A rare slim gaming laptop ‘Toshiba Satellite S55t-A5277′ , for just 999$

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The good: With a new Intel Core i7 CPU, an Nvidia GPU, a 1TB hard drive, and a touch screen, the Toshiba Satellite S55t-A5277 is a genre-buster laptop.

The bad: Hitting its $999 price clearly required some compromises, and the low-resolution 15-inch screen takes the fun out of gaming and media watching.

The bottom line: The Toshiba Satellite S55t-A5277 comes close to being a great mainstream slim gaming laptop, but it’s undone by an unimpressive display.

Why can’t I get what I want? It doesn’t seem too complicated to me, but I find myself frustrated at every turn by the PC industry. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but I want a reasonably thin, reasonably good-looking laptop, with a high-quality touch screen, and a decent discrete graphics card for gaming. Of course, I don’t want to pay too much for it.

The Toshiba Satellite S55t-A5277 is the latest to promise this to the world, but deliver significantly less. It’s painfully close to being a near-perfect laptop, offering a new fourth-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, a reasonably good Nvidia GeForce 740M graphics card, 12GB of RAM, and a huge 1TB hard drive, all for $999.

What’s not to like? Well, if you’ve got a solid CPU-GPU combo for playing games, you’re going to want a decent screen to play on, and that’s where the S55t-A5277 falls painfully short. While it’s a touch screen, which is practically a requirement for Windows 8 these days, it has a low screen resolution of 1,366×768 pixels. That’s rare in midprice, midsize laptops these days, and I can’t imagine feeling good about paying $999 for a laptop that’s not at least 1,600×900. On top of that, the screen just doesn’t look very good.

I had high hopes for the S55t-A5277 as a mainstream gaming laptop that could also work as an everyday slim 15-inch productivity machine, but the poor display sticks a real wrench in that plan. Laptop gaming is a question of choosing priorities, with high-end gaming rigs such as the Toshiba Qosmio X75 and Razer Blade lacking a touch screen, and most sub-$1,000 laptops being stuck with basic integrated graphics.

That one major flaw, the screen, aside, the S55t-A5277 is more than powerful enough for everyday use, with a slim body, optical drive, plenty of ports, and better components than you usually find outside of very expensive premium laptops. It’s so close to what I want that it’s especially frustrating to see it fall short.

Design and features
Toshiba’s entire laptop line has been slightly redesigned for the 2013 back-to-school season, although the S55t-A5277 isn’t radically different from previous Toshiba Satellite models. The body is a mix of brushed aluminum and black plastic, with an understated two-tone design that would work in an office, coffee shop, or at home. If the system cost a few hundred dollars more, it would be too plastic-feeling, but as priced, it’s just right.

While not as thin and light as Razer’s Blade gaming laptop, the S55t-A5277 is close to other 14- and 15-inch ultrabook-style laptops we’ve seen (although that term is used too extensively these days to cover a very wide range of sizes and weights). It’s just over 5 pounds and a hair thicker than 1 inch, but considering the discrete GPU and Core i7 CPU, that’s pretty good.

Toshiba’s keyboard style is built around chunky square keys that offer a satisfyingly deep click under your fingers. This keyboard looked and felt a lot like the one on the recent Qosmio X75, with generous flat-topped keys, plus a full-size separate number pad. Toshiba laptops have oddly short spacebars, which I always find hard to get used to, but at least the function keys are reversed, which means you don’t have to hold down the Fn key to access the volume, brightness, and other controls on the F1 to F12 keys. The keyboard is also backlit, which is a nice extra in a midprice laptop.

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