Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9742 Gaming Notebook Hands-On

The last time I paid a Toshiba notebook a visit, I checked out the P105-S9722. It had some great features, but also some really annoying flaws that got in the way of daily use. This time around, I was hoping that things would be fixed with the Satellite P100-ST9242 (P100). Are they? Is performance improved? How’s that Core 2 Duo CPU? Hold your horses there champ. You’ll have to keep reading to find out for yourself.

Unboxing the laptop, I was immediately greeted by the one standout feature of this machine: Its paint job. The display’s backing features a stunning metallic bronze coloring. It stands out and really gives some “oomph” to the setting it’s in. However, the P100 has a lot more than just good looks. It’s also packed with high-end features to justify its $2900 price tag.

Inside this 7.1-pound beast, you’ll find a a T7200 Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, a 17-inch widescreen display with TruBrite, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB GDDR3 SDRAM graphics, 2GB of PC5300 DDR2 memory, a 100GB, 7200 RPM SATA hard drive, integrated wireless, 5-in-1 card reader, Harman/Kardon speakers, tons of USB ports, a DVD burner supporting 11 formats, Windows XP Professional (sorry, no Vista pre-installed, at least for me), and a Porsche 911 Carrera. Wait, scratch the last feature. Needless to say, this thing was built for high-performance computing.

On Toshiba’s P105, we saw problems with certain areas. The keyboard has a poorly designed shift-key, lackluster speakers, plenty of junkware pre-installed, and glitchy wireless. Unfortunately, I must report that many of these problems remain with the P100. The speakers actually sound much better, but the junkware is still there and is still incredibly annoying.

What irritates me the most though, is that Toshiba must use the same wireless card/driver/whatever in most of its laptops. With the P105, every time I connected to my NETGEAR RangeMax 240 router, my Internet connection would drop entirely. The same thing happens with the P100. No other laptop does it, my iMac G5 works fine, my friend’s Dell and Sony Vaio work fine, why doesn’t yours Toshiba? I suggest taking a further look into this, as I have a feeling I’m not the only one having this problem.

But all the annoyances aside, the P100 is still a decent machine. You can multitask with multiple applications like it’s nobody’s business. Keep World of Warcraft, a browser with a YouTube video playing, iTunes, and MS Word open all at once. It won’t slow down, nothing is going to crash. This laptop is incredibly stable for a Windows-based machine and I feel as if Toshiba’s commitment to using quality parts (wireless aside) is what makes this happen. This doesn’t feel like a crappy laptop you scooped up at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, this feels like a bulldozer that can handle anything thrown at it.

Those of you who welcome pre-installed software are probably going to be quite happy with the selection available. Plenty of anti-virus stuff, some games, decent trials of popular software, and other doo-dads are good for those who want this stuff. The average consumer who gets this laptop won’t mind these apps coming with the P100, but power users like myself see this software as a bunch of crap we don’t want. Perhaps Toshiba could start offering the option of getting a clean laptop without an OS installed? Surely this would help the problem considerably.

If you like movies or watch a lot of video, the P100 will surely please you to the point of pure ecstasy. This 17-inch widescreen display is absolutely stunning – one of the best I’ve seen on a laptop. That being said, the TruBrite technology really gives it a kick that looks fantastic on action or horror movies. Plus there’s plenty of real-estate to go around. I wouldn’t mind watching a 3-hour film on the couch with this thing, though it is a bit heavy at 7.1-pounds.

Overall, I’d say this laptop is worth the buy if you don’t use NETGEAR products at home and want to install a new copy of Windows Vista on it. The power the P100 possesses makes up for its flaws, providing a seamless work-flow with your applications and games. It should also be mentioned that this is an online only deal. You won’t find this bad boy in stores, making it more personal than other laptops. Those of you with some extra cash around for a pricey laptop will love the paint job and 17-inch display, as well as the great media functions. An improvement over the P105? Totally, but Toshiba really needs to get their wireless problems addressed and soon.