When Toshiba announced the Satellite T135 series, its line of thin-and-light ultraportable laptops last year, we were immediately interested for two reasons: performance and price. In a world of Netbooks toting endlessly similar Atom processors, having a higher-powered dual-core processor such as the U4100 in the T135-S1310 made a big difference in the amount of productivity we could expect in a slim laptop with strong battery life. Though the Satellite T135 line is not supercompact with its 13-inch screen, it is light, easy to carry, and offers a good value for those looking for a more fully featured ready-to-go machine than what many Netbooks offer.
Toshiba has since added AMD Turion Neo X2 processors to its T135 lineup, and the net effect is a price reduction of about $100 off the already reasonable cost of the T135-S1310 configured with an Intel U4100 processor. Paired with additional ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 graphics, the T135D-S1324 even adds some moderate gaming possibilities. The overall performance of the T135D-S1324 is slightly reduced from the T135-S1310, but this model is worth looking into for those who wouldn’t mind saving a little more money on a thin-and-light Netbook without sacrificing very much.
At a glance, the T135D and the rest of the T135 series share several design similarities to the rest of the Toshiba Satellite lineup, although they are markedly different from the Satellite NB line of Netbooks. Covered inside and out in a glossy checkerboard-esque Fusion Finish in black, red, or white, the T135D is accented with slick chrome highlights along the edge of its palm rest and on its touch pad buttons. Aside from a large “Toshiba” logo across the back, the design is understated from a distance and presents a trim profile with a battery that’s well integrated into the bottom, with minimal bulge.
Inside, the glossy treatment continues around the keyboard and screen, just like every other T135 model we’ve reviewed. In fact, the build is identical: light, with a lot of plastic and a lid that flexes a little at the base. Having seen so many T135s (and the 11-inch T115-S1105) at this point, our opinions have crystallized to the following: strong profile, slightly mushy keyboard, touch pad a bit too small, button beneath hard to press and awkwardly shaped. Any further keyboard media controls are done via function-button combinations, as there are no additional buttons except for the power. Volume control is oddly relegated to a function combination with the 3 and 4 number keys, which we still find weird.
The 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit screen on the Satellite T135D-S1324 has a 1,366×768-pixel native resolution, with sharp colors and a good brightness level. It looked perfectly crisp in our use. We wish the speakers were as good as the screen: the quality was fair, but the volume was muted in noisier rooms.
The Toshiba Satellite T135D-S1324’s selection of ports and features is identical to those on the $699 T135-S1310 we reviewed previously. A sleep-and-charge USB port that can act as a portable charger for devices when the T135D is powered down, plus an HDMI-out port and Bluetooth round out the most notable and useful offerings.
The T135D-S1324 comes with a 320GB hard drive and 4GB of DDR2 RAM, similar to the T135-S1310 but using slightly slower DDR2 memory instead of DDR3. It’s an ample amount of RAM and hard-drive space, matching what we would expect on any mainstream laptop and then some.
By switching to an AMD Neo processor with ATI graphics, Toshiba has not so much amplified the performance of the T135 series as made a lateral move. In our benchmark tests, the AMD Turion Neo X2 Dual-Core L625 processor had slightly slower multitasking, iTunes, and Photoshop performance than the dual-core Pentium U4100 T135-S1310, but not by much. The single-core Intel SU2700 processor on the Satellite T135-S1300 still fared far worse, and higher-end Core 2 Duo ULV laptops such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge performed better, but only slightly. For a savings of $100, the AMD Neo processor version of the T135 thus provides some nice savings without much loss. However, we will note that in playing back streaming video files, the T135D got much hotter around the touch pad than previous T135 models ever did. It’s not surprising, then, to discover that the battery performance on the T135D-S1324 also took a hit.
The T135D-S1324 also includes graphics courtesy of the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 GPU, a new addition to the T135. We played Unreal Tournament III and achieved frame rates of about 10.3 frames per second in full resolution, and 18.5 frames per second at 800×600-pixel resolution. These numbers are worse than Atom Netbooks with Nvidia Ion graphics can perform, and aren’t really results that we’d call “gaming quality,” but it’s better than the typical integrated Intel graphics found on most Netbooks.