Introduction and specifications
Touchscreens are quickly becoming a standard feature on more 11-inch laptops. Blame or thank the Windows 8.1 tablet-ification of the Microsoft operating system but its a new development I’m starting to appreciate.
The latest touchscreen laptop to enter the fray is the Toshiba Satellite NB15t. With an 11.6-inch display, it’s big enough to more easily balance on my lap than a 10-inch tablet whilst not moving up to sizable 13-inch notebooks. It’s a nice middle ground that’s perfect for school and small office work.
Out of the 11-inch class touchscreen laptops I’ve handled before, the NB15t is between the smaller HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 and the larger Acer C720P Chromebook. It’s also powered by an Intel N2810 Celeron processor, whereas most of its competition have used AMD parts, except for the lower spec Celeron processor on the Chromebook.
The NB15t feels incredibly compact despite being on the larger side of the 11-inch scale. The design of the NB15t is sharp and tight. There’s practically no flex or hollow spots on the laptop’s entire 11.2 x 8.2 x 0.99-inch (about 28.4 x 20.8 x 2.5-centimeter) silver plastic body.
This is particularly true for the Toshiba’s main half, which seems to have been stripped down to make it as thin as possible to a half-inch thickness (about 12.7-millimeters). Unfortunately, even with all the nipping and tucking, the laptop still weighs in at a hefty 3.3 pounds (about 1.4 kilograms).
One notable NB15t design quirk is that its lid and palm rests are covered with a faux aluminum shell featuring a thinly lined texture. It’s a nice touch that makes the laptop feel classier than a regular old glossy or matte finished plastic, and it’s not too shabby at keeping greasy fingerprints away either.
Along the left side there’s a VGA output, Ethernet, USB 3.0 port and HDMI out; then a useful microSD card reader, headphone and microphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports, plus the power adapter on the right.
With a relatively fresh Bay Trail processor onboard, I hope to see some good performance balanced with fair battery life. Now it’s just a matter of finding out if there’s more to this touchscreen laptop than meets the eye.
As we previously mentioned, the Toshiba really stretches the waistband of the 11-inch form factor at 11.2 x 8.2 x 0.99-inches (W x D x H) and 3.3 pounds. Still, compared to the 8.53 x 11.41 x 0.87-inches HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11, the NB15t is just slightly slimmer in nearly every aspect including the HP’s 3.4 weight.
Users wanting something a bit smaller should look at the lighter and thinner 11.34 x 8.03 x 0.78 inch Acer C720P Chromebook weighing in at 2.97 pounds. Of course the heavy Satellite is nowhere near as compact as the 11-inch Macbook Air’s 11.8 x 0.11 x 0.68-inch aluminum body.
Here’s the Toshiba NB15t configuration sent to TechRadar:
- CPU: 2.0GHz Intel Celeron N2810 Processor (dual-core)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
- RAM: 4GB of DDR3 1600MHz
- Screen: 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768, 5-point multitouch LCD
- Storage: 500GB, 5400 rpm HDD
- Ports: VGA, RJ45 Ethernet, 1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, HDMI, microSD card reader, headphone/mic jack
- Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC 3160 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
- Webcam: 8-megapixel Webcam
- Weight: 3.3 pounds
- Size: 11.2 x 8.2 x 0.99-inches (W x D x H)
(The Toshiba NB15t is also available in the United Kingdom with nearly the same specifications, save for a 2.0 GHz quad-core Intel Pentium N3510 processor.)
The Toshiba NB15t hits all the usual marks for a budget laptop like a checklist, giving users everything they want in a generous package for $379 and AUS$549 (about £227). Still, you won’t find anything zippy on the Toshiba like the Acer C720P’s 16GB SSD, nor the Chromebook’s smaller $300 and £249.99 (about AUS $334) pricetag.
The better outfitted HP TouchSmart 11 beats the Toshiba with a 10-point multitouch screen compared to the NB15t lacking five-point multi-touch display. It also comes with a dedicated Radeon HD 8210 graphics card, which adds just a few extra bucks raising the HP TouchSmart 11’s price to $384 (£330 and AUS $549).
With all this hardware in tow, the Toshiba is more than capable for CPU a straining task like the image rendering Cinebench test. Better yet, the integrated Intel HD Graphics on the 11.6-inch rig managed to crank through most of the 3DMark GPU benchmarks tests with decent marks worthy enough for a tour through World of Warcraft.
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 12,603; Cloud Gate: 961; Fire Strike: DNF
- Cinebench 11.5: CPU Performance: 0.58 pts, Open OpenGL graphics performance 3.45 fps
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours, 59 minutes
Although the NB15t is only powered by a Celeron processor, it’s no multitasking slouch. The laptop managed to keep up with light image editing in Adobe Lightroom 5, working on word documents in Microsoft Office 2013, and tabbing between web pages on Firefox all at the same time. Things only started to hitch when I added on a couple of additional tasks, like streaming music on Spotify and downloading a game from the Xbox Store.
Digging down to the benchmarks, the NB15t scored worse on the Cinebench test than both the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 and the smaller 10.1-inch Asus X102BA. Oddly enough, in the same test marking frames per second, the Intel HD graphics in the Toshiba fared much better than the dual-core A4-1250 APU-powered X102BA. Toshiba’s portable rig lagged slightly behind the HP 11-incher’s dedicated Radeon HD 8210 graphics card.
The NB15t also failed to complete the 3DMark Fire Strike graphics test due to a driver incompatibility. I hope this is a problem that will be remedied with a future driver update in case the same issue crops up in real games.
Blinding but accurate touchscreen
Unfortunately, the screen on the NB15t errs on the blown out side. The overly bright backlight washes out colors even at lower brightness. NB15t users will also be hard pressed to share the screen with three friends, as horizontal viewing angles take a harsh turn at 45 degrees. However, looking at the screen from above, I had to get right on top of it before the display became indecipherable.
The touchscreen on the NB15t lacks any dedicated overlay, but this was easily forgiven, thanks to its seamless integration with Windows 8 app tiles. It was also accurate enough for some point-and-tap adventuring in the Walking Dead Season 2 and more precise shooting needed in Halo: Spartan Assault.
The speakers, meanwhile, sound good for the price. The tweeters on the NB15t sounded decent when I streamed music through Spotify, without any noticeable tininess. But they definitely won’t satisfy any hardcore audiophiles.
A keyboard in need of a drawing board
Design-wise, the keyboard is all over the place. All the main lettered keys are short and wide. The arrow keys were cramped into a corner with two dedicated page up and down keys, an odd alternative to them being a secondary function of the navigation keys. Near the tiny Tab and Caps Lock keys I didn’t find the tilde. Instead, it was relocated to the right side of the left Alt key. It’s like Toshiba decided to play Scrabble with the key layout.
Luckily, the touchpad is much better, though a bit too sensitive to my palms while typing. Trackpad button purists, however, will be happy to know the NB15t houses two separate mouse buttons that depress with a firm click.
If you’re a student or fresh graduate looking for an affordable laptop solution, the Toshiba NB15t is definitely a keeper. For the price, you get the most you can out of an 11.6-inch laptop before moving up to more expensive 12-inch models.
Out of its competition, the NB15t lends itself as being a more powerful overall machine that’s also a smidge larger than the rest, too. If battery power is more of a priority, the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 wins out with a slight lead.
All in all, the Toshiba NB15t is an attractive and spiffy little machine. The laptop does not look or feel like a budget machine. It’s uniquely textured, faux aluminum shell really had us liking it.
While it’s one of the biggest light laptop’s I’ve handled, the Satellite is still something I would be comfortable with carrying around all day. With the Bay Trail processor, the NB15t was more than capable at handling all my daily tasks even when I threw in some light gaming.
It’s impossible to look away from the NB15t’s underwhelming battery life. At just three hours under an intensive load, and roughly five hours on a regular workday, you’ll want to keep the power cord close at all times. Still, users should be able to eke out up to a full hour of more juice by lowering the screen brightness and budgeting their multitasking.
Some other glaring quirks I can’t ignore: namely, the overly bright screen. More importantly, the oddly arranged keyboard can range from awful to atrocious depending on the user. They’re both things I eventually got used to, but the NB15t is clearly far from perfect on all fronts.
The Toshiba NB15t offers a lot for an affordable price. It sits easily within its 11-inch class as something more substantial than a web-reliant Chromebook with some of the power you’d expect from a larger laptop. Even against the Acer C720P Chromebook and HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11, the NB15t is the one of the most powerful machines we’ve handled in the light and portable space for less than $400.
With a touchscreen and no tradeoffs in power or cheap construction, the Toshiba is easily a laptop I’d easily use everyday. Need even more punch? Try a pricier option, like the Asus VivoBook S200. Regardless, buyers on a budget won’t be disappointed with the Toshiba Satellite NB15t.