Toshiba Satellite P855-32G £650
15th Nov 2012 | 17:29
Great performance at a reasonably low price for this 15-incher
The Toshiba P855-32G is an updated version of the Toshiba P850 home entertainment laptop released earlier this year, featuring more power for the masses.
What this upgrade does is put the P855 on a competitive standing with current laptops, which are featuring powerful third-generation Ivy Bridge chips as standard.
If you didn't know about the differences under the hood, you'd think the two Toshibas were identical and, well, that wouldn't be too far from the truth.
The mid-range market for 15.6-inch laptops has been a little quiet of late, which is understandable given the intense focus on Ultrabooks and – now that Windows 8 has been launched – tablets, as well as all sorts of funky-looking convertibles and hybrids.
A regular laptop just feels a little boring these days, but that's not to say there isn't still demand for something more down to earth, such as the Samsung Series 3 or Asus K53S; and the Toshiba P855 has appeal too.
There isn't too much to shout about when it comes to the P855's aesthetics – it looks the same as its older sibling the P850, featuring a brushed-metal finish which is reasonably attractive in an industrial sort of way.
It has a full-size Chiclet keyboard with a number pad, which makes it really useable, and it looks good too - although there's no fancy backlighting as you might expect with a more premium model.
While most laptops of this type will inevitably spend most of their time at home, the occasional trip will mean the P855 will be called into action, but at an astonishing 2.66kg it really isn't suited to this type of role.
It even makes less of a case for working on the move than the similarly-priced 15-inch Medion Akoya P6635 does, which also weighs a considerable 2.5kg.
Like the Medion though, the Toshiba P855 concentrates its efforts on serving up a big dollop of performance.
Sporting a third-generation 2.5GHz Core i5-3201M, 8GB of RAM and a standalone nVidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card, the P855 is certainly no slouch, only just bettered by laptops featuring the latest Core i7 processor.
It even comes with a high-end pair of Harmon Kardon speakers, so for £650 you really do get a lot of laptop.
The only missing features that would make the P855 a powerhouse of an entertainment laptop are a full HD screen and Blu-ray drive. For £300 you can get all this – as well as a glasses-free 3D screen – on its bigger sibling: the P855-32J.
While design might not be at the very top of the Toshiba P855's list, power certainly is – with spades of it present.
Aside from the lack of an SSD, there are lots of high-end components here, including that strong processor, 8GB of RAM and a pretty meaty graphics card – if not truly a gaming one.
You can be guaranteed that your £650 will get you a laptop that's going to still be current for the next couple of years.
If we were to be picky, we'd say that some laptops in this price category have featured Core i7 processors in the past, but it's not a deal-breaker at all.
The 1TB drive representing means there is plenty of space for storing your chunky media collection without having to resort to an external hard drive until things get out of control, which further enforces the P855's home entertainment intentions.
The P855 also features a smattering of other nice hardware touches.
There is, for instance, a full showing of ports here, including a whopping four USB inputs – all USB 3.0, no less, and two of them even allow you to charge your USB devices while the laptop lid is shut and it's in a low-power sleep state.
There's also an HDMI output for watching hi-def movies on your big screen instantly, a VGA connector (if you'd prefer to just get your screen onto a desktop monitor), headphone and microphone jacks, an Ethernet port, and an SD card to round things off nicely.
It really is absolutely complete in this regard, so those who are fussy about their ports will find happiness here.
The more standard features you'd expect at this level include an 802.11b/g/n wireless card and Bluetooth 4.0, so no matter what media streaming you're into – whether it's beaming files to the P855, or to other devices around the home – it should be a breeze.
Intel's Wireless Display technology also features, so should you ever feel the need to send movies straight to a compatible TV without the need for wires in future, you're nicely covered.
There's also a 1.0MP web camera for all your video conferencing needs, and it does the job, but let's be honest – it's nothing to rave about here.
The only big omission on the Toshiba P855 is the lack of a 1920x1080 full HD display. OK, so there's no Blu-ray player in tow either – a standard DVD drive does the job instead - but people still watch 1080p movies in other formats and this feels like a missed opportunity, especially for a laptop that is all about home entertainment – although in that respect it delivers on every other front.
Cinebench 10: 10,980
Battery eater: 168 mins
While the Toshiba P855 isn't an absolute top-of-the-line performance laptop, the benchmarks show that it put in a very respectable performance.
It betters the old P850 by some way, with a Cinebench score 40 per cent higher, highlighting that the Ivy Bridge Core i5 gives it a significant leap in performance.
