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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 Review

Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 Review

Satellite A665-S5176 15.6
Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176
Reviewer Rating:
Review Summary:
A relatively minor update to the Satellite A660/A665, the A665-S5176 offers a good overall value.
  • Blu-ray drive
  • Great keyboard
  • USB 3.0
  • No ExpressCard slot
  • Weak screen protection
  • Mixed performance compared to older models

Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 Full Review

 Toshiba recently released a refresh of the popular Satellite A665 notebook with the latest Intel Sandy Bridge processors and graphics. Is the new A665 a worthwhile upgrade to last year's laptop? Keep reading to find out.

Toshiba Satellite A665 (A665-S5176) Specifications:
  • 15.6-inch 720p (1366x768) display with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Intel Core i3-2310M (2.1GHz, 3MB cache)
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM (1066MHz)
  • 500GB 5400RPM hard drive (Toshiba MK5065GSX)
  • 802.11b/g/n wireless
  • Blu-ray/DVD SuperMulti (+/- Double Layer)
  • Warranty: 1-Yr Parts and Labor, 1-Year Battery
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery (48Wh) and 90W power adapter
  • Weight: 5.9 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15 x 10 x 1.2-1.5 inches
  • Price as configured: $799.99
Build and Design

I have something of a mixed opinion about the design of the new Satellite A660/A665 notebook. Since it's a "refresh" of the existing Satellite A660/A665 series the new A665-S5176 looks virtually identical to the A665 model we reviewed last year. The only significant changes worth mentioning are the use of a new Intel "Sandy Bridge" processor with improved Intel integrated graphics and a few subtle changes to the ports on the side of the notebook. The design of the A665 remains quite traditional with sculpted edges, a mixture of smooth and textured glossy plastics, and some attractive LED accent lighting. Although the design isn't particularly exciting, keeping essentially the same design makes production easier and cheaper for Toshiba ... meaning Toshiba can pass those cost savings to you.
The exterior of the A665 is covered in what Toshiba calls the "Fusion X2 Finish in Charcoal." As I said it my review of last year's A665, the finish is basically just black glossy plastic with a textured "chain" pattern imprinted in the surface to help hide fingerprints and dirt. Despite the silly marketing name for the finish, the texture is much better than a smooth glossy lid. The textured chain pattern gives you the modern look of the glossy plastics but doesn't look like a horrible magnet for smudges, dirt, or whatever a family member spills on the laptop.

The plastic construction of the A665 is very good with a durable main chassis that doesn't squeak, creak, or flex even under significant pressure. The screen hinges on this model are tighter than the A665 we reviewed last year, meaning you can still open the laptop with one hand but the screen won't accidentally move if you bump the laptop. While we're on the topic of the screen, the screen lid still doesn't provide as much protection as we'd like. If you press on the back of the screen while the laptop is running you'll see obvious distortions on the screen itself. In addition, placing more than one heavy textbook on the screen lid causes the lid to bend inward sharply toward the screen ... suggesting that the screen lid doesn't offer much protection during travel.

The bottom of the notebook includes two access plates for the RAM and the hard drive. Despite the fact that most consumers buying this type of general purpose or light multimedia notebook don't perform upgrades, Toshiba engineers made is very easy to get inside this laptop. You only have to remove one screw to access the hard drive and one screw to get to the RAM.
Ports and Features
The new Satellite A665 features a few changes in the port layout. You now get three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 "Super Speed" port instead of two USB 2.0 ports and a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port. Unfortunately, these changes come at the expense of the ExpressCard slot, so if you're one of those people who likes using ExpressCard devices this isn't the laptop for you. The A665 also features dual video out ports: a VGA connection for old-school projectors and HDMI for new monitors and HDTVs. The A665-S5176 configuration also includes a Blu-ray drive so you can play your favorite 1080p movies on an HDTV or external monitor. All picture descriptions are left to right.

Front view: Memory card slot

Rear view: No ports

Left side: VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, USB 2.0

Right side: Audio jacks, two USB 2.0,
optical drive, power jack and lock slot

Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 Keyboard, Touchpad, Screen and Speakers

Keyboard and Touchpad

Once again, little has changed since last year in the design of the A665. You still get the same full-size keyboard with dedicated number pad and Chiclet-style keys that are responsive and provide a little extra spacing to prevent typos. The keys are large and flat and have a glossy texture that shows smudges from your skin oils over time. There is no noticeable flex unless you apply significant pressure to the keys in the middle of the board. Individual key presses are quiet with virtually no "click-clack" noise while typing; making it an excellent choice for writing your term paper in the middle of the night without bothering your roommate.
Toshiba offers other configurations of the A660/A665 with a LED-backlit keyboard so that you can see what you're typing even in complete darkness. I would have liked to see a backlit keyboard on this notebook, but I can understand the use of a standard keyboard when the street price is less than $800.

