Toshiba Satellite S50D-A-10G review

Can quality components make up for this laptop's shortcomings?

Toshiba S50D
Beaming in from above

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Building a budget laptop always involves compromise, so you'll have to figure out exactly what you want before taking the plunge with a system like the S50D.

The AMD APU, when combined with the discrete graphics card, makes this the most powerful AMD-powered budget laptop we've seen recently, and it's also got more grunt than machines equipped with Intel's low-end chips. The rest of the specification doesn't break any speed records, but the 1TB hard disk and DVD writer provide versatility.

The concentration on components does mean the screen is poor, and the exterior is uninspiring, with this laptop having a rather mixed build quality overall.

We liked

The core components in this system performed well: the S50D has enough processing power to outpace any machine unless it's got a Core i5 processor inside, and there's enough gaming grunt here to run modern titles – albeit with the quality settings toned down.

The rest of the specification is versatile, and it's wrapped inside a reasonably sturdy exterior.

The keyboard has a comfortable typing action and a solid base, and all this costs less than £500 (US$855, AUD$900) – which means it's around the same price as the slow, Pentium-powered Lenovo hybrid and much cheaper than the £630 (US$1,080, AUD$1,140) Toshiba Satellite M50.

We disliked

The use of good components has meant cost-cutting elsewhere, and the most obvious area where the budget bites is the 15.6-inch screen.

It's not a touchscreen, and the 1,366 x 768 resoulution rules out serious work on this system – and it's not good enough for 1080p films, either. The screen's quality is sorely lacking. It's just about bright enough, but it falls down in every other benchmark, from black level and contrast to colour accuracy and gamut coverage.

The speakers are mediocre, the connectivity options aren't any better, and the battery life is similarly middling – if that's a chief concern, more longevity is available elsewhere.

And, while build quality isn't bad, this machine certainly has the occasional structural weaknesses, and the plastic and aluminium exterior won't turn any heads.

Final verdict

The Toshiba has its issues, then, but none of them are deal breakers if you're searching for a budget laptop – rather, they're things that just have to be accepted.

If you want a system for general computing and light gaming and you'd rather concentrate on processing power, it's an ideal buy thanks to the combination of an AMD APU and discrete graphics core. If screen quality or battery life are more important, though, look elsewhere.

Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.