Top positive review
60 people found this helpful
4.5 Stars A Very Nice Laptop with One Caveat
on April 9, 2014
I recommended this laptop to a friend who was looking for a machine with W7 before they were all gone. She had Amazon ship it to me to setup for her, so I became very familiar with it.
Really nice look ... gun metal silver with a kind of carbon fiber pattern on the lid, silver bezel as well
W7 Home Premium 64-bit (wanted to avoid W8!)
Plenty of RAM at 8GB
Nice sized 750GB HD
Decent 2.6GHz Intel CPU
USB 3.0 port (+ USB 2.0 ports)
HDMI out for streaming HD content to your HDTV
Nice display (it is not matte so people who have problems with glare might want to get an anti-glare film for it)
SD Card reader
CD/DVD player (these are being eliminated in many cases, but still handy to have)
Near minimal crapware/adware to remove
Keyboard has a stiffer touch (see "UPDATE" at end of review for more info)
Tips and Observations:
A few years back when you booted a new computer you were hit with about 50 popups from trialware, crapware and adware trying to get you to install and buy stuff. They have gotten smarter now and the adware is set to pop up at intervals, and only after the machine has been used and booted several times. IAC I went through the installed programs and removed all the cloud game stuff, Norton Anti-Virus (which has to be purchased eventually if you keep using it) and a handful of other crapware. It wasn't really too bad though.
Like every other computer these days, the Toshiba ships with a hidden recovery partition that only eats up space and will never do you any good, unless you want to lose all your data and installed programs, and revert to how the machine was out of the box. So after decrapifying I backed up the machine to an external drive with Macrium Free Reflect as a precaution, then booted from a Paragon HD Manager USB stick to remove the hidden recovery partition, add that space back to C, then set C as Primary and Active, and had Paragon repair the master boot record. So it booted into C fine. Then made several partitions to keep the OS in a manageable sized drive while data, music etc had their own drives. And ran a new backup. (Since I was eliminating the recovery partition, I also downloaded an ISO of W7 Home Premium 64 which MS makes available since they no longer provide CDs with machines.)
So now with Macrium Reflect Free for BU and restoring, and a CD of the OS, the machine was set in that department. Installed a fave, free, highly-rated AV and highly-rated firewall. It booted fast and nice and was very responsive. I was very impressed with the machine and liked it a lot.
The only thing I didn't like was the feel of the keyboard. I'm used to the old style keyboards that have deeper keys that depress further. This is the sealed style keyboard with flat, shallow keys, and it just felt hard to the touch. That said I am not a trained typist, so maybe a real typist would find it easier to adjust to.
Now for a few eccentricities I noticed that might help others, and a tip or two:
1. This laptop has stereo speakers that use software to imitate HD surround sound. For some reason the default settings it is shipped with are terrible, but happily this can be fixed by going into the sound utility. The icon for the sound utility is in the system tray, but hidden. Click the chevron arrow there to reveal the hidden icons and mouseover them to see what they do. Click on the DTS sound icon (not the speaker icon) and you will get a GUI where you can tweak the sound. I tweaked the EQ among other settings to bump the mid-range and bass up, but there are several settings you can play with to improve the sound.
2. (And maybe this should be first...) I had a heck of a time trying to find why I could not get ANY sound out of the speakers at first. There is no volume dial to adjust the volume, I had to use the speaker icon in the system tray, or the volume control in the software application (e.g. the slider on a flash video)... BUT.... I wanted to use the F6/F7 keys because those are supposed to be Fn keys that adjust volume up/down, only they would not work. This led me to discovering (after much research) that Toshiba ships their computers with the Fn key enabled by default, so you don't need to hold it down to use the Fn functions on the F-keys. If you DO hold the Fn key down while pressing an F-Key, you get the traditional function of that key. (For example pressing F12 typically brings up help menus in MS programs.)
OK, so NOT holding the Fn key down and pressing all the *other* F keys worked fine. The mousepad was enabled/disabled... the wifi card was enabled/disabled... the display switched to an external display... etc BUT the volume F6/F7 keys would not work!! FINALLY I happened to see someone mention in a forum that holding the WINDOWS LOGO key down while using the F6/F7 keys worked... and sure enough, it did! Finally I could adjust the volume with the F-keys!
