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Toshiba Satellite T135 Win 7 CULV Notebook Review
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Date: Nov 05, 2009
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction and Specifications

We're seeing more and more CULV notebooks hit the market these days. The growing sector of Consumer Ultra Low Voltage machines attempts to bridge the gap between lower cost netbooks and full-size notebooks, offering a more powerful chip than the ubiquitous Atom options we see in netbooks, but one that consumes less power than the mainstream Core 2 Duo processors we see in many full-size notebooks.

The Toshiba Satellite T100 Series fits in the CULV segment and attempts to offer the comfort and convenience of a standard laptop in an ultra-thin package. As the larger model in the T100 series, the T135 features a 13.3-inch widescreen display and measures 1.35 inches at its thickest point, while the smaller model, the Satellite T115, offers a slightly smaller 11.6-inch diagonal widescreen.

Toshiba claims that the T135 can offer a battery life of 9 hours, 22 minutes with its included 6 cell battery, a figure we'll put to the test later in this review. Part of the reason the T135 is able to boast of all-day battery life is thanks to its Intel ultra-low voltage processor. Our test model, the T135-S1310RD ($709.99), came with the dual core 1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU4100; you'll find a handful of processor options in the T135 line, including some models that cost as little as $600.

The T135 made its debut on October 22 when Windows 7 launched and found its way onto retail shelves and PCs everywhere. With all of the Windows 7 hype, we know many users are anxious to hear more about the new laptops that will ship with the latest OS. Does the T135 hold its own and provide enough performance to justify spending your hard-earned cash? Join us as we find out.

T135-S1310RD Specifications

  • Intel Pentium SU4100 @ 1.3GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB
  • Mobile Intel GS40 Express Chipset
  • Configured with 4GB DDR3 (max 8GB)
  • 13.3 inch widescreen TruBrite TFT LCD (1366x768 resolution, native support for 720p content); LED backlight
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M with 128MB-1759MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory
  • 320GB (5400 RPM) Serial ATA hard disk drive
  • Realtek 802.11b/g/n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 2.1 plus Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)
  • RJ-45 LAN port (10/100 Ethernet)
  • No optical drive (Toshiba USB Portable DVD SuperMulti Drive available, sold separately)
  • Webcam and microphone
  • RGB (monitor) output and HDMI ports
  • Microphone, Headphone jacks
  • 3 USB v2.0 ports (1 with USB Sleep and Charge)
  • 6-in-1 Memory Card Reader
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • 85 key US keyboard
  • TouchPad pointing device
  • 5600 mAh (6 cell) Lithium Ion battery pack (claimed battery life of 9 hours, 22 minutes measured by MobileMark 2007)
  • Starts at 3.88 pounds
  • 12.7 x 8.78 x 0.87/1.35 inches
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 1 Year Standard Limited Warranty
  • Price: $709.99 (as configured)

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Design and Build Quality

Gone are the days when notebook manufacturers offered black (and somewhat bland) casings on their notebooks. While Toshiba didn't go completely wild with the T100 Series' design, it does offer a few finish options to suit various users. The T135, for instance, features Toshiba’s Fusion Finish in Nova Red, Nova Black, and Nova White. We had the red test model and felt it was an attractive notebook. Not only is this machine thin and light, but it also catches your eye without being gaudy. For business users who need a notebook that's even less noticeable, the black or white finish options should hit the mark.

A problem with many of today's notebooks is that their glossy cases attract fingerprints. During our time with the T135, we noticed a few fingerprints on the outer casing, but they weren't near as noticeable or prevalent as the fingerprints you'll find on the glossy cases we've seen on other machines.


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You'll find a good number of ports on the T135, including three USB 2.0 ports with one of these ports featuring USB Sleep and Charge functionality. This port lets you charge your favorite electronics using the laptop even when it's powered off. You'll also find a standard VGA monitor port, HDMI port, multi-card reader, and Ethernet ports surrounding the notebook.


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While we certainly understand Toshiba's need to leave out the optical drive to keep the T135 affordable as well as thin and light, we still miss having a built-in drive. Of course, USB drives are always an option (Toshiba even points out the Toshiba USB Portable DVD SuperMulti Drive as an option on the T135's product page), but these separate drives are never as convenient as those that are built-in and available at all times.


