Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 review

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The Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 is a budget Windows laptop with 11.6-inch touchscreen. Just like the Lenovo Yoga 3, its display can spin right around to make a clunky tablet. Costs have been cut to bring the price down to £329 by direct sale from Toshiba's website, although various compromises will undermine the user experience. See also: Best laptops of 2015: The 29 best laptops you can buy in the UK.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 review: Build and design

In its gold-effect lacquered finish, the L10W looks quite smart, featuring a painted coarse-textile effect on its smooth lid back and genuine textured plastic underside. Powering the compact laptop is an Intel Celeron N2840 processor, a budget dual-core design designed for low-end consumer laptops. This is clocked at 2.19 GHz and has a little scope to run faster, to 2.58 GHz, using a what Intel calls Burst Technology, believed to be a more basic version of its Turbo Boost Technology. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.

Supporting the processor is 4 GB of 1600 MHz memory – not upgradeable – and a 500 GB hard-disk drive.

Toshiba has pre-installed regular Windows 8.1, a step away from the free version that Microsoft now offers to hardware partners on the condition that they don't try to earn kickback revenue from Google or other search engines by turning off Bing. But without those conditions attached to the regular Windows OEM edition, Toshiba has instead taken the opportunity to claw back its investment and turn some profit by including plenty of third-party sponsorship.

Skyscanner, Spotify, eBay, Google and Amazon are five companies that appear unbidden in Internet Explorer's favourites bar, on the Windows desktop or the main taskbar, while Intel's McAfee division wants to prise money from the hapless laptop buyer to keep using its pre-installed virus software. New IE webpages open with both MSN and link aggregator Symbaloo pages. But award for the cheekiest piece of affiliate marketing must go to Toshiba's removal of Windows' built-in free archive extraction tool, for opening .zip files. Instead, any .zip file must be opened by the commercial WinZip program that's been installed, prices starting at £22.36. See also: Best budget laptops of 2015 UK: Best cheap laptops.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 review: Ports and all

Ports and connectors are limited, but no more so than many ultraportable-class laptops today. Two USB ports are included, USB 3.0 to the left and USB2.0 to the right. There's an HDMI output for connection to a monitor, TV or projector, and an SDXC slot for memory cards. A single 3.5 mm headset jack lets you connect earphones with mic for video chats, for example. But missing from the laptop is any ethernet network port.

To get online, the L10W instead relies on its basic Wi-Fi facility, which connects to wireless networks up to 11n spec, albeit with the slowest single-channel configuration.

The display is a budget TN touchscreen with a poor contrast ratio and limited colour capability – to wit, just 80:1 and only 56 percent of the sRGB colour space. Its pixels span 1366 x 768, a low resolution for laptop screens but helped here by filling an 11.6-inch rather than 15.6-inch panel. Consequently its pixel density of 135 ppi is better than the latter 100 ppi, meaning not such grainy screen typography.

It suffers limited viewability, not just because of constricted viewing angles (which here were not the worst of the breed, with image still partly viewable from the sides) but through being highly reflective – and moreover, twice over. There appears to be a gap between the mirror-like touch surface and another reflective surface beneath, which adds a second reflection for you to fight through. Maximum brightness of the display was a comparatively low 191 cd/m^2.

Rectangular, not square, tiles make up an otherwise standard-issue Scrabble-tile keyboard, slightly reduced in height to fit the smaller frame of an 11.6-inch screen laptop. It's thus a little more cramped to type upon than the full-size keyboards you'd expect to find on a 13-inch or larger model. (See also: Best ultraportable laptops of 2015 UK: Best Ultrabooks you can buy.)

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The trackpad is a traditional buttoned design, rather than buttonless, which is more welcome on low-cost laptops since the cheapest buttonless pads rarely work well. Here though the buttons themselves are something of a struggle to operate, require concerted finger/thumb downforce to click.