This was NOT in the manual.
Personally I find a dial quicker and handier than F-keys, but it's not a big deal. Plus you can use advanced settings in the mouse menu to adjust volume by dragging a fingertip along the mousepad bottom (or top or one of the sides), or by tapping a corner as user-defined in tap zones. If it were my machine I would use this method for volume adjustment.
3. Another eccentricity: On most machines if you hold down CTRL + PrtSc you can take a snapshot of the desktop that you can then paste into Word or a graphic program or whatnot; and if you hold down ALT + PrtSc you take a snapshot of the active window only (vs the entire desktop). On this machine you have to hold down the Fn key in addition to those other keys to accomplish the same thing.
4. For anyone who isn't aware, the Intel display software makes it easy to set up multiple display profiles and switch between them. A dark display is nice for working, surfing etc. so your eyes aren't burned out by the end of the day. But this is too dark for watching videos or movies. You can create one scheme for working, and another for movies. You can switch between schemes with two little clicks.
To set up a scheme (these are called profiles in nVidia machines, but schemes in Intel machines), right-click on an empty part of the desktop and choose Graphic Properties. Click Color Correction and adjust gamma, contrast and brightness to taste for working/surfing. When the display suits you, click the Scheme Options button and type in the name you want to give this scheme in the Name field (e.g. SURFING). Click Save and OK.
Now open a video (go to Hulu and click on any video just to get something up), and repeat the previous steps, adjusting up the gamma, contrast, brightness etc, to make the video look good. Click the Scheme Options button and name the scheme MOVIES or the like. Click SAVE and OK. Click your way out of the display settings screens.
Now right-click on an empty part of the desktop and you will see "Scheme Options" ... choose that to see a pop-out with your scheme names listed. Switch between them at will.
5. FYI the USB 3.0 port is the one on the right side of the machine towards the front. The port behind it is a 2.0 as is the port next to the power cord. So if you have a 3.0 external drive, or other 3.0 devices (memory sticks) plug them into the 3.0 port for maximum speed.
BOTTOM LINE: This machine is very slick looking and has a crisp nice display. It's fast and responsive for its class. It doesn't have a discreet graphics card with its own RAM so it's not a gamer's laptop, but with 8GB shared, it's certainly going to meet and even exceed the needs of the average person who wants a nice laptop for general use. With an HDMI port, USB 3.0, 8GB RAM and 750GB HD, it's pretty darn future-proof. And it has a flash card reader for cameras and other devices, plus a CD/DVD player, which can come in handy. If the keyboard had an easier touch, it would be a near-perfect machine for the money. The missing half-star is for that caveat.
Note that this is a 15" laptop (I personally prefer smaller 14" laptops but my friend who purchased it likes the bigger ones)... so if you are coming from a 14" laptop this will be considerably bigger and heavier. If you will be taking it lots of places (school, out and about) I'd look at 14" laptops. But if you'll be using it at home and prefer the 15" machines, it's a nice buy.
UPDATE: I scoured the Web and found there is an aftermarket replacement for the C55-A kybd. From US vendors it runs $88-$99 but you can get it on eBay for $20 door to door. (They are the same exact kybd as they all come from China anyway.) If I were keeping this laptop for myself I would replace the kybd with the aftermarket one in a second. It has all the keys in the right place but instead of being the sealed tile style like the stock one, it's the traditional style... which means the keys are bigger because they don't have all that flat empty space surrounding each key. I would imagine the aftermarket kybd has a better feel to it. Anything has to be better than the stock one! A search of "C55-A replacement keyboard" on eBay will reveal vendors.
If one DOES replace the kybd it voids the warranty, so I'd suggest hanging on to the stock kybd and putting it back on before getting the machine serviced under warranty, if service is ever required. Of course if you break the bezel or something installing the new keyboard, you are out of luck on your warranty. But for those comfortable getting techy, it's an easy 10min thing to swap a kybd out.