The other day we took a look at the Asus K55VM multimedia notebook and while it was a very good performer and offered great value, the lack of a bundled OS might be a slight deterrent for many prospective buyers. We did suggest you also have a look at the Toshiba L850, which bears similar specifications, around the same price point and it comes bundled with Windows 7 Home Premium. Today, we’ll take that very same notebook for a spin and see just how good it really is and if it is indeed a worthy alternative to the Asus.

Design and Build
Toshiba’s design of the L850 feels a bit outdated and the notebook just feels like a big chunk of plastic. We prefer Asus’s design of the K55VM anyday over this. The glossy metallic finish top will attract fingerprints and is very much prone to scratches, so will black gloss finish on the sides of the notebook. Other than the massive demeanour of the notebook, the build quality is actually pretty good, plastics seem durable and it’s put together pretty well. The lid has a little flex, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Prone to fingerprints and scratches

Prone to fingerprints and scratches

Connectivity wise, we have on our right, the microphone and headphone jacks, USB 3.0 ports (x2), HDMI, Gigabit LAN, VGA and an exhaust vent. The left hand side houses the DVD burner, a USB 2.0 port and the charging port. Inside we are greeted by a fairly comfortable chiclet keyboard with a full-sized Numpad. The keys themselves don’t have the best tactile response, so you don’t get a very confident click when you press them, which could be an issue if you type a lot. The power button is placed on top where the speaker grill is.

USB 3.0 and HDMI

USB 3.0 and HDMI

There’s plenty of space in the palm rest area and Toshiba have thoughtfully moved the trackpad towards the left so it doesn’t get in the way of typing. The trackpad size is generous and the two mouse buttons can be used with minimum effort. Overall, a well built notebook, even though it may not be the best looker in this price range.

Features
The Toshiba L850 is powered by an Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU or Ivy Bridge. This CPU is the same as the one used in the Asus K55VM and it runs at 2.3GHz with a Turbo frequency of 3.2GHz. We also have the same amount of 8GB RAM. Toshiba, however, have had to cut down on the hard drive and GPU a bit in order to cover the cost of Windows as well. We have a 750GB hard drive running at 5400rpm and the GPU spot is taken by an AMD Radeon HD 7670M, which is based on the older HD 6650M.

Spacious keyboard

Spacious keyboard

This mid-range GPU is similar to Nvidia’s GT 630M. Unfortunately, this AMD GPU does not support dynamic switching of graphics, meaning that the discrete card is on all the time, which will impact battery life.

Performance
As expected, the performance of the Toshiba Satellite is nearly identical to the Asus K55VM in terms of CPU performance and the same is reflected in our SiSoft Sandra tests. Cinebench R11.5 shows a much stronger GPU performance, compared to Nvidia’s GT 630M in the Asus K55VM. However in real world games, the GT 630M seems to perform better with the Intel CPU than AMD’s card. In FarCry 2, we see quite a bit gap between the two notebooks.

Scores are not too bad

Scores are not too bad

The keyboard is relatively comfortable, but for extended typing sessions, we would rather prefer the Asus keyboard. The large frame of the notebook has given Toshiba ample opportunity to work out the cooling for the internal components, so the L850 actually never heats up, even under stress. The notebook gets a little warm, but never unusably hot. The sound from the speakers is not bad either, the notebook is able to deliver crisp highs and mids with decent bass. Movies and games sound good even without headphones.

Trackpad is comfortable to use

Trackpad is comfortable to use

Battery Life
This is one area where the Toshiba L850 really disappoints. The laptop didn’t even manage to finish a full hour under Battery Eater Pro, whereas the Asus K55VM managed to deliver more than 2hrs. The main problem here is the non-switchable graphics, which really affects the battery life quite badly.

Verdict
At Rs. 55,000, the Toshiba Satellite L850 is slightly cheaper than the Asus K55VM and you also get an operating system bundled. However, you will have to sacrifice battery life and a bit of gaming performance, not to mention a smaller hard drive. For this reason, we would recommend the Asus K55VM over the Toshiba L850. If you don’t want to spend on an OS right now, then simply download and use Microsoft’s Windows 8 Release Preview for free, till Windows 8 is officially launched.

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