The beauty is a beast

Late addition:
This article had already gone to print when I had a look on Internet for other reviews of the product and found that there were none. I was alarmed to discover that the Toshiba Satellite A300-1QE seemed only to be available in South Africa and Romania and was not listed on the A300 specification sheet. I had dreadful visions of obsolete machines being dumped on unsuspecting Banana Republic consumers (and me endorsing them) so I was relieved to hear from Toshiba’s product manager Reon Coetzee that the machines were specially built for the Europe, Middle East and African region. The only difference between them and the other Satellite A300 models is that they offer users the choice of installing their operating system with French as the default language. The hardware components are the same as in the other models and they fall under Toshiba’s World Guarantee. Another thing I learned is that laptop models have a shelf-life of three months; not that they’ll only last that long, but it’s how long before a new model arrives.

It’s not all that often that I get to review computer hardware so the arrival the other week of a Toshiba laptop was very welcome.

The particular machine is the Satellite A300-1QE and it arrived in a very stylish backpack which had kept it safe from harm during the journey from the agents to my door. It is quite a large laptop and is finished in glossy shades of black and charcoal which extend even to the keyboard.

I had little problem deciphering the little symbols on all the buttons and expansion ports on the machine but I guess that people with with poor eyesight could have some difficulty in making them out against the dark colour scheme.

The glamorous-looking laptop is also pretty potent and comes with a 250 GB hard drive, a large 15.4 inch screen, Harman Kardon speakers, and 2 GB of RAM. Built in is a DVD Super Multi Drive compatible with just about any disc, and it lets you burn both CDs and DVDs as well.

It has wide variety of expansion sockets and interfaces including plugs for an external monitor, S-Video TV-out, iLink (IEEE 1394), external microphone and headphones, WebCam and microphone, a slot for memory cards, and four USB ports. Included is an ExpressCard slot, which I’d never heard of, but which is apparently a descendant of the old PCMCIA slots.

In this day and age, it comes as no surprise to know that the laptop is provided with built-in Bluetooth, WiFi, and a standard network socket. In the time available, I was unable to test the machine’s wireless networking capabilities but I did plug it into my home network and it was able to access the Internet without any intervention on my part.

In using the A300-1QE, I found that it seemed to work well and require little fiddling. For example, I inserted an SD memory card with pictures from my camera into the correct slot and, in a moment or two, the computer offered to download them. I also inserted a sound CD and it gave me the choice of either playing or copying the music to my hard drive.

The A300 runs on the dreaded Windows Vista which irritated me in some ways but which nevertheless seemed to work pretty well. I guess that Vista has had time to mature and that it makes a difference when using a computer designed for it, with plenty of power to spare.

Back in 2000, I had a Toshiba laptop and was impressed with its design and build quality and the A300 did nothing to to change that first favourable impression of Toshiba products. The thing that amazes me is how far laptops have come despite the fact that, at around R13000, the A300 is R2000 cheaper, and many orders of magnitude more powerful than my old machine was.

I would be very pleased to own a Satellite A300-1QE with the slight reservation that I would first look at the rest of the Toshiba range to see if I could find a model that perhaps didn’t look quite as shiny.

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