Reviewed September 5, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Toshiba currently offers two Satellite lines of notebooks: the regular Satellite line and the Satellite Pro line. The notebooks in these two series often have similar specs and the main differentiators are that the Pro line has a more business-like design while the regular line has a more flashy design for consumers.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro line has a broad spectrum of notebooks ranging from the 13.3-inch U400 to the 17-inch L300. The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 sits in the middle of this line, targeting business users with its 14.1-inch display, Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.40GHz and 2GB memory. There are two pre-configured models currently in the M300 series: the EZ1001V and the S1002V. The EZ1001V has a slower processor (2.1GHz Core 2 Duo) and 1GB memory. We used the higher-end S1002 for this review and the benchmark tests. The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with a 160GB hard drive, a DVD SuperMulti drive, WiFi 802.11 a/g/n and Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. The notebook has Windows Vista Business (32-bit) edition with an option to downgrade to Windows XP, which can be a bonus if your business IT infrastructure still favors XP. If the specs don’t meet your requirements, Toshiba offers plenty of options for a customized model with processor speeds as high as 2.5GHz (Intel Core 2 Duo T9300), Windows Vista Ultimate, 4GB memory, 320GB hard drive and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 discrete graphics. The list price for the M300-S1002V is $1,149 while the top of the line configuration with a bigger battery and Labelflash DVD labeling will run up to $1,535.
The Design That Means Business
Unlike the flashy fusion finish found on the Satellite U405, the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 has a plain business notebook design. The Toshiba has a brushed silver finish with a black keyboard and black bottom, and it looks well built. The 14.1-inch TruBrite TFT LCD display has 1280 x 800 native WXGA resolution and is glossier than the Satellite U405’s display. The viewing angle is good on the M300’s display but the LCD has a relatively low contrast; even at the darkest setting blacks aren’t black. Color saturation isn’t impressive either. But the display is brighter compared to the U405 display when playing dark movie scenes.
The Satellite Pro M300 has a standard 86-key US keyboard, a TouchPad and two mouse buttons. The keyboard feels good when typing and the touchpad and mouse buttons are large and easy to use. Curiously, the M300 as a business-oriented notebook doesn’t have a fingerprint reader while the U405 consumer notebook does. The stereo speakers live above the keyboard and the system LED lights live on the front right corner below the keyboard. Like the Satellite U405, the M300 has a wireless radio on/off slider on the front of the notebook, but no consumer IR port.
Plenty of Horsepower for Business Tasks
The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300-S1002V has a faster CPU than the Toshiba Satellite U405 and the benchmark numbers reflect the speed. The M300 runs on the Intel Core 2 Duo processor (T8300) at 2.4GHz with 3MB L2 cache and an 800 MHz FSB (Intel Santa Rosa Centrino platform). There is no AMD-based option for the Satellite Pro M300. The M300-S1002V comes with 2GB memory (PC2-5300) DDR2 SDRAM. There are 2 memory slots on the notebook, and max memory is 4GB. Both pre-configured M300 models have integrated graphics powered by the Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 with 128MB-358MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory. A discrete graphics option is available on the customized model. Since the M300 isn’t meant to be a multimedia notebook, it has a 160 gig Serial ATA hard drive (5400 RPM) instead of the 250 gig hard drive found on the U405. Again the larger hard drive option (320GB) is available for build-to-order. Toshiba Satellite Pro M300-S1002V has a right-side-opening DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive supporting up to 11 formats. It doesn’t come with Labelflash, but the built to order model offers that option for $15 extra.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300-S1002V benchmarked very well, with fast CPU speeds and very decent numbers on the other hardware. The graphics numbers were higher than the U405 even though they have the same integrated graphics chipset. We did benchmark tests with PCMark 05 and below are the benchmark numbers from the PCMark tests and Windows Vista Experience Index:
Total Rating: 3.5
Gaming graphics: 3.5
Primary hard disk: 5.2
These are very respectable numbers for a business notebook. As you’d expect the graphics numbers are lower because the notebook has integrated graphics with shared memory. We tested DVD watching, gaming and Internet content streaming, and the Satellite M300 did reasonably well in all tests. Games like Rise of Nations and Age of Empires III ran smoothly, but games that require intensive graphics power like Battlefield 2 won’t install or play well on the Toshiba.
Like many Toshiba notebook models, the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965 AGN (802.11a/g/n). Interestingly, the same WiFi chip in the U405 gets better signal strength than the M300. That’s not to say that the M300 doesn’t get good WiFi signal, just not as excellent as on the U405. We tested the notebook with our N router and it gets very good signal even from 30 feet away and streaming video/movies over WiFi is smooth and speedy. The Toshiba also has built-in Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR which enhanced the speed of data transfer.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 has a standard set of ports including 3 USB 2.0 ports (two on the left side and one on the right side), 10/100 Ethernet LAN port and modem port on the right side, ExpressCard slot (ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54) and a security lock slot on the right. There is also an RGB monitor port on the left for plugging the notebook to a bigger monitor and a 4 pin unpowered FireWire port. The cooling vent dispatches the heat through the openings on the left of the notebook and keeps the bottom from heating up too much, and it works. The notebook doesn’t get too hot while playing DVDs or games.