The Synaptics touchpad is fairly nice with a matte texture that provides smooth cursor movement. The touchpad driver delivers excellent accuracy and minimal lag with a range of options. This is a multi-touch touchpad with customizable gestures and overall this touchpad works exactly like you want a touchpad to work. However, the touchpad buttons have very shallow feedback with moderately loud clicks when you press the buttons.

Screen and Speakers
The A665-S5176 has a 15.6-inch diagonal display with LED backlighting and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The overall quality of the display is "very good" within the narrow vertical viewing angle sweet spot. The backlight is even and bright (216 nits according to our light meter), contrast is reasonably sharp (280:1) and colors are good though the colors are a little warm at the default settings. If there is a single obvious issue it has to be the narrow vertical viewing angles. While the horizontal viewing angles (side view) are nearly flawless, the colors become over exposed when viewed from above and significantly inverted and distorted when viewed from below. If you are using this laptop for color-accurate editing you will need to be certain you're viewing the screen from straight ahead.

The display's 1366x768 resolution is a standard resolution for mainstream notebooks. The horizontal resolution is adequate, however only 768 pixels of vertical space means a good deal of scrolling while surfing the Internet and only enough space to view about one-half of a page in a Microsoft Word. I'm sorry, Toshiba, but in 2011 the minimum resolution for a 15-inch screen should be 1600x900.

The Satellite A665 features harman/kardon branded stereo speakers located just above the keyboard. These speakers provide an excellent range of highs, midtones and lows with surprisingly rich base for a notebook without a dedicated subwoofer. Since these speakers are located above the keyboard they direct sound up and toward the user. The headphone jack also provides a great, static-free connection for external speakers or earphones.

Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 Performance and Benchmarks

Performance and Benchmarks
The Toshiba Satellite A660/A665 is available in a number of configurations that offer impressive performance thanks to the combination of Intel Core-series processors, plenty of RAM, and either Intel integrated graphics or Nvidia dedicated graphics. Our review sample comes equipped with the new Intel Core i3-2310M processor and Intel HD graphics.
The Core i3-2310M is a "Sandy Bridge" processor with a 2.1GHz clock speed and the newest integrated graphics offering significant video playback and gaming improvements compared to the previous generation of Intel integrated graphics. Although the new Intel HD Graphics performance has improved, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that last year's version of the A665 with Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics delivered essentially the same performance. Some of the benchmarks show the new A665 is superior while other benchmarks show the older A665 comes out on top.
The relatively slow Toshiba hard drive doesn't do much to help in terms of overall system performance. I wouldn't say that the hard drive is unacceptably slow, but it does limit the overall speediness of this laptop during startup and when you're launching applications. On a happier note, the hard drive access panel on the bottom of the laptop lets you replace the hard drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD) if you want extreme performance. Toshiba also offers pre-configured versions of the A665 with faster 7200rpm hard drives.
Wprime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

3DMark Vantage measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 Battery Life Heat and Noise

Heat and Noise
The Toshiba A665 again does a decent job keeping heat levels low with minimal noise. The self-adjusting fan speeds usually stay well below what you can hear in a quiet room. I did notice the fan noise from time to time during the course of the review, but it's nothing compared to the fan on my Alienware m11x or my old Dell Latitude D630. The only obvious hot spot on this notebook is on the bottom left next to the heat vent. In general, the A665 stays very "lap friendly" as long as you avoid the area around the heat vent.

Battery Life
In the "balanced" power mode with 75% screen brightness, the Satellite A665-S5176 lasted for three hours and 56 minutes of non-stop use with wireless active and refreshing a page every 60 seconds. This is pretty good for a notebook with a stock 6-cell battery. However, it's worth mentioning that the Satellite A665-S6089 from last year delivered four hours and 12 minutes of battery life.
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):

The new Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176 is a well-built update to the A660/A665 line of laptops. These desktop-replacement notebooks remain one of the most popular laptops for Toshiba and I have little doubt that this particular configuration will sell very well thanks to the reasonably good performance, improved integrated graphics, and Blu-ray drive.
My only complaints about this notebook are pretty minor. For starters, there aren't too many reasons to buy this notebook if you purchased the A665 last year. That's good for current A665 owners because it means that last year's laptop isn't obsolete, but it means that consumers will be alright if they buy an older configuration of the A665 that is on sale. I'm extremely glad that Toshiba added a USB 3.0 port to the  A665-S5176, but if you are someone who uses the ExpressCard slot then you're out of luck. Although I'd like to see Toshiba improve the durability of the screen lid the new Satellite A665 still offers a great value for people shopping for a 15-inch multimedia laptop.
  • Blu-ray drive
  • Great keyboard
  • USB 3.0
  • No ExpressCard slot
  • Weak screen protection
  • Mixed performance compared to older models
Individual Ratings: *
Software & Support 
Upgrade Capabilities 
Price/Value Rating 

* Ratings averaged to produce final score


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