The Toshiba C55-C offers top performance in in a back-to-school laptop. Credit: Rob Shultz
The question you need to ask yourself with the Toshiba Satellite C55-C5240 is this: "If someone cobbled together performance car parts into a go-kart frame, would I drive it to work/school each day?"
I'm torn on the Toshiba C55-C. More torn than I've felt about any other laptop in this class. It easily--and consistently--outperforms the competition, and does it for only $450. But all that power is packed inside one of the cheapest-feeling cases I've ever used.
I am worried I will break the Toshiba C55-C in half. I know it's irrational--I know it's probably not quite that cheap a laptop.
It's a real fear, though. Closed, the C55-C looks like a fine laptop--sleek black with a faux-brushed metal lid and understated Toshiba branding. It's not the ugliest laptop I've used by any means.
It is, however, one of the flimsiest. Opening the C55-C feels like trying to open a bag of potato chips in a quiet classroom. Lifting from either corner of the lid causes the whole screen to flex and creak ominously, thanks to the fact the screen is essentially a half-inch of cheap plastic. Closing the lid is the same--grab a corner and you'll watch the screen literally bend before the hinges start to move. You could probably bend this screen into the shape of the St. Louis Gateway Arch with minimal effort, although I wouldn't recommend it. It'd probably violate your warranty.
This is where Toshiba compromised, though. This cheap, flimsy plastic encasing the standard 15.6-inch 1366x768 screen. It's the one thing that drags down an otherwise remarkable laptop--or at least one that's remarkable in this price range.
Well, that and the mouse buttons, both of which are stiff and incredibly loud. The right mouse button's springy thunk noise quickly got on my nerves--and I'm someone who uses Cherry MX Blue keyboards at home, a.k.a. loud and clacky keys all day and night. These mouse buttons sound nearly as loud as an old IBM Model M buckling spring.
Speaking of keyboards, the C55-C's is set almost flush with the case--a fancy Apple-esque effect that unfortunately isn't matched by the quality of the switches themselves. I didn't have any problems typing per se, hitting my standard words per minute/error numbers, but the keys themselves are a bit mushy and unsatisfying to type on for long stretches. That's a minor quibble though, and I'll take full-sized but mushy keys over clacky-but-small any day of the week.
Nothing else especially stands out about the C55-C's design. The trackpad is a bit on the small size for a fifteen inch laptop, but not unusable. The sound quality is terrible, but that's on par with the rest of the laptops we looked at in this tier. The laptop is also surprisingly heavy, considering how flimsy it feels. Blame the HDD and optical drive, I guess--this thing comes in at semi-portable 4.8 pounds.
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