from Battlefield 3 will be too choppy.
There are three USB ports in Toshiba Satellite C55D-B5160 for connecting your peripherals. But you have to choose wisely since just one of those is USB 3.0 – the rest USB 2.0s offer slower transfer rates. Hooking up external displays is also possible, you can do that via the laptop’s HDMI and VGA (RGB) outs.
Basic networking consists of a 10/100Mbps Ethernet card and 802.11b/g/n WiFi adapter. Fancy dual-band A/C WiFis are unknown for these cheaper models. I couldn’t see Bluetooth mentioned in the specifications list, so assume it’s not enabled.
Toshiba Satellite C55D-B5160 comes with no optical drive. Some think it’s no problem due to high-speed access to Internet and all of its data. I pretty much agree, although there might be a handful of programs only available on discs. In that case, you’d have to use an external drive. But most people are perfectly fine with downloading their programs from Internet. There’s also the possibility to use the SD memory card reader, although it’s mainly good for uploading photos from cameras unless you have software on media cards.
The notebook has HD webcam with microphone, so also Skype video (although not very high quality) is possible.
Other noteworthy things
Toshiba Satellite C55D-B5160 weighs 4.85 pounds, not really less or more than its competitors. All in all, a 15 incher with closer to five pounds weight is not a road warrior’s dream, although it’s not a burden at all if you occasionally take the laptop on the go. The 4-cell battery life wasn’t officially made available, but I expect the basic 3-4 hours of use on web browsing. The battery is listed as not user replaceable like the RAM, but again, I’ve seen people removing the battery on similar Toshibas.
Keys are not illuminated on this model. Numpad is available on right hand side.
Toshiba Satellite C55D-B5160 is yet another cheap but useful laptop. It doesn’t boast a huge performance, so power users and hardcore gamers should steer away from it. But the AMD processor, 4GB RAM and 1366×768 screen work fine for non-demanding programs. People who like to browse web, send emails and perhaps watch a movie or two shouldn’t find much reason to complain. If that’s you, getting this starter laptop is probably better idea than going for over 500 dollars full-blown notebook.