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Once you open the T135's lid, you'll notice the Fusion finish continues around the keyboard. The TouchPad has the same finish though the actual TouchPad itself is slightly indented from the rest of the machine. Below the TouchPad, there's a solid chrome mouse button and a bar of LED indicators.


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The T135's keyboard is solid and comfortable to type on. The keyboard actually felt roomy—something we weren't expecting in such a small machine. The TouchPad is comfortable to use as well and the multi-touch functionality seemed to work fairly well, allowing us to zoom in and out of documents and pictures. Below the TouchPad, you'll find a solid chrome left/right click bar and a row of LED indicators.

The T135 has a glossy 13.3-inch LED backlit display. We didn't have any problems seeing the display even though reflections were visible at times.Graphics were crisp and sharp.
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Software and Accessories

Toshiba doesn't include a ton of accessories with the T135, but that's just fine by us. We'd rather pick out our own accessories anyway. What you will find in the box is a Quick Start guide, warranty booklet, resource guide, a few other pieces of propaganda, and of course, the AC adapter and an AC power cable. No media is included, so you'll want to create your own recovery discs right away. Toshiba provides instructions for doing so on the Quick Start guide.

Our test unit came preinstalled with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. The CULV platform will benefit from Windows 7's improved speed and usability, so we're happy to see this machine ship with the latest OS from Microsoft.

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The T135 comes with a fair number of programs preinstalled. While some of these are helpful and useful, others we could do without. Here's a look at the list of included software:

Toshiba Software and Utilities

  • Electronic User’s Guide
  • Bluetooth Stack for Windows by Toshiba
  • TOSHIBA Recovery Media Creator
  • TOSHIBA ConfigFree®
  • TOSHIBA Disc Creator
  • TOSHIBA Hard Drive Impact Sensor (3D sensor)
  • TOSHIBA Face Recognition
  • TOSHIBA PC Health Monitor
  • Hard Disc Drive (HDD) Recovery

Third-party Software

  • Microsoft® Windows Media Player
  • Microsoft® Works 9
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Adobe® Acrobat® Reader
  • Google™ Toolbar
  • WildTangent® Orb™ Game Console

Trial Software

  • Norton Internet Security™ 2009, 30-day trial
  • Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 Edition, 60-day trial

Special Offers

  • Toshiba Online Backup
  • Skype®
  • Intuit® Quickbooks® Financial Center
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User Experience


Using the T135 is very enjoyable. The machine feels solid when you're typing, yet it's lightweight and easy to carry around when traveling. While some people may prefer a black, white, or stainless steel finish, those who like a little bit of color should dig the red Fusion finish option for the T135. The notebook is colorful, but not in a gaudy way, and it still maintains a classy look.



As the Windows Experience score points out, the T135 isn't well suited to gaming with its integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M. You might be able to play a few older titles at lower resolutions, but Toshiba did not design this machine to play 3D games. Of course, most gamers tend to choose a larger machine with a bigger display and more power anyways. Assuming you're in the market for a thin and light laptop with a CULV processor, you're more concerned with getting a machine that will make it through a workday than getting a rig that will shine at a LAN party.

As far as other applications are concerned, the T135 didn't have any problems with the basic tasks we threw at it—word processing, surfing the Web, etc. While the T135 may not be a gaming rig, it did handle high definition video clips from the Microsoft Windows Media HD Content Showcase (both 720p and 1080p) just fine and didn’t appear to drop any frames. The notebook is relatively quiet and cool during our testing. The underside of the notebook was warm to the touch, but not hot by any means.


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As we mentioned earlier, the T135's keyboard is very comfortable to type on. The TouchPad may blend in to the rest of the palm rest since it features the same Fusion finish, but because it's slightly indented, you're likely to notice if you mouse off of the surface. The TouchPad's multi-touch functionality also worked well and we liked the convenience of easily zooming in and out of documents, web pages, and other programs.

Even though the T135 has a high gloss display that occasionally causes reflections, it did not have a problem with attracting fingerprints. Overall, the 13.3-inch display was bright, crisp, and clear. The LCD hinge was solid, moving only when we pushed it and gliding smoothly the whole way.


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With regards to speed, the T135 loaded applications quickly enough given its price tag. Overall, the T135 was quick enough, affordable, and cool—three things we definitely appreciate in a notebook of this class.

