I’ve been working on a Toshiba Satellite P100 SD3 (action picture) for a while now and I generally like it OK. It’s priced fairly well (it’s currently available at Staples and FutureShop) for what you get: it’s Duo (T2400), it’s got 1 Gig and most importantly, it has a GeForce GO 7300 (128 MB) which means that it will play your recent PC games. Look for X3 here for what you can expect.
That said, I find the harddrive the slowing factor: the built-in HD (a Toshiba MK1032GSX) is not a fast drive, which you may notice when you switch from fullscreen apps (games) to windowed apps [CTRL+TAB]. I also find 100 Gig not enough, particularly if you think about the space Windows XP already takes up.
The other part I don’t like is the keyboard: For some kind of illogical reason, the most important keys (arrow keys, semicolon, period, pipe, single quote) have been made smaller than the rest of the keys just so that the board would fit a freaking numeric keypad. So, the right side part of the keyboard doesn’t feel ‘well-balanced’, particularly if you’re a programmer: all the important programming keys are twice as small as the normal keys on the left hand side (see the image above: you can literally draw a diagonal line that separates the small keys from the big ones, starting from the > key up to the upper Pause/Break key). I also have my doubts about the quality of the keyboard: I have had no problems with previous Toshiba laptop keyboards, so maybe I’m wrong. If you look into buying this computer, I’d recommend you try out the keyboard first: if you’re not a programmer, you may not even notice the keyboard issues. You may even love that extra numeric keypad. Oh: don’t worry about that sales representative. It’s your right to fully test a laptop’s keyboard.
I do like the screen and since it allows you, you may just as well set the screen to the highest possible resolution. The NVidia driver comes with plenty of gimmicks: most of the features you probably end up turning off. The big screen (17″!) seems to be the main cause of the lower than average battery lifetime: if you make it two hours on the standard battery, consider yourself lucky. I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the Duo core: actually, I find the T2400 perform excellent: for the power push test, try executing multiple applications that run multiple threads. It’s a damn well, efficient processor. Which makes me wonder how those other processor do (I’m particularly curious about those AMD Dual Athlon processors).
The low-down: it’s a remarkably well-priced computer. It runs Debian and Ubuntu with no problems, which makes this laptop ready for the latest and greatest stuff on Linux. Its Duo Core performs extremely efficient under stress (without generating too much heat, as far as I can tell). The Harman Kardon speakers are extra and produce excellent sound, and the screen, it’s huge, brilliant and perfect. However, I’ll be honest: if you can and are willing to spend an extra 100 dollars on a computer with a bigger (and faster) harddrive1, with the same configuration (i.e, 1 Gig, NVidia/ATI, Duo Core), you may want to look for something else. If you think you’re going mobile a lot, consider going for a laptop with a smaller screen: the 17 inch screens look l33t, but frankly, they just kill battery life. And, if you’re a programmer who types a lot, you may want to try the keyboard out before buying this: ironically all important programming keys that happen to be on the right-hand side of the keyboard have been made significantly smaller.
1 : Most laptops probably carry Toshiba HDs.
Extra Linux stuff (how to get the sound working back again)