Toshiba is a very well-respected laptop brand, now having lost some of its lustre to newer and sexier competitors. So it's nice to see that Toshiba is now delving into decently specified mid-range systems with the A350.
The A350 looks like a bit of a clunker at first. It's not small, by any stretch: at 16.1in it's the largest on test here. The glossy gunmetal grey exterior sports pinstripes that are repeated as grey on black for the keyboard surround. It's not the most stylish look, but the glossy, wet-look keyboard helps give it a bit of pizzazz.
The trackpad, on the other hand, is lovely - nicely textured and a pleasure to work with - and the buttons, while not attractive, are very functional. Harmon Kardon speakers, ensconced as round bubbles in the keyboard surround, add a measure of the aspirational.
The specs are good: a T6400 is matched with 4GB RAM and ATI Radeon HD 3650. Together they put the Toshiba's 2D performance in the middle of the pack, but when it comes to gaming, the Toshiba has enough nippiness to score 43fps on low settings in Crysis.
The speakers, combined with the games performance, are quite satisfying for a machine of this price range. The hard drive is large enough for a decent media collection, too, and this machine will suit a student with a bit of spare cash looking to both work and play.
There's good connectivity thanks to Gigabit Ethernet and 801.11n, and you've got HDMI, VGA and S-video for graphics output. Whatever gadgets you might want to connect are well-supplied, too, with mini-FireWire, Expresscard, eSATA, 3xUSB and a memory card slot. We appreciated the clever placement of all the ports and connectors within easy reach, too.
The Toshiba gets the nod this month, even without the outstanding battery life of the Acer, or the highest benchmark score, simply because it's the best all-rounder of the bunch. There's nothing missing, and everything you could desire in a mid-range system is supplied amply. It's not the most portable, but it's well ahead of the pack in all other regards.