Toshiba Satellite P50t review

The Good The Toshiba Satellite P50t has a full 4K touchscreen display that looks great. High-end components make this a practical premium laptop, even without the special screen.

The Bad There's little real-world need for this right now, and most photo or video pros are tied to the Mac ecosystem. It's hard to find good 4K content, and the AMD GPU can't play current games at 4K.

The Bottom Line Toshiba takes a solid premium 15-inch laptop and adds a great-looking 4K touchscreen while keeping the price reasonable. But at this point, it's mostly for bragging rights or early adopters.

While it's by no means a mainstream consumer technology, nor will it be for years (if ever), 4K is certainly a hot buzzword. It's used most commonly to refer to televisions with a 3,840x2,160 native resolution. A handful of PC monitors also hit 4K resolution, but it's a feature that's only starting to come to laptops.

For example, Lenovo has announced a Y50 multimedia laptop with an optional 4K display, which we previewed at CES 2014 but have not seen available for purchase yet. Toshiba goes one better, with an actual 4K model already available for sale -- and for testing in the CNET Labs. That's the Satellite P50t, a 15.6-inch premium midsize laptop.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Toshiba makes many different versions of the Satellite P50 series, but only one specific configuration has the 4K display, along with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB HDD, and an AMD R9 M265X GPU. It's a powerful set of components for mainstream use, but you need that kind of muscle to run smooth 4K video streams, as we discovered when reviewing the 4K-friendly Apple Mac Pro desktop.

The 4K Satellite P50t was originally pitched as a $1,599 laptop, which felt very reasonable for a powerful, well-designed premium laptop with one very notable special feature. The system actually debuted at $1,799, which robbed us of some enthusiasm, but it looks like, as of the time of this review, that a "temporary discount" has brought the price back down to $1,599 (£1,109 in the UK). In Australia the model is called the P50t-B and has an RRP of AU$2,499.

But is this something you really need, at any price? Many video-editing professionals are using Final Cut on OS X (a reader helpfully points out that Adobe Premiere and Avid are just as popular, if not more so, and work on Windows) , and there are very few sources of 4K consumer video content -- even Netflix, which is experimenting with 4K streams, is currently doing so only to certain television models. High-end video enthusiasts who need a Windows PC may like the ability to work at higher resolutions, as might photographers who want maximum real estate for high-res files. Gaming at 4K is mostly a bust, as the AMD graphics card can't push that many pixels in most current games, but it still does well for mainstream gaming at standard 1080p resolutions.

The screen itself looks amazing, and the system includes a handy app for switching between several presets highlighting different color temperatures and display settings. There's a case to be made for future-proofing with a 4K screen, as long as you're already thinking of buying a premium 15-inch laptop with a powerful CPU/GPU combo and planning to spend about this much anyway.

It's a bit of an indulgence to be sure, but because the Satellite P50t is a very good upscale midsize laptop even without the 4K screen, it edges just over the line into recommended territory.
Design and features

The Satellite P50t is not the slimmest or the most high-design midsize laptop we've ever seen, but it's not unimaginable as a $1,500 laptop, either. Toshiba has a tendency to keep many of its products pulling from the same design handbook, which is good for brand consistency but also keeps budget laptops and premium laptops looking very similar. We had a similar comment about the excellent 13-inch Toshiba Kirabook -- it looked good but didn't necessarily have a design that stood out from Toshiba's many lower-cost laptops.

What you end up with is a generic-looking, silver-gray aluminum body and black island-style keyboard. The chassis' rounded corners are mirrored by the rounded upper corners of the touchpad, another Toshiba design fingerprint. The thick body isn't going to go in your shoulder bag every day, but I've carted it between office, conference room, and lab regularly with no problem.

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