Since we're not a big fan of preinstalled software, especially 30-day trials of Norton and other antivirus programs that constantly nag users, we would have preferred that Toshiba left some of these options as just that—options that the user could choose to install if he or she wanted. Rather, you'll be forced to uninstall these programs if you would rather them not be on the machine. In the case of Norton, you'll see a pop-up each time you start the T135 until you do something about it (either activate or uninstall). Other preinstalled programs weren't as much of a nuisance, but as you've seen in the preceding pages, there are a fair number of programs installed. Compared to other manufacturers, Toshiba isn't necessarily out of line. Really, we wish all manufacturers would keep preinstalled programs to a minimum.

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Test Setup and 3DMark 06

HotHardware's Test Systems
Covering the bases

Toshiba T135-S1310RD

Intel Pentium SU4100 (1.3GHz)

4GB DDR3

Intel GMA 4500M

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

1x320GB Hard Drive
5400 RPM SATA

Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

13.3" LED TruBrite TFT LCD (native 1366x768)

Asus UL30A-A1

Intel Core 2 Duo SU73000
(1.3GHz)

4GB DDR3

Intel GMA 4500MHD GPU

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

1x500GB Hard Drive          
5400 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Home
Premium SP1 (32-bit)

13.3" LED LCD Display
(native 1366x768)

Dell Studio XPS 13

Intel Core 2 Duo P8600
(2.4GHz)

4GB DDR3

256MB NVIDIA
GeForce 9500M GS

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

1x320GB Hard drive            
7200 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Home
Premium SP1 (64-bit)

13.3" WXGA Display
(native 1280x800)

Toshiba Satellite A305-S6845

Intel Core 2 Duo T8100
(2.1GHz)

3GB DDR2-667

512MB ATI
Mobility Radeon HD 3650

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio

2x200GB Hard drives (non-RAID)
5400 RPM / 4200 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Home
Premium SP1

15.4" WXGA Display
(native 1280x800)

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06

The Futuremark 3DMark06 CPU benchmark consists of tests that use the CPU to render 3D scenes, rather than the GPU. It runs several threads simultaneously and is designed to utilize multiple processor cores.



As is to be expected, the 1.3GHz CULV processor isn't going to perform as well as the full-fledged Core 2 Duo chips in the XPS 13 and Satellite A305. Still, the 1.3GHz SU4100 scored almost as well as the similarly priced Asus UL30A. Here's a look at the full 3DMark 06 score:


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Futuremark PCMark Vantage


To continue our testing, we will use Futuremark's PCMark Vantage benchmarking suite, which takes a broad look at all aspects of the machine and gives a general idea of how it performs in a variety of day-to-day situations.

 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
'Memories', HDD, Gaming and Communications

Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'Memories' Test Description:
Memories 1 - Two simultaneous tasks. CPU image manipulation and HDD – importing pictures to Windows Photo Gallery
Memories 2 - Two simultaneous tasks. GPU image manipulation and HDD – video editing using Windows Movie Maker
Memories 3 - Video transcoding – DV to WMV9 - Transcoding from DV (720x480p 35.38Mbps) to a portable player (SD WMV9 320x240p 1.0 Mbps). Uses two cores if available.
Memories 4 - Video transcoding – VC-1 to WMV9 -Transcoding from media server archive (HD VC-1 1280x720p 11 Mbps) to a portable player (SD WMV9 320x240p 1.0 Mbps)



We expect this to be pretty typical: The T135's CPU isn't going to match up to the 2.1GHz and 2.4GHz processors of two of our test machines, but it does compete well against the similarly priced and configured Asus UL30A.




Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'Hard Disk Drive' Test Description:

HDD 1 - Windows Defender
HDD 2
- Gaming
HDD 3
- Importing pictures to Windows Photo Gallery
HDD 4
- Windows start up
HDD 5
- Video editing using Windows Movie Maker
HDD 6
- Windows Media Center
HDD 7
- Adding music to Windows Media Player
HDD 8
- Application loading



Although the T135's 5400RPM drive may not be quite as zippy as the one found in the Asus UL30A, it still held its own and beat out the Toshiba Satellite in our comparison.




Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'Gaming' Test Description:

Gaming 1 - GPU gaming - Performing basic GPU (graphics processing unit) tasks utilizing PS (pixel shader) 2.0 and VS (vertex shader) 2.0 operations found in most 3D games using DX (DirectX) 9. This test utilizes SM(shader model) 3.0 (if available) performance optimizations which do affect visual quality.
Gaming 2
- HDD gaming
Gaming 3
- Two simultaneous tasks. Data decompression - Loading compressed level from hard drive and decompressing it into system memory. CPU gaming -Executing heavy AI path finding algorithms. Uses all available cores up to 16 cores.
Gaming 4 - Three simultaneous tasks. GPU gaming- Performing basic GPU (graphics processing unit) tasks utilizing PS(pixel shader) 2.0 and VS (vertex shader) 2.0 operations found in most3D games using DX (DirectX) 9. This test utilizes SM (shader model) 3.0(if available) performance optimizations which do affect visual quality. CPU gaming - Executing heavy AI path finding algorithms. Uses all available cores up to 16 cores and HDD – gaming



We said it earlier: The T135 isn't built to be a gaming machine. As expected, it falls behind the competition here, but it's also a lower priced, lower voltage, and more portable notebook than the Dell and Toshiba models.



Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'Communications' Test Description:

Communications 1 - Three simultaneous tasks. Data encryption – CNG AES CBC. Data compression. Web page rendering – pictures - Opens a web page with many large pictures.
Communications 2
- Three simultaneous tasks. Web page rendering – favorites group parallel - Opens various news pages from IE Favorites in separate tabs and closes them one by one. Data decryption – CNG AES CBC. HDD – Windows Defender
Communications 3
- Windows Mail – searching - Searches mails for words in the message body, subject and sender.
Communications 4 - Two simultaneous tasks. Data encryption – CNG AES CBC. Audio transcoding – WMA to WMA - Measures audio transcoding performance in VOIP usage.

 

In the communications test, the T135 beat the Asus UL30A and came very close to matching the 2.1GHz Toshiba A305. The still more expensive Studio XPS 13 may have scored the best compared to the others, but you'll also pay for this added performance.



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Futuremark PCMark Vantage (cont'd)

 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Productivity, Music, TV and Movies, and Overall

Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'Productivity' Test Description:
Productivity Test 1 - Two simultaneous tasks. 1. Text editing 2. HDD – application loading
Productivity Test 2 - Two simultaneous tasks. 1. Windows Contacts – searching - search 2. HDD – Windows Defender
Productivity Test 3 - HDD – Windows Vista start up
Productivity Test 4 - 1. Windows Contacts – searching - Searches contacts. 2. Windows Mail – copying - Runs Message Rules. 3. Web page rendering – favorites group parallel - Opens various news pages from IE 7 Favorites in separate tabs and closes them one by one.


 

The T135 tops the Asus UL30A as well as the Toshiba Satellite A305 in the Productivity test.



Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'Music' Test Description:
Music 1 - Three simultaneous tasks: Web page rendering – music shop - Opens music shop kind of content; Audio transcoding – WAV to WMA lossless; HDD – adding music to Windows Media Player
Music 2 - Audio transcoding – WAV to WMA lossless
Music 3
- Audio transcoding – MP3 to WMA

Music 4 - Two simultaneous tasks. Audio transcoding – WMA to WMA. HDD – adding music to Windows Media Player


The T135's Music score shows that the machine should be able to handle multimedia just fine for an $800 machine. Although the 5400RPM drive likely hurt the T135 here, its CPU and Memory helped it outperform the Asus UL30A which also has a 5400RPM drive.
 


Futuremark PCMark Vantage 'TV and Movies' Test Description:
TV and Movies Test 1 - Two simultaneous tasks. 1. Video transcoding – VC-1 to VC-1 - Transcoding from HD DVD (HD VC-1 1920x1080p 28 Mbps) to the media server archive (HD VC-1 1280x720p 11 Mbps). Uses two cores if available. 2. Video playback – VC-1 HD DVD with HD content - Playing HD DVD (VC-1 1920x1080p 28 Mbps) with HD (VC-1 1280x720p 7 Mbps) content.
TV and Movies Test 2 - Two simultaneous tasks. 1. Video transcoding – VC-1 to VC-1 - Transcoding from HD DVD (HD VC-1 1920x1080p 28 Mbps) to the media server archive (HD VC-1 1280x720p 11 Mbps). Uses two cores if available. 2. Video playback – MPEG-2 HDTV - Playing terrestrial HDTV (HD MPEG-2 1920x1080i 19.39 Mbps).
TV and Movies Test 3 - HDD – Windows Media Center
TV and Movies Test 4 - Two simultaneous tasks. 1. Video transcoding – VC-1 to WMV9 - Transcoding from the media server archive (HD VC-1 1280x720p 11 Mbps) to a portable player (SD WMV9 320x240p 1.0 Mbps). Uses two cores if available. 2. Video playback – MPEG-2 Blu-ray - Playing Blu-ray (HD MPEG-2 1920x1080p 48 Mbps).


