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Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11C review

A powerful mid-range laptop - but it needs a little more polish

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The M50 is a mid-range machine, but it's clear that Toshiba's budget has swung towards the components: the Core i5 processor is one of the fastest we've seen in a mid-range notebook, and the discrete Nvidia core is better than integrated Intel chipsets and the Radeon silicon inside AMD's APUs. The lack of cash for the panel, storage and design shows, though, with poor screen quality and mixed chassis strength.

We liked

That Core i5 processor is impressive, with more than enough power to handle general computing tasks as well as work software – only the most intensive work tools will require the added power a Core i7 part can deliver.

The graphics core, too, is better than most other laptops at this price range, and it can run modern games at reasonably high quality levels at the screen's native resolution.

The keyboard is good, with a numberpad a comfortable action, and it's paired with a responsive trackpad. Battery life is decent for a 15.6in machine, and the aluminium-clad exterior looks slick, even if there's little innovation when it comes to design.

We disliked

The concentration on components means that other aspects of the M50 have suffered. The screen's 1,366 x 768 resolution looks stretched across a 15.6in diagonal, and quality is poor: the middling brightness level, low contrast and poor gamut coverage mean the screen feels vapid and lifeless. It's not touch-sensitive, either.

The tinny, weak speakers for more damage to this machine's media credentials. Build quality is mixed, and the 750GB hard disk has plenty of space but poor read and write speeds.

Final verdict

The M50 falls down when it comes to its screen quality and physical design, but it's not as if its rivals are any better in this regard – every other machine here makes do with a 1,366 x 768 panel of middling quality, and none offer much more than typically plasticky construction.

The Toshiba, instead, makes up ground in benchmarks: thanks to a Haswell processor and discrete core it's faster than any other system here. It's a little more expensive than the competition, but if you prize power over build quality then it's better value than the competition – and the added speed will see this machine last longer, too.