While Toshiba's Qosmio line is the company's flagship desktop replacement multimedia powerhouse, the Satellite P100 series is Toshiba's big and bold desktop replacement line that's built for gamers and creative professionals. It features a 17-inch wide-screen display like its Qosmio cousins, but the Satellite P100 PSPAGA puts more of its money behind the core components to deliver top-notch performance and stellar 3D frame rates. Although it serves up excellent Harman-Kardon stereo speakers, it doesn't feature a subwoofer, a TV tuner, or an HDMI output -- staples of the Qosmio G30 line-up. We reviewed the most expensive, pre-configured model in the Satellite P100 PSPAGA series: the AU$3,699 Satellite P100-PSPAGA-014001. Prices in the 17-inch gaming laptop category can quickly escalate, and the P100-PSPAGA seems downright inexpensive compared to the US$4,000 Alienware Area-51 m5790 Special Edition, especially considering the Toshiba's far better gaming scores. We'd be more apt to recommend it, however, if the somewhat less-flashy Dell Inspiron 9400 didn't offer similar performance for US$1,000 less.
Measuring 393.7mm wide, 274.3mm deep, and 43.1mm high, the Satellite P100-PSPAGA is big enough to work on comfortably for long stretches, but it's not the kind of thing you'd want to lug around more than occasionally. The system weighs 3.5kg (4.2kg with the hefty A/C adaptor), which is a little bit lighter than some other desktop replacements, such as the Dell Inspiron 9400 and HP Pavilion dv9000z, but the difference isn't enough to make us want to commute with it.
The Satellite P100's case doesn't scream "Gamer!" the same way the Alienware's alien head design does. Instead, the silver-and-black interior and blue pearlised lid could easily pull double-duty in an office environment. The blue LEDs that shine beneath the black speaker grills are the only flashy design note, and even they don't pulse and change colour like the speaker and fan vent lights on the Dell XPS M1710.
Toshiba outfits the Satellite P100 with a full-size keyboard and a 10-key numeric keypad, a welcome feature increasingly common on desktop replacement systems. We liked the touch pad's embedded control system, called Dual Mode, that lets you control volume and launch applications from icons printed right on the touch pad. You activate these alternate controls by tapping the touch pad's upper right corner. There's also a fingerprint reader along the right side of the wrist rest. Above the keyboard sit basic media controls (play, stop, forward, back) and two programmable application launch buttons. On the front edge, a small volume wheel controls two Harman Kardon speakers that produce nice sound -- although not as hefty at the Dell Inspiron 9400, which has a built-in subwoofer.
The screen's 1,680x1,050 native resolution is the same as you'd find on many wide-screen 21-inch LCD monitors, and provides for plenty of screen real estate. For high-end gaming, digital media viewing and working with high-res photos, this works great, although the less expensive Dell 9400 went all the way up to 1,920x1,200, which is almost too high, making text and icons hard to see.
The Satellite P100 leaves out very little when it comes to ports and connections. It has headphone, microphone, and S/PDIF audio jacks; VGA, S-Video, and DVI video outputs for hooking up an external monitor; as well as a single four-pin FireWire and four USB 2.0 ports. The system has both a Type II PC Card slot and an Express Card slot, plus a media card reader. Networking options include Gigabit Ethernet, modem, Bluetooth, and Intel PRO/Wireless A/B/G. That's a comprehensive selection of connections and will satisfy nearly any user. The only thing lacking seems to be an HDMI connection -- still rare in laptops, but found in Toshiba's Qosmio line.
The Satellite P100-PSPAGA is a fixed-configuration system, featuring Windows Vista Home Premium, a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 200GB 4200rpm hard drive, a DVD burner, and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7900GTX graphics card (which is good, but not as good as the GeForce Go 7950) That's an impressive set of components.
Performance and battery life
Compared to recent desktop replacement laptops, the Satellite P100-PSPAGA offered decent performance, although it fell behind the Dell Inspiron 9400 (although the Dell features a Core 2 Duo T7400) and Alienware Area-51 m5790 Special Edition (with a faster Core 2 Duo T7600 CPU) in CNET Labs' multitasking and iTunes encoding tests. But the differences were not great, and at this upper end of the performance curve, all these machines are blazingly fast. We couldn't detect any real-world performance difference between the Dell, Alienware, and Toshiba laptops in anecdotal use.
When it comes to gaming, the differences are somewhat more pronounced. This is where the Dell XPS M1710's faster CPU (Core 2 Duo T7600) and GPU (Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX) come in handy, churning out 85 frames per second in F.E.A.R. at 1280x1024, topping the Satellite P100's 58 frames per second. Bear in mind, however, the M1710 is much more expensive. While it's not the fastest gaming laptop we've seen, the Toshiba offered very playable frame rates and easily beat the Alienware Area-51 m5790 Special Edition.
The system ran for only 90 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included nine-cell battery. That's the shortest battery life we've seen from a desktop replacement in the Windows Vista era. Even though large systems like this are not designed for long battery life, we were disappointed. The 17-inch Dell's XPS M1710 and 9400 ran for two hours, six minutes, and two hours, 28 minutes, respectively.
Toshiba backs the Satellite P100 with a typical one-year warranty with return to depot service. Users are able to extending coverage to a three years on-site service. The company's toll-free tech support line is available 24/7, and Toshiba's Web site offers lots of tech support sections, but we found it hard to find specific answers to our questions between the dozens of links in the Customer Care and Learning Center sections, and a seemingly nonfunctional search engine.
This review is based on tests done by our sister site CNET.com. As such, please note that there may be slight differences in the testing procedure and ratings system. For more information on the actual tests conducted on the product, please inquire directly at the site where the article was originally published. References made to some other products in this review may not be available or applicable in Australia. Please check directly with your local distributor for details.