Thursday, April 7, 2011

Toshiba Satellite L645D: Mobile AMD at 3GHz


While the drought of Sandy Bridge notebook hardware is thankfully approaching its sweet, merciful end, there are still a healthy amount of AMD-based notebooks on the market at good prices awaiting happy homes. Toshiba was kind enough to send us their L645D, a 14" notebook sporting a mobile Phenom II dual-core processor running at a speedy 3GHz, Radeon HD 4250 integrated graphics, and a Blu-ray drive: all yours for a potentially exciting value proposition of just $619. Is it worth it?

The Toshiba L645D would seem bog standard for a budget AMD notebook if not for two things: the Phenom II N660 powering it is the fastest "non-extreme" dual-core mobile processor AMD offers, and Toshiba packs it into a 14" chassis instead of the 15.6" ones we've become accustomed to. Top that off with a Blu-ray drive and you have the makings of a strong multimedia contender at a reasonable price. So let's see how Toshiba specs it.
Toshiba L645D-S4106 Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II N660
(2x3GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880M Northbridge + AMD SB800 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 4250 IGP
(40 stream processors, 500MHZ core clock)
Display 14" LED Glossy 16:9 1366x768
(AU Optronics B140XW01 V6 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba 640GB 5400RPM SATA 3Gbps Hard Disk
Optical Drive BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive w/ Labelflash
Networking Atheros AR8152 10/100 Ethernet
Realtek RTL8188CE 802.11b/g/n
Audio Conexant Cx20585 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 48Wh battery
Front Side Indicator lights
SD/MS/MMC reader
Left Side Kensington lock
Exhaust vent
Ethernet jack
HDMI
Combo eSATA/USB 2.0
USB 2.0
Microphone jack
Headphone jack
Right Side Optical drive
USB 2.0
VGA
AC adaptor jack
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.3" x 9.13" x 1.34"-1.50" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.98 lbs
Extras Webcam
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
Blu-ray drive
Warranty 1-year limited warranty
Pricing MSRP at $699
Available online at $619

Right off the bat, there's the dual-core AMD Phenom II N660 processor running at 3GHz. AMD now has an ungainly three different mainstream mobile processor lines with the Athlon, Turion, and Phenoms basically in order of "good, better, best" and sporting borderline indecipherable model numbers, so hats off to them for following Intel's footsteps into the realm of being utterly mystifying to the end consumer. The mobile Phenom IIs are largely equivalent to the desktop Athlon II chips, which means the N660 doesn't have any L3 cache. That leaves it specced with 1MB of L2 cache per core and enjoying a 1.8GHz HyperTransport clock. In fact the only differentiator between Phenom II and Turion II mobile processors is clock speed; the Turion IIs stop at 2.6GHz, while 2.6GHz is the lowest-clocked Phenom II (but at a 25-watt TDP). The N660's 3GHz results in a 35-watt TDP.

Supporting the N660 is 4GB of DDR3-1066 and the aging Mobility Radeon HD 4250. As I've harped before, the 40-shader 780G was a fine IGP when it landed, but time has been unkind to this particular core design, and the minimal update to DirectX 10.1 just hasn't been enough. The 4250's 40 shaders run at 500MHz, down from the 700MHz the 4250 runs at on the desktop. It's still more desirable than Arrandale's Intel HD graphics due to generally superior driver quality and compatibility along with similar overall performance, but as you'll see, Sandy Bridge's Intel HD 3000 graphics mop the floor with it. Thankfully the 4250 is not long for this world; AMD's ultraportable platform now favors the E-350 with its far more capable Radeon HD 6310 IGP, and Llano is drawing ever closer.

Rounding out the L645D is the bare minimum of connectivity and an anemic 640GB 5400RPM hard disk. Toshiba's mobile hard disks have typically been poor performers, but I imagine it keeps costs down and at least the capacity is generous. The highlight, however, is the inclusion of a combination Blu-ray reader/DVD writer. With an asking price of $699 MSRP and online price of $619, this notebook comes within striking distance of the recently reviewed Sony EE34.

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