Toshiba Satellite Pro A50-EC
Like they used to make them.
What’s in a name? Well, how long have you got. The Satellite Pro was made by Toshiba until Toshiba got tangled up in a US accounting scandal and had to sell off various parts of itself, the laptop part became a company, mostly owned by Sharp, called Dynabook.
As every computer-history geek knows, ‘Dynabook’ was Alan Kay’s name for a digital tablet concept in the early 1970s. But Dynabook (the company) isn’t named after that. It’s named after a laptop that Toshiba made in 1989 and called, for reasons nobody seems clear on, the DynaBook. Dynabook (the company) says it followed Toshiba’s invention of the hrst laptop, the T1100, in 1985.
By this time,
computer history geeks’ eyebrows will be well and truly raised. Not only was the T1100 not the hrst laptop, but it took the same model number as the actual hrst laptop, the GRID Compass 1100 (called the 1101 when it went on sale in 1982), crafted by the legendary British industrial designer Bill Moggridge.
Despite these shenanigans, and the name change having gone through in January, the Satellite Pro still says ‘Toshiba’ on it. There may be a small risk that if you buy one, they’ll make you scratch off ‘Toshiba’ later and write‘Dynabook’ on in Tipp-Ex.
Anyway, as behts such an historic machine, the Satellite Pro A50-EC is something of a throwback to the golden days of business laptops. At 2.15kg, it’s certainly not as heavy as a T1100, but bulkier than many current rivals, and the big 15.6in Full HD screen has a broad bezel around it, leaving plenty of room opposite for a full-size keyboard with number pad.
The black plastic case has an Ethernet socket and, incredibly, an analogue VGA monitor output, which we spent a while just staring at nostalgically. But it also has HDMI, as well as USB-C, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader, the ‘C’ at the end of the model’s name refers to that USB-C port - it sometimes gets left off, but as long as it has the port, you’re looking at the right one.
If that’s not modern enough for you, there’s an optional Windows Hello hngerprint reader, and the webcam also comes in a Hello-compatible depthsensing version for facial recognition. Our unit had neither, but most people not spending their boss’s money could happily live without it. It did, however, include a DVD drive, as rare nowadays as an ashtray.
We also got an i7-8550U quad- core processor, ideal for office multitasking and even some more ambitious creative work. Windows 10 Pro came installed on a 256GB SSD, albeit a SATA drive only about four times faster than a hard drive, the keyboard isn’t a classic, but quiet and usable, even if the touchpad is very small. Sadly, the screen’s 55 per cent sRGB coverage pipped the VivoBook (see page 22) to the bottom of this year’s colour- reproduction table, but that’s another business laptop tradition, and it didn’t look too bad to the untrained eye.
What we really like about the A50 is that you can add memory with just a screwdriver (and some memory chips, obviously) and swap the battery, which lasted us eight hours 20 minutes, with your bare hands. In an age of hard-wired, glued-together, ultra-slim laptops, that’s the kind of blast from the past we should see more of.
1.8GHz Intel i7-8550U quad-core processor
DVD±RW d rive
15.6in 1920x1080-pixel screen
USB-C port, 2x USB 3.0 ports
Gigabit Ethernet port*SD card reader*HDMI port*VGA port
Windows 10 Pro
A business laptop that's decent value, only mildly chunky, has a DVD writer and isn't nailed shut.
Abulky throwback with a large screen and keyboard and scope for upgrading.