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Toshiba Satellite P50t is the first 4K laptop in the market

Published on Jun 20, 2014 5:00 AM
 

You have probably heard about 4K TVs and how, with the right content, you can get images that are sharper and clearer than those on full-HD sets.

Now imagine shrinking such a high-resolution screen to fit into a 15.6-inch laptop.

Except that you do not need to, because one of the first 4K (or ultra high-definition) notebooks, the Toshiba Satellite P50t, is now available here. It has a 3,840 x 2,160-pixel touchscreen with four times as many pixels as a full-HD screen. Its pixel-per-inch count of 282 surpasses the 220 on the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display.

This screen, made by Sharp using its IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) display technology, looks fabulous, with wide viewing angles and excellent contrast. Even at close range, my naked eye could not distinguish each individual pixel.

Toshiba claims that the display is certified by Technicolor to ensure that its colour reproduction is as accurate as possible. A preloaded app called Chroma Tune lets users adjust the warmth of the colours, though I preferred the natural-looking default.

Unfortunately, the actual experience of using a 4K notebook swings between jaw-dropping clarity and frustration. The problem is not the hardware. Windows 8.1 mostly looks great as it can resize the interface - icons and title bars - appropriately. If you use Windows' tile-based Modern UI, you may not even notice anything different except that everything looks so sharp.

But in the desktop environment, you may get apps that have not been built for such high-resolution displays. At best, text and icons look fuzzy; at worst, they are practically unusable because key interface elements are too tiny or obscured. Google's Chrome browser, for example, is terrible and should not be used till it is fixed.

Of course, you can always change the resolution to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. But these issues will be present till developers update their apps accordingly.

More importantly, there is a lack of 4K content. Unless you shoot your own, there is only a handful of 4K videos on YouTube and Vimeo.

You are also out of luck when it comes to games. While some games support 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, the P50t's mid-range AMD graphics chip is inadequate.

In Bioshock Infinite, the laptop produced just 20 frames per second at the lowest setting at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. You will likely need a dual graphics card set-up to play games at 4K resolution.

The P50t has a premium look to it, with its brushed aluminium finish. It is reasonably slim and light for a 15.6-inch model. The hardware is up-to-date and includes a wireless-AC chip along with a 1TB hybrid drive.

But Toshiba really should have included a Blu-ray drive instead of a DVD drive.

Battery life, however, is dismal at 2hr 55min. While it is easy to blame the high-resolution display, I believe the 43 watt-hour battery is inadequate for a 15.6-inch laptop.

  • Content creators who are starting to get into 4K should consider this laptop. But mainstream users should wait.

vinchang@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on June 18, 2014.


TECH SPECS

Price: $2,799

Processor: Intel Core i7-4710HQ (2.5GHz)

Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 M265X 2GB GDDR5

RAM: 16GB

Screen size: 15.6 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels

Connectivity: 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, SD card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, microphone and headphone jacks

Battery: 43 watt-hours


RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 4/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 3/5

Battery life: 1/5

Overall: 4/5