Toshiba's out to prove that you don't need glitz, glowing innards, or Falcon or Alien designs to make a powerful gaming machine.
The latest addition to the gaming line Toshiba launched last year, the Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9772 ($2,899 direct) is aimed at hard-core gamers who don't fancy the flashy paint jobs or high-end labels and are more concerned about what's inside.
Despite its low-profile design, this machine lets gamers reap the benefits of an nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX, a 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 processor and Windows Vista Ultimate.
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At first glance, the P100-ST9772 doesn't strike you as a gaming laptop.
The design is no different than those of Toshiba's other consumer-grade laptops, such as the Satellite A135-S4467, which costs under a thousand dollars.
Don't expect any fancy paint jobs or custom tattoos, as on the Voodoo Envy u:909, or the unique strobe lights built into the Dell XPS M1710 (Core 2 Duo).
The P100-ST9772 is as subtle as it gets for a gaming laptop. Its onyx-blue metallic lid is featured in other nongaming Satellite systems as well.
Onyx, a quartz-like rock, bears some resemblance to the metallic finish on the lid, but rarely does it come in navy blue.
Despite the P100-ST9772's no-thrills design, its components may intrigue gamers.
The 17-inch widescreen is absolutely gorgeous. It doesn't have the 1,920-by-1,200 resolution found on the XPS M1710 (Core 2 Duo), but its 1,680-by-1,050 resolution is nothing to laugh about.
The transflective screen's surface resembles a television screen, producing brilliant colors that serve other aspects of multimedia besides gaming, including digital photography, video editing and movie watching.
The keyboard is tactile, as is the case with most Toshiba keyboards. Adjacent to it is a numeric keypad, handy for typing in those pesky gaming serial numbers.
Adding a number pad constricts the direction keys to half their size, so gamers who use these keys to move might find this a little annoying.
Aside from navigation, the touchpad has another purpose: If you tap it lightly, several icons within the touchpad light up to serve as application shortcuts.
Gaming is the P100-ST9772's first agenda, but its media features are well worth noting.
It comes with a DVI-D port, so you can take your gaming experience — digitally — onto a larger display. Of course, you also have analog video-out from your S-Video and VGA-out ports. The four USB ports aren't as impressive as the XPS M1710's six.
I think this system would have made a serious bid for Editors' Choice had Toshiba included an HD DVD drive in the $2,899 price tag. It doesn't have an HD drive as an option, either, unlike the Dell XPS M1710 with its Blu-ray drive.
Everything is neatly tied together by Windows Vista Ultimate. The media center aspect of Vista really brings the 17-inch screen to life. You won't see any lag in Vista given the nature of this system's components.
Along with a powerful dual-core processor (the 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7200), you have 2GB of RAM to offset Vista Ultimate's hefty requirements as well as deliver excellent Photoshop scores. It's safe to say that the components aren't as fast as the ones found in the Dell XPS M1710 (Blu-ray).
Both the 2.33-GHz M1710's Core 2 Duo T7600 CPU and its nVidia GeForce Go 7950 GTX graphics chipset are a step above those of the P100-ST9772.
That's not to say that the P100-ST9772 can't hold its own. It obliterates the GeForce Go 7600 found on the MSI Q677 Crystal Edition, and its gaming scores are at least four times as fast.
Today's popular games will run exceptionally well with the P105-ST9772's components. Its nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX won't give you bragging rights above the Dell, but it furnished excellent 3Dmark 2006, "Prey" and "Company of Heroes" 3D gaming scores. In fact, a big chunk of that $2,899 price tag is set aside for the graphics card.
Battery life, as expected, isn't worth writing home about, running down on a DVD in 1 hour 39 minutes.
If you configure both the Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9772 and the gaudier Dell XPS M1710 with similar components, the P100-ST9772 is actually about $200 cheaper.
At the end of the day, gaming is not about impressing your friends with fancy paint jobs or the fastest components.
It's about winning as many virtual death matches as you can, and the P100-ST9772 is up to the task.
BOTTOM LINE: The dull looks might not impress you, but the Toshiba Satellite P100-ST9772 is a hard-core gaming laptop that churns out excellent frame rates.
PROS: Excellent gaming scores. Relatively light gaming laptop. Gorgeous 17-inch widescreen. DVI-D out.
CONS: Dull design. Should offer a standard HD DVD drive with the price or at least as an option.
COMPANY: Toshiba America Inc
Price: $2,899.00 Direct
Type: Gaming, Media
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo T7200
Processor Speed: 2 GHz
RAM: 2 GB
Weight: 7.7 lb
Screen Size: 17 inches
Screen Size Type: widescreen
Graphics Card: nVidia GeForce Go 7900GTX
Storage Capacity: 160 GB
Networking Options: 802.11a/g
Primary Optical Drive: DVD+R DL
EDITOR RATING: Four out of five stars
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