What's hot: Capacitive touch screen works smoothly. Textured surface gives it a high-end look.
What's not: No SSD option. Screen looks a bit grainy.
Reviewed January 18, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Thanks to the launch of Windows 7 and its support for multi-touch, notebooks with multi-touch screens have proliferated in recent months. While most of these notebooks don’t come in a convertible tablet form, they nonetheless offer a new way of interacting with Windows. The Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 with multi-touch screen aims to give us that new touch experience at a relatively low price. The Satellite Pro U500 series has a 13.3 inch display with multi-touch screen as an option running the N-Trig MultiTouch digitizer that supports both stylus (non-EMR and also not included) and touch input at 2 points. It does not have an active digitizer plus touch screen like the HP TouchSmart Txz. The U500-EZ1311 runs on the 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6670 processor with 3 gigs of RAM and a 250 gig hard drive. The Satellite U500 has a built-in DVD SuperMulti drive and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD integrated graphics. The Satellite U500 has a textured surface and comes in Luxe Brown. What's the difference between the Satellite U500 and the Satellite Pro U500? The Pro has the touch screen.
Design and Ergonomics
The Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 is among what Toshiba calls their “premium design” notebook models that have a textured surface on the cover and keyboard deck. The textured surface adds a luxurious look to the notebook and is impervious to fingerprints. Even though the Toshiba Satellite U500 carries the “U” series label, it’s quite thick and measures at 12.5 x 9.08 x 1.16 (front)/1.50 (rear) inches. However the notebook isn’t hugely heavy at the 4.74 lbs starting weight.
The 85 key US keyboard is spacious but the glossy version has slippery keys with little travel. The keyboard also trampolines a bit. The TouchPad is flat and has a backlight line marking the top position, and it supports multi touch control. Two chrome mouse keys live below the touchpad, and they are large and easy to use. Five system status LED lights line up below the mouse keys. Above the keyboard, the Satellite U500 has a line of media touch controls, and they have extremely bright LED lights. Two stereo speakers flank the touch controls.
Horsepower and Performance
The Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 ships with an Intel Core 2 Duo T6670 processor running at 2.2 GHz with 2 MB L2 cache and an 800 MHz FSB. The U500 has two RAM slots with a maximum memory capacity of 8 gigs. The machine ships with 3 gigs of DDR2 800MHz RAM.
The hard drive is a 250GB SATA HDD (5400rpm) model. It’s too bad that there isn’t an SSD option as you will see in our benchmark tests that the notebook didn’t score very high in the HDD tests with the 250GB hard drive. The Toshiba has integrated graphics powered by the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD using 285MB-1759MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro U500 has built-in Wi-Fi using the Realtek 802.11b/g/n. The machine also ships with Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR.
We put the Toshiba Satellite U500 through PCMark Vantage benchmark tests and strangely it scored better than the slightly older Toshiba Portege M750 tablet that runs on the Intel Core 2 Duo P9600 processor at 2.66GHz. Also included is the ThinkPad t400s that also has a touch screen and non-convertible design. We provided both benchmark results for your comparison. We ran the tests with the Satellite U500 plugged in with default “Balanced” power settings.
Here are the PCMark Vantage benchmark results of the Toshiba Satellite U500 and the Toshiba Portege M750 tablet PC:
Toshiba Satellite U500:
PCMark Suite overall score: 3161
Memory Suite: 2218
TV and Movies Suite: 2934
Gaming Suite: 1820
Music Suite: 4644
Communication Suite: 3051
Productivity Suite: 2802
HDD Test Suite: 3041
Toshiba Portege M750:
PCMark Suite overall score: 3035
Memory Suite: N/A
Gaming Suite: 1818
Music Suite: 3445
Communication Suite: 3457
Productivity Suite: 2848
HDD Test Suite: 2557
Lenovo ThinkPad T400s:
PCMark Suite overall score: 4586
Memory Suite: 2743
TV and Movies Suite: 2668
Gaming Suite: 3373
Music Suite: 5026
Communication Suite: 4012
Productivity Suite: 4670
HDD Test Suite: 7128
The Windows 7 Experience Index for the Toshiba U500: (on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9)
Memory (RAM): 5.7
Gaming graphics: 3.4
Primary hard disk: 5.7
The Toshiba U500 has no trouble running productivity applications like MS Office, Adobe Reader and Photoshop. DVD movies and music play smoothly and Hulu movies over Wi-Fi also play smoothly. The notebook isn’t a gaming demon but it plays casual games just fine.
Display and Ports
The Toshiba Satellite U500 has a 13.3 inch widescreen display with Toshiba’s TruBrite HD technology built-in. The LCD has a native 1280 x 800 resolution and it supports 720p HD content natively. The screen looks reasonably bright and colors look saturated. The display in the multi-touch configuration has a noticeable grainy-looking layer for the touch input. The screen is very responsive to finger touch and it supports two touch points. Like the Lenovo ThinkPad T400s, the Toshiba Satellite U500 is one of the many recent notebooks that take advantage of the multi-touch support in Windows 7 yet eschew the traditional convertible tablet form factor (probably to reduce cost). The Toshiba Satellite U500 has a stiffer hinge for the display than the Lenovo ThinkPad T400s, and it hardly wobbles when you use the touch screen with your finger.
