You certainly won't find perfection in a US$649 laptop, but the Toshiba Satellite Pro L300D-EZ1001V does have a nice screen and sufficient processing power to get you through a day of e-mailing, wordsmithing, and listening to a little music. As a second laptop for your home office or a very basic business portable, the L300D-EZ1001V is ideal.
Let's face it, though: At this price, you can't expect blistering speed. Equipped with a 1.9-GHz Athlon 64 X2 TK-57 processor and only 1GB of RAM, the L300D-EZ1001V turned in a distinctly undistinguished WorldBench 6 score of 57, a mark that instantly sinks its standing. Some new laptops may be twice as much, but they're almost twice as fast too. (Take Sony's budget-minded VGN-NR485, which sells for $200 more--it reached a WorldBench 6 score of 75.) Clearly, heavy-duty multitasking and number-crunching are pretty much out of the question with the L300D-EZ1001V. And considering that it pulls video memory from main RAM, it will never be appropriate for playing 3D online games; in some of our gaming tests it registered appalling frame-rate scores, in the single digits (basically slide shows).
The battery life was not as disappointing as the speed, but it wasn't exceptionally good news either at a brief 2 hours, 18 minutes on a single charge of the 4000-mAh power pack. (The average battery usually reaches around 3 hours before running out.) The only recent battery-life standout in the all-purpose laptop category is Lenovo's ThinkPad SL400, which lasted 5 hours, 8 minutes in tests, but the SL400 unit we evaluated cost $1223 and packed an optional high-powered battery. Obviously, an outstanding performer the L300D-EZ1001V is not--but stick with mainstream applications and take the power cord along, and you should be fine.
This Windows Vista Home Basic machine offers a decent set of features highlighted by a reasonably bright 15.4-inch screen. You get a standard (not high-definition) DVD burner, three USB ports, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and a combination SD/Memory Stick card slot. The 6.7-pound weight of the unit (including the battery) is good enough. The rear has a quasi-dropped-hinge look; the only connection on the back is a modem jack.
The design rises above the price tag in other respects. The 120GB hard drive has a pull loop for easy removal, and its protective cover has captive screws. The smooth-working volume wheel is within easy reach on the front of the laptop. The machine offers sweet stereo sound, too: Though the L300D-EZ1001V might be from the bargain bin, it's still a Toshiba, which means its speakers are better than those of the average laptop, even portables that might cost twice as much.
Where the L300D-EZ1001V reflects its price is in the occasional cheap-feeling part. There's only so much Toshiba can do with this 14.3-by-10.5-by-1.5-inch bargain box. For example, the Wi-Fi switch feels chintzy. The keyboard offers a good layout but has a very hard, loud stroke that some typists might not like; the mouse buttons are remarkably stiff too. Strictly as a matter of personal taste, the lid release seems big and clumsy, not to mention unnecessary for the screen size.
But those are cheap shots at what is overall a decent deal. It's definitely no speed demon, and you can find better battery life in the upper price tiers, but the L300D-EZ1001V is about as good as it gets for the money. One last thing to keep in mind is that just before posting this review, we learned that Toshiba is replacing the EZ1001V with the 1002V model. The updated laptop offers a discrete GPU, ATI's Radeon X1250, and adds $50 to the price (for a total of $699). That'll obviously boost its marks in graphics tests--of course, we don't have any numbers to give you just yet. Our advice, regardless: If you're watching your bottom line like a hawk (who isn't these days?), consider the L300D.