In use we noticed some random pauses and slowdowns from the Toshiba, with the trackpad seemingly broken at times. Whether that was an issue with the trackpad in particular or general system lethargy is not known. But just navigating Windows 8.1 the Satellite Radius did feel sluggish in general use. (See also: 11 best Chromebooks 2015 UK - best Chromebook reviews.)

Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 review: Lab report

Below Intel's Core series processors lies the range now named Pentium. Below that Pentium range are the Celeron series as used in this Toshiba. Consequently expectations for good performance should not be high.

In the Geekbench 3 test of CPU and memory speed, the Toshiba scored 1069 points single-core, and 1863 points multi-core. For context, an Apple iPhone 5s from 2013 scores 1412 and 2537 points respectively in the same test. In other words, the 2.16 GHz Intel Celeron markedly trails a two-year old telephone with 1 GHz processor.

Cinebench 15 returned the lowest scores we've seen since we expanded this professional workstation test across all laptops under test. The Radius scored 33 points single-core and 75 points multi-core. Compare these results to the new Intel Core M chip that Lenovo uses in its swivelling Yoga laptop, which hit 60 and 172 points; low figures still but about double the scores.

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The PCMark benchmark suites incorporate storage tests, which combine with processor and memory tests to provide more real-world results. Here the Toshiba scored a disappointing 1721 points in PCMark 7; and in PCMark 8 it reached 1274 points (Home conventional) and 1645 points (Work conventional). In accelerated modes, Home increased fractionally to 1277 points, but the Work result plummeted further to 1281 points.

Gaming with modern Windows action games is not really an option with the ‘Intel HD Graphics' integrated into this Celeron chip. We tried Batman: Arkham City at screen native resolution and High detail, and the game averaged just 11 frames per second. Falling back to 1280 x 720 and Medium detail, it rose to a still effectively useless 14 fps; dropping to Low detail added one more frame per second.

Unsuprisingly the Tomb Raider 2013 benchmark also proved too much, reaching 14 fps only after reducing detail to Low and resolution to 1280 x 720 pixels.

Older or cheaper processors often mean poorer batter performance. But the Intel Celeron here is not exactly a vintage chip – using a 22 nm die process, it was launched only last year. And in battery life tests the Toshiba was not too terrible, lasting a minute shy of five hours (4 hour 59 min) in our standard looped-video rundown test over Wi-Fi. See also: best tablets of 2015 UK.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 11: Specs

  • 11.6-inch (1366 x 768) 135 ppi TN gloss touchscreen
  • 2.16 GHz Intel Celeron N2840 (2.58 GHz Burst) 2C, 2T
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3L RAM
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD
  • 802.11b/g/n 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • single mic
  • webcam
  • 3.5 mm headset port
  • UK layout, tiled keyboard
  • 85 x 43 mm, two button trackpad
  • 26 Wh non-removable lithium-ion battery
  • 45 W mains adaptor
  • 287 x 198 x 22.5 mm
  • 1309 g
  • 11.6-inch (1366 x 768) 135 ppi TN gloss touchscreen
  • 2.16 GHz Intel Celeron N2840 (2.58 GHz Burst) 2C, 2T
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3L RAM
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD
  • 802.11b/g/n 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • single mic
  • webcam
  • 3.5 mm headset port
  • UK layout, tiled keyboard
  • 85 x 43 mm, two button trackpad
  • 26 Wh non-removable lithium-ion battery
  • 45 W mains adaptor
  • 287 x 198 x 22.5 mm
  • 1309 g

OUR VERDICT

The Satellite Radius looks relatively cheap at £329, assisted by Toshiba pocketing additional revenue from the third-party services that are configured into the machine. As a laptop the L10W is rather slow, while an arguably superflous touchscreen means costs have been cut elsewhere to accommodate this divisive feature. But if your checklist is confined to the hybrid combo of overweight tablet and underperforming laptop, the Toshiba ticks all boxes.