 

In the TV and Movies test, the Toshiba T135 lagged a bit behind the Asus UL30A, but it still performed reasonably considering its price and specs.



Futuremark PCMark Vantage Overall Score Test Description:
The PCMark Suite is a collection of various single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics and HDD tests with the focus on Windows Vista application tests. Tests have been selected to represent a subset of the individual Windows Consumer Scenarios. The PCMark Suite includes a subset of Consumer Suite tests.


 

Considering we said the Asus UL30A fared pretty well all things considered in the PCMark Overall test and that the Toshiba T135 beat the UL30A in this same test, we really have to give the T135 some credit here. In addition, the T135 really isn't all that far behind the Satellite A305.

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SiSoft Sandra Benchmarks and Multimedia Testing

Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2009
Synthetic Benchmarks

We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2009, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran three of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, and Memory Bandwidth). All of the scores reported below were taken with the processor running at its default clock speed of 1.3GHz with 4GB of DDR3 RAM.


CPU Arithmetic Test; Click To Enlarge


CPU Multimedia Test; Click To Enlarge


Memory Bandwidth Test; Click To Enlarge

The T135 may have fallen a bit behind some of the reference systems in one or two tests, but overall, it performed reasonably well for a system that's designed to be cool, quiet, and sip power.


To test multimedia capabilities, we attempt to play back a 720p WMVHD clip and a 1080p clip.


Click To Enlarge; 720p WMVHD


Click To Enlarge; 1080p WMVHD


The T135's integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M GPU may not be much to brag about, but it did handle most of our multimedia tasks with relative ease. Playback during YouTube, Flash, 720p, and even 1080p videos weren't a problem—there were no skips or stutters.

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Battery Performance

Toshiba claims that the T135's included 6 cell battery lasts for 9 hours and 22 minutes using the MobileMark 2007 benchmark. Here at HotHardware, we've been using BatteryEater Pro's Real World Scenario to test battery life in various machines, which is much more strenuous than MM07. Under this benchmark, the T135's included 6 cell battery lasted for 4 hours and 48 minutes. Obviously, there's a discrepancy here, but even a nearly 5-hour battery life is very respectable.

In looking at the graph above, you can see that the Toshiba T135 held up well compared to many other notebooks and was only beat by a few netbooks. In addition, one must consider that the display brightness was nearly maxed and Wi-Fi was on during the test, and both of these will drain the battery more quickly than if the screen was dimmed and Wi-Fi was disabled. Bottom line: even 288 minutes of runtime is a very good score.


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Conclusion



Toshiba T135; Click To Enlarge

Although a quick glance at the benchmarks in this review might lead you to believe the Toshiba T135 didn't fare so well, keep in mind that many of the reference machines in our charts are priced higher and aimed slightly upmarket from the T135. Given this, the T135 really scored pretty well and held its own in most respects. During our tests, the T135 remained cool and quiet and performance was very acceptable for the price of the machine. We especially liked that this notebook felt solid when typing on in and that the keyboard was very comfortable to use. In addition, the T135 handled both our 720p and 1080p test video clips wihtout issue.


 

The overall design of the T135 is great, the notebook is lightweight, and the battery life is very good, especially from a 6-cell battery. The battery is removable, so you always have the option of extending the notebook's runtime with a second battery. Toshiba did a good job at paying attention to the details on the T135, and it shows, right down to the slightly indented TouchPad that is lowered just enough so you notice it when you mouse off of the surface.


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Many users often look for the best bang for their buck, so to say. Given the T135's performance and its MSRP of $709.99, this notebook strikes an excellent balance. Plus, there are a handful of T135 configurations that are available for even less (as low as $600). Also, now that Windows 7 is available and shipping on this notebook, you can take advantage of the cool new features of the OS as well as the performance enhancements.

     
  • Great value
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Multi-Touch TouchPad
  • Glossy screen sometimes has glare
  • Integrated Intel GMA 4500M GPU
  • Outer casing attracts a few fingerprints



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