Good looking, the laptop’s chassis has brushed aluminum across the lid and palm rest, with a frame-less keyboard and a plastic underside. The aluminum has a slight yellowish tint to it that Toshiba calls Satin Gold, and it’s pretty attractive. The design is fairly similar to that of the Toshiba Kirabook. Measuring 1.1 by 14.9 by 9.6 inches (HWD) and weighing 5.1 pounds, the Satellite P50T-BST2N01 is slim enough to claim ultra-book status, but large enough that we consider it a premium desktop-replacement laptop.The biggest thing that the system has going for it, however, is not its looks or even the internal components, but its gorgeous 15.6-inch 4K UHD display, with 3,840-by-2,160 resolution. The screen is crisp and sharp, with colors that pop. Those colors are also especially true-to-life, thanks to Chroma Tune calibration, and are Technicolor-certified during production for color accuracy. Just how much better is it than standard 1080p? Well, if you divide the display into four quadrants, each quadrant offers 1,920-by-1,080 pixels. It’s also of a higher resolution than any of the high-profile HD+ or Retina display systems available on the market, such as the 15-Inch Apple MacBook Pro , or the Dell XPS 15 (9530). That sort of resolution is ideal for viewing UHD movies, but the content offerings are still pretty slim for 4K versions of major movie releases, and there’s virtually nothing for TV shows. However, the biggest appeal of the display isn’t for high-resolution entertainment addicts, but rather for content creators. Photographers and videographers can now view high-resolution work on the go, and see it in true-to-life resolution. There are a few scaling issues—tiny text display by default, Windows 8 apps that go a little crazy trying to match the resolution and dimensions of the display—but most of it can be fixed by tweaking the screen settings. The Satellite P50T-BST2N01 offers full touch capability, with 10-finger tracking and Windows 8 gesture support.To match the high-quality screen, there are a pair of Harman/Kardon speakers set below the display, which provided crystal-clear sound during our tests. The full-size keyboard has a 10-key numeric pad and LED backlight. The accompanying trackpad offers support for all Windows 8 gestures.
Here’s looking at you kid — in 4K. Toshiba outfitted the Satellite P50T with a pixel-packed, 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 display. That’s an even-higher resolution than the MacBook Pro’s 2880 x 1880 Retina display or the 3200 x 1800 Dell Precision M3800.Despite the P50T’s high resolution, we were pleasantly surprised to discover the appropriate scaling of text on CNN.com, NYTimes.com and Clutchmagonline.com.Details were sharp and colors vivid on the 15.6-inch panel. A 4K image of an Atlantic puffin showed off the individual feathers that made up the bird’s black-and-white plumage. However, our eyes were drawn to the tip of the puffin’s beak, which seemed aglow with orange fire. It contrasted gorgeously with the gray-and-white components of the beak.As we viewed a 4K video on YouTube, we marveled at the number of veins we saw in a dragonfly’s slight, gossamer wings. The insect’s slight, blue-gray body looked alien in the sea of emerald from the surrounding marsh land.The display registered 96.8 percent color gamut using our colorimeter, a score that falls slightly short of the 100-