It falls just behind the similarly priced, but slightly better-specified Medion Akoya P6635 which has a third-gen Core i7 and a much higher Cinebench score.
The P855 can comfortably handle anything you want to throw at it; you can even expand the memory to 16GB if you really want to do some super multi-tasking.
As the P855's 3DMark score indicates, this laptop can handle a certain degree of gaming without too much bother.
It's not an out-and-out gaming machine, naturally, but it really held its own – Max Payne 3 at medium settings ran almost flawlessly, so there's scope here to play nearly all the current crop of high-end games, provided you don't mind turning the dial down a touch.
Unfortunately, while the P855 is certainly capable, at times it felt a little on the sluggish side.
We can only put this down to either a lack of an SSD, which would really make it extra spritely over the standard spinning drive, or – more likely - the fact that the P855 has been outfitted with an outrageous amount of bloatware from the factory.
Toshiba has absolutely rammed the poor thing with all sorts of nasties.
There's the usual security suspect thrusting its warning notifications in your face every five minutes, but otherwise it's mostly Toshiba's own offerings.
One of them even has its own dedicated launch button next to the keyboard, which instantly puts it in a low-power state mode. While this might seem useful for people who don't know much about the power-saving modes, is it really that hard to access in the taskbar?
As an entertainment machine, the Toshiba P855 certainly delivers.
It's got plenty of power, as we already know, and a huge hard drive.
But what of the screen? Sure, it lacks 1080p, but this is one of the nicer screens you'll come across.
The TruBrite display really does bring movies to life, making HD files look bright and vibrant. Admittedly, it does suffer from a degree of glare in natural light, due to its glossy nature, but this is an entertainment laptop at the end of the day – image quality is where it's at.
Similarly, the Harmon Kardon speakers help to reiterate the P855's entertainment intentions.
Whether it's movies or music, these speakers are crystal clear and have a very solid sound to them. As this is only a 2.0 speaker setup, don't expect a barrel-load of depth to the sound – these still feel very much like laptop speakers, but nonetheless you won't be disappointed.
Outside of entertainment duties, the P855 has a full size keyboard with a built-in number pad, which makes it very useful for work-related tasks, especially those involving lots of number input.
Having said this, we found the keyboard to be a little unpleasant.
The keys are nicely spaced, granted, but the travel is very short and feedback is poor. We might be fast at typing, but more often than not letters in words would be missed off, meaning we had to go back and make corrections.
The battery life of 168 minutes isn't the worst we've seen in this category, especially considering the beef on offer, but it's certainly not going to convince you to take this out for the whole day. Then again, it's much too heavy to carry around for long anyway.
The Toshiba P855 is really nothing new to the market – rather, it's simply an updated version of the P850, which, aside from its less capable Core i3 processor, has an identical spec and costs an astonishing £220 less.
But for those wanting the extra performance, the £650 for the faster version still feels like good value for money.
Aside from the lack of a full HD screen, this laptop certainly ticks all the boxes for those looking for a quality home entertainment laptop.
The weight and battery life might put those looking for a balance of capabilities off, but for those who consign their computing duties to home, this is just the job.
The P855 has a lot of power under the hood, which makes it great for watching hi-def movies, playing newer games, and multitasking till the cows come home. It's good to know that the P855 will be future proof for the next couple of years.
The design might not be particularly inspiring, but the build quality is right up there with the best – it will still feel well put together even after an extended period of use.
The vibrant screen and the crystal clear Harmon Kardon speakers are a particular highlight of the P855, and the huge range of high-spec features (including more USB 3.0 ports than you can shake a stick at) really round off the P855 as a great do-it-all laptop.
The keyboard isn't particularly great for typing, so if you plan to do a lot of this on the P855, then you might want to consider another laptop as it really isn't the best we've seen.
As we've stated previously, the battery life isn't particularly remarkable.
Nor is the weight and thickness of the P855, which means you certainly wouldn't pick this if you were planning to head out on the road a lot.
The bloatware also really put us off, but if you're really prepared you could easily remove all of this or do a fresh install.
Ideally, we would also have liked a full HD screen and perhaps a Blu-ray player at this price point. Then this would have really been the ultimate value entertainment machine.
The Toshiba P855 is one of the better conventional laptops we've seen of late, offering a lot of performance for a relatively small price tag.
Laptops like the Medion Akoya P6635 might be even more powerful and cheaper, but you notice where corners have been cut.
Aside from a few small niggles, the P855 delivers the goods.
This is the perfect machine for someone who wants a home entertainment powerhouse.