One advantage of having a thick body is an abundance of ports. The Toshiba Satellite U500 has 3 USB v2.0 ports with 1 of them being an eSATA/USB combo port with USB Sleep and Charge, an RJ-45 LAN port, RJ-11 modem port, an RGB monitor output port, an HDMI port as well as a S/P DIF audio out (shared with headphone port) and a mic input port. For expansion, the Toshiba Satellite U500 has a memory card reader that supports SD, SDHC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MMC and xD Picture card formats. There is also a Security Lock slot and a Wi-Fi on/off slider. There is also an ExpressCard slot that works with ExpressCard/35 and ExpressCard/54.
The Toshiba Satellite U500 comes with a 6-cell 3700 mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery, and there's a 12-cell 8500 mAh battery pack as a $99 upgrade option. With the 6-cell battery, the notebook can last 4-5 hours working on documents, viewing pictures and playing music on the default “Balanced” power management setting. The U500 lasted 2 to 2.25 hours when playing Hulu movies over Wi-Fi on the default power setting. The notebook lasted 3 hours when playing a DVD using the included Toshiba DVD Player with Wi-Fi turned on and the power setting at “Balanced”. The 12-cell battery will add 4-5 hours of business/productivity usage time or 3 additional hours of multimedia usage time. Like most notebooks, the Toshiba comes with power management tools that allow you to set the power settings and create your own power settings.
The Toshiba U500 runs Windows 7. The Home Premium 32-bit or 64-bit version is standard with options to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional ($75) or Windows 7 Ultimate ($145) when you build a system. With the multi-touch option, the U500 ships with the new Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7 that shows off the touch screen capabilities. The Toshiba runs all touch applications smoothly and the touch screen is very responsive to the controls in these apps. The notebook ships with Microsoft Office 2007 60 day trial, and Windows Media Player, IE 8 and Adobe Acrobat Reader are included. Toshiba includes their own utilities including recovery disc creator, DVD Player, HDD Impact Sensor (not as annoyingly active as on the Toshiba Portege M750), speech utilities, face recognition and a webcam application. Toshiba also includes a very nifty desktop docking app called Toshiba ReelTime. It’s designed to be a finger-friendly launcher/app manager with large icons and easy to control buttons. If you get the multi-touch configuration, Toshiba ReelTime is a great tool for quickly switching between apps and accessing your documents, pictures, videos and the web. The notebook comes with a recovery partition and an application to create recovery media.
There’s some bloatware as well on the Toshiba Satellite U500 including Google tools, special offers for Amazon shopping, NetZero services and more. A Norton Internet Security 2009 30 day trial is also included and we found it slowed down the notebook a bit, so we opted for the free downloadable Microsoft Security Essentials.
The Toshiba U500 is about affordable multi-touch. The included Microsoft Touch Pack works smoothly and shows off the responsive touch screen well. But while we’re bullish on Windows 7 touch, there aren’t a lot of apps that make good use of it yet; and the standard notebook design isn’t the best to take advantage of touch. It’s slightly awkward to reach over the keyboard area to touch the screen in a coordinated manner vs. using a touch screen on a convertible notebook that folds flat.
We like the Toshiba U500’s trendy textured surface that moves it up a notch from lower end Satellite notebooks. This is one of the thickest 13.3” notebooks we’ve seen in years, but it is reasonably light. In terms of horsepower, the U500 should be a capable work and school notebook especially for those who want a touch screen. Music, movies and DVD play smoothly and the audio is quite good. We wish that Toshiba offered SSD options but that would price out many users who are looking for a sub-$1K or around $1K notebook with multi-touch. As long as you don’t mind the thickness, the Toshiba Satellite U500 offers a good value for the price.
Pro: Touch screen works smoothly. Textured surface gives it a high end look.
Display: 13.3” diagonal widescreen TruBrite TFT LCD display at 1280 x 800 native resolution. Native support for 720p content. Supports pen and 2-point touch.
Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, 10.8V, 52Wh, 3700 mAh. Ships with 65W 100-240V AC adapter.
Performance: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T6670 running at 2.2 GHz, 2MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB. 3 gigs of DDR2 RAM (8 gigs max) with 2 SDRAM slots. Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD.
Size: 12.5 x 9.08 x 1.16/1.50 inches. Weight: starting at 4.74 pounds.
Drives: 250GB 5400 rpm serial ATA drive. DVD SuperMulti drive supporting 11 formats.
Audio: Built-in speakers, built-in microphone, a S/P DIF output port (shared with headphone port) and a Microphone input port.
Networking and Ports: Integrated WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, gigabit Ethernet, 3 USB v2.0 ports and one of them is a USB Sleep and Charge port. Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. Has a built-in webcam. RJ45 Ethernet, RJ11 modem, HDMI, RGB and audio ports.
Software: Windows 7 Home Premium 32/64-bit operating system with Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate upgrade available. 60-day trial of MS Office 2007 and 30-day Norton Internet Security 2009. Toshiba DVD Player for DVD playback, Toshiba Recovery Disc Creator, Toshiba HDD Impact Sensor and Face Recognition included. MS Touch Pack is included as well as Microsoft IE, Windows Media Player and Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Expansion: ExpressCard slot (ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54). Memory Card Reader for reading Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Multi Media Card and xD Picture Card.