Finally, a Little Less Gloss

There have been a couple of manufacturers that historically have hit my pet peeves when it comes to notebook design. Clevo and Acer both have dire keyboards that they frustratingly cling to even in the face of the kind of progress Dell and HP tend to get swept up in, and Toshiba seemed to have invested whole hog in glossy plastic for the longest time. Mercifully, while Clevo and Acer still have those same awful keyboards, Toshiba got the hint from the success of the Portege R700, and has proven themselves a little more agile and willing to change.

The end result is an aesthetic that feels a little clunky, but is at least a major step in the right direction. While smooth glossy plastic is still present (particularly in my most hated of places, the screen bezel), it's used largely more as an accent than a style on the M645. The lid, palmrests, and area around the keyboard are all black and feature a pleasant patterning that's comfortable to use. In the most technical sense this is still glossy plastic, but it's heavily textured in such a way that's much more pleasing—it's the same look as seen on the A660-series laptops we've reviewed in the past, only in a smaller chassis.

In keeping with the times and proving that white is the new blue, Toshiba uses white LEDs for nearly all illumination on the M645, including indicators and the keyboard backlighting, with orange as a secondary color for the indicator LEDs on the front rim of the notebook. I can't complain; there are reasons why blue LEDs caught on the way they did, and the white ones are no different. They're just pleasing to look at.

As for the keyboard itself, the chiclet-style seems to be in vogue right now, and that's fine. Toshiba has a solid layout that's easy to use, and the flex that's present is fairly minimal. I'm disappointed that glossy plastic is used for the keys as it produces an odd texture when you slide your fingers across them, but at this point I just appreciate the progress compared to the big, flat, borderline-slick keys that permeated last generation Toshiba notebooks. At the moment the only manufacturer that seems to consistently nail keyboard designs to near-flawlessness is Lenovo; HP's double-high left and right arrow keys on their modern keyboards are downright bizarre, and Dell seems to still be trying to figure out exactly what kind of key surfaces to use. It's strange the kind of alchemy that continues to occur when it comes to keyboard design; the one part of the notebook that should be seeing the least change over the decades continues to see reinvention. But I digress; Toshiba's keyboard on the M645 is a major improvement on its predecessors, and a change in materials would finish the job.

Touchpads are also tricky things, but Toshiba wisely gets the texture right. These seem to be a matter of taste, but I've found two dedicated buttons along with a mildly textured surface is oftentimes the right call for me, and I had no trouble using the touchpad on the M645. The dedicated touchpad toggle is a constant and appreciated inclusion.

Unfortunately there are still a couple of places where I feel like Toshiba could stand some improvement in their overall designs. The M645 feels curiously bulbous compared to notebooks from competitors, machines that have generally gotten progressively sleeker and eschewed these rounded corners. That's a minor complaint; my major gripe still lies with the use of glossy plastic. It just doesn't belong on the bezel, but at least it's gradually phasing out of the market. The capacitive control strip above the keyboard also feels passe, and most people I know would rather use actual physical buttons than touch-based controls.

Finally, on the feature side, Toshiba made too many perplexing trades here. I appreciate the inclusion of a USB 3.0 port and a Blu-ray drive, and dedicated graphics in a 14-inch form factor are still all too rare in the mainstream notebook market, but why no gigabit ethernet? I'm also sad to see Samsung's hard drive division get sold off to Seagate while Toshiba's continues to plug away at producing mediocre notebook drives. Maybe it's a cost-saving measure, who can say? However, my experience with Toshiba drives is that they've always been the slowest of the slow (alongside Fujitsu). 640GB of space is generous, but most users would probably be willing to sacrifice some of that capacity for at least a higher spindle speed. Notebooks in the price bracket Toshiba targets with the M645 almost always include 7200RPM drives as a matter of course, making the dog slow 5400RPM drive in this notebook an outlier.