There is also a 5-in-1 media card reader that reads SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Multi Media Card and xD Picture Cards. For using headphones, the Toshiba has a 3.5mm headphone jack with no S/P DIF support.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with Windows Vista Business Edition SP1 (32-bit) that’s downgrade-able to Windows XP. There is a Windows Vista Ultimate version available on the built-to-order model. In addition to Windows IE, Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows Calendar, Windows Contacts and other software and tools that come with the OS, the Toshiba comes with a good bundle of useful utilities. These applications include Toshiba’s own DVD Player, Disc Creator, Bluetooth stack, speech system and other utilities. Third-party software includes Adobe Acrobat reader 8, InterVideo WinDVD and Google tools. Toshiba also bundled a good number of board games and puzzle games with the notebook and offers link to WildTangent online games. Possibly useful trial software titles include Microsoft Office Pro 2007 (60-day trial), Norton 360 All-in-One Security (60-day trial), AutoBackup (30-day trial) and QuickBooks software and services. For security, the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with face recognition software that uses the webcam. Since the notebook doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, this feature becomes essential if password protection isn’t sufficient. The face recognition worked very well in our tests, even in low-light environments.
Like most of today’s notebooks, the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with bloatware that wastes disk space and desktop real estate. Bloatware includes Napster Music download, eMusic Music download, shutterfly photo print services, Toshiba photo prints and Vongo movie services. Not items that belong on a business machine.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with Recovery Disc Creator that can create recovery discs for both system recovery and application recovery.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 comes with a meager 6-cell battery that’s 3700mAh in capacity. There is a more powerful 9-cell 6000mAh battery for purchase ($129) should you need more power, and you will if you are not sitting by a power outlet all the time. The M300’s battery won’t last you an hour if the notebook is running on the High Performance power setting. On the Balanced setting with WiFi on, the notebook lasted 2.5 hours performing tasks such as web browsing, working on documents and viewing photos. When watching a DVD, the M300 lasted 1.5 hours with Wi-Fi turned off. We discovered that the battery indicator didn’t always reflect the battery life accurately, and as result we had the notebook going into hibernation due to low battery level (4% left) while the indicator showed 38% juice left. The notebook takes about 3 hours to fully charge from a drained state and the power supply is a world AC charger (100-240V/50-60Hz) that weighs 0.77 lbs.
For business users who can live without a flashy notebook, the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 provides plenty of computing power for productivity (as long as you are not into videos or gaming). The notebook benchmarks well and has ample ports for connections on the go. The Windows Vista Business Edition ensures (for now) the downgrade-ability to Windows XP in case your company is still on XP. Toshiba’s software and utilities are always a plus. The 14.1-inch size combined with the reasonable price make the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 a good choice for companies that buy bulk computer for their work force.
Pro: The notebook has a bright display, though it’s somewhat washed out when watching videos. Has plenty of horsepower for business applications and ample ports for connectivity. Good software bundle and Windows XP as an option. Built-to-order options can make this notebook top of the line in terms of specs.
Con: The display, while bright, lacks color contrast which makes movie watching a bit dull. Graphics intensive games won’t play on this notebook. No S/P DIF audio support. Poor battery life.
Display:14.1” diagonal widescreen TruBrite TFT LCD display at 1280 x 800 native resolution (WXGA). Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 with 128MB-358MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory.
Battery:6-cell Lithium Ion battery pack, 3700mAh. 75W AC adapter with auto sensing,100-240V/50-60Hz.
Performance:Intel Core 2 Duo processors T8300 model at 2.40GHz, 3MB L2 cache, 800MHz front side bus. 2GB memory (PC2-5300) DDR2 with 667MHz SDRAM, 4GB max.
Size:13.1 x 9.53 x 1.29 /1.48 inches (without/with feet). Weight: 5.2 lbs.
Drives:160GB (5400 RPM) Serial ATA hard disk drive. DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive supporting 11 formats: CD-ROM (24x), CD-R (24x), CD-RW (10x), DVD-ROM (8x), DVD-R (Single Layer, (8x)), DVD-R (Double Layer, (4x)), DVD-RW (4x), DVD+R (Single Layer, (8x)), DVD+R (Double Layer, (4x)), DVD+RW (4x), DVDRAM (5x).
Audio:Stereo speakers, built in mic, sound volume control dial, headphone out and mic in ports.
Networking: Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n). 10/100 gigabit Ethernet and 56k modem. RJ-45 LAN port. Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR.
Ports and Slots:3 USB 2.0 ports, 4 pin FireWire IEEE-1394, 5-in-1 card reader (supports SDHC), RGB video out, headphone output, ExpressCard/54 slot and 3.5mm mic-in port.
Software:Windows Vista Business Edition (32-bit), SP1 Operating System. Adobe Acrobat Reader, Toshiba DVD Player and Disc Creator software, Ulead DVD MovieFactory and Google tools. Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer included. Also face recognition software for security and Toshiba Recovery Disc creator included. Trial software includes: Microsoft Office Pro 2007 (60-day trial) and Norton All-in-One security (60-day trial).