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Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11C review

Katharine Byrne
27 Dec 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
550
inc VAT

A powerful laptop with dedicated graphics and a superb battery life for £550, but its below average screen holds it back

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Specifications

15.6 in 1,366x768 display, 2.2kg, 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, 6.00GB RAM, 750GB disk, Windows 8.1

Toshiba’s M50-A-11C sits halfway between a slim ultraportable and a powerful general purpose laptop, both in terms of its specification and its price. Its thin chassis measures just 21mm thick, but you’ll find a good variety of ports round the side, including three USB ports, two of which are USB3, an HDMI output, a multi-format card reader, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a combined headphone and microphone jack.

Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11C

It’s a very attractive laptop, but we were quick to notice the worrying amount of flex in the plastic keyboard tray. The upper panel between the hinges was particularly bendy, but we were pleased to see the lower wrist rest was a lot firmer thanks to its brushed aluminium finish. We’d still be a little careful about putting the M50-A-11C in a bag, but this won’t be a problem if you’re planning to keep it tethered to your desk.

This is a shame, as the M50-A-11C’s battery life reaps the benefits of its Haswell processor’s low energy consumption. It lasted 9 hours and 50 minutes in our light use test with the screen set to half brightness, which is almost double the average battery life of other laptops in this price range.

Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11C
Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11C

SPECIFICATION

The M50-A-11C is also one of the most powerful £550 laptops around. Inside, it has a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, the same processor that powers the considerably more expensive Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, and 6GB of RAM. With these components, it scored an excellent 47 overall in our multimedia benchmarks, putting its raw processing power alongside other Core i5 Ultrabooks. This gives it plenty of speed to cope with demanding media programs as well as everyday office tasks.

Its 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 740M graphics chip is even more appealing, as this turns the M50-A-11C into a competent gaming laptop as well. Admittedly, the chip didn’t perform quite as well as other laptops we’ve seen it in, but its steady frame rate of 34.9fps in Dirt Showdown at a 1,280x720 resolution and High quality settings is still very good for a laptop of this price. It’s not powerful enough to cope with more demanding games, such as Crysis 3, but you should still be able to play most 3D titles without having to lower the quality settings too much.

Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11C

DISPLAY

Unfortunately, the M50-A-11C’s 15.6in screen left a lot to be desired. The 1,366x768 resolution looked fine, but our colour calibrator showed the screen was displaying just 54.1 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. This is below average, even for a £550 laptop, as we’d normally expect to see at least 60 per cent, if not higher. This meant colours looked pale and washed out, and our solid image tests lacked depth and vibrancy.

Our solid blacks also revealed that the top half of the screen was lighter than the bottom half. This meant our blacks appeared as various shades of grey depending on how we angled the screen, and this reflected our relatively high black level reading of 0.65cd/m2. Combined with some rather narrow viewing angles, this made it very difficult to get a uniform colour across the screen at any one time.

The screen’s contrast levels weren’t much better, as we recorded a contrast ratio of just 336:1. This made it tricky to pick out dark shadow detail in our high contrast test images, and it was only made worse by the screen’s reflective glossy finish.

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