Introducing the Toshiba Satellite M645 Mainstream Performance


View All Comments

  • Icabus - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I don't know if I speak for everyone, but I would love to see 2 additional graphs. On the performance page a graph showing the current price, or price range for the other comparable offerings would be nice so you could see what kind of performance increase you are getting for the increase in price. I know this would not be easy as the price can very across the internet, and I understand price can change with rebates and sales all the time.

    The other graph is a little easier, but on the power usage page I would love to see the weight here. Since the different offerings come with different size batteries, it would be nice to see just how much of a difference there is between to offerings when on has a 4xWHr battery and another has a 8xWHr battery.
  • Chris Peredun - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    "NVIDIA specifies the 525M to run the core at 600MHz (and thus the 96 CUDA cores at 1.2GHz), but Toshiba has substantially reduced its core clock to just 475MHz (reducing the CUDA cores to a paltry 950MHz). The cut is a brutal one that you'll see reduces performance below even a GeForce GT 420M."

    Thanks for highlighting this issue on page 1, Dustin.

    In a dream world, NVIDIA would come kick them in the groin and tell them not to label or refer to the GPU in this unit as a "GT 525M" when it is *not obeying specs.*

    Is there a particular reason we can't have that dream come true? I'm sure there's some country where a "false advertising" suit would land a hit.
  • Pessimism - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I'd love to see a "durability roundup" in which you take all the $699 budget wonder notebooks and put them through a series of impacts, drops, and spills followed by a photographed teardown detailing internal damage to see how these mass produced plastic consumer notebooks stand up to abuse. Reply
  • TegiriNenashi - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    With processors, memory and the other stuff stagnated these days perhaps it makes sense for vendors to differentiate on their screen offering. Is it hard to comprehend how many users can't stand 16:9? Reply
  • jah1subs - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    You can complain all you want about 16:9 and it will make absolutely no difference. Several years ago, I noticed a story on that said panel manufacturers realized that they could lay out more 16:9 panels than 16:10 panels in later generation manufacturing plants, perhaps 6th generation. The difference was 5% or 10%

    I have a question. For those who have seen 14" or 15.6" panels, is 1600x900 more or less readable than 1366x768, all other things being equal (ceteris paribus)?

    P.S. ceteris paribus is correctly spelled. I searched it before posting the message.
  • kmmatney - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    "I have a question. For those who have seen 14" or 15.6" panels, is 1600x900 more or less readable than 1366x768, all other things being equal (ceteris paribus)?"

    The answer is: 16:9 sucks
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    Readable? Bigger will always be more readable! The trade off is workspace.

    btw, the poster didn't even "complain" about 16:9. But I will: it sucks :) And if 1 manufacturer still offered 15.4" 1680x1050 or 14.1" 1400x1050, it would be a huge differentiator and there's a good chance they'd get my business. Make it IPS, too. I'll happily pay the premium.
  • Letros - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Hey guys, long time reader first time poster, great site BTW =)

    I have a similar model of this laptop, the customized M640, didn't care for the Blu-ray player on the retail model, so I saved a few bucks, while opting for a back-lit keyboard, 7200 HDD, and extended cell battery, came out to $920.

    Anyway, I was pretty upset myself when I saw the GT525M at 475 Mhz, however Nvidia System Tools lets you bring the clock back up, I actually have it overclocked at 630/950, up from the 525M spec sheet of 600/900. My GPU temps don't get above 80 C and the laptop does a good job at cooling(had it running for a few hours to confirm stability). My 3dMark 06 was 7600 marks. I don't play too many games on it though, have a desktop for that, but it's nice for some mobile SC2.

    I'm satisfied with my purchase, even with the BS clock reduction, a higher res screen would have been nice...
  • TrackSmart - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Good to know that the clock speed is easily modified and that it stays within reasonable temperature limits (for a GPU running at full tilt in a laptop). I don't do any mobile gaming, so I opted for the Portege series (only 3.2 lbs). I also lament the low resolution, low quality displays that Toshiba uses, but I couldn't find any alternatives in the same price range and weight. Reply
  • Beenthere - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I'm not gonna buy any InHell product after their criminal convictions. Reply

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