Who wouldn’t love an easy to remember name like the PSMC3A-04P008? Sure, it sounds like an all-in Star Wars android orgy, and rolls off the tongue as easily as a rusty razor blade, but we digress. That rather painful sounding product name thankfully refers to the specific version of the Toshiba Satellite M200 that we were sent for review; as it’s available in various under the hood technical configurations, it carries that kind of unintelligible suffix so that product vendors can keep track. Just to confuse consumers even more, Toshiba’s already had an M200 on their books; the tablet Portege M200. That unit now has more than four years on the clock, so if you get offered one, don’t pay Satellite M200 type money for it.
The suffix is actually one of the few really unattractive things about the M200, which is an otherwise shiny and attractive 14-inch semi-portable laptop. We say semi-portable because it weighs in at 2.26kg, which will tug upon your shoulder reasonably fast. As with most 14-inch laptops, the keyboard is naturally a touch compressed, with no number pad and the home and page keys compressed against the right hand side of the keyboard. The exterior casing is in glossy black, which brings with it the ever present risk of fingerprint smudges when carried around.
The M200 submitted to CNET.com.au for review featured an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T5250 running at 1.5GHz, with 1GB of onboard memory. Graphics are provided by the inbuilt Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100, which will consume up to 251MB of the onboard memory. Thankfully, the memory can be upgraded up to 4GB; a single slot is occupied out of the box by the inbuilt 1GB. The M200 features a super-multi DVD recorder with support for every format you’d care to throw through it, and it ships with Windows Vista Home Premium edition. In connectivity terms, you’re looking at a single PC card slot, four high speed USB 2.0 ports, media card reader, a single firewire port, 10/100 Ethernet and V.92 modem and a single D-Sub video output port. Speaking of video, the M200 also features an embedded 1.3 megapixel web camera at the top of the display screen. The M200 uses Intel’s 802.11g wireless Centrino solution, so those looking for speedier 802.11n wireless will have to invest in an adaptor.
At a physical level, there’s a lot to like about the M200. The keyboard has excellent response and tactile feel – Toshiba has long offered good notebook keyboards, and the M200 is no exception. The use of a scroll wheel rather than buttons for volume control also scores high marks with us; too many laptops use buttons (and all too often combinations of the function buttons) for volume control, which can make things tricky if you need to mute in a hurry. The display screen showed off multimedia files with good clarity, and the speakers likewise marked this as a decent entertainment machine – within certain limitations.
Toshiba’s asking price for the M200 PSMC3A-04P008 is AU$1,399 (at the time of writing Toshiba was offering a AU$100 cashback on M200 purchases), which in the current notebook market doesn’t automatically make this a budget machine; the advent ofhas seen a slew of new sub $1000 notebooks flood the market. As such, it needed to draw every last erg of power out of its architecture to truly impress us. Its PC Mark score, sadly enough, wasn’t that impressive, coming in at 3341. We’re never going to expect much out of Intel’s inbuilt graphics solutions, and indeed the X3100 managed a score of 388; not bad if you’re looking for a basic productivity machine, but pretty much dead in the water for gamers.
The M200 PSMC3A-04P008 managed a healthy enough one hour and thirty six minutes in our DVD playback test, with screen brightness at full and all other power saving measures switched off. For basic productivity work you could certainly expect more battery life than that, as the DVD test really does work the entire machine rather harder than most people in fact will on a regular basis. A time of 1:36 is essentially neither spectacular nor terrible, but this certainly isn’t anywhere near being an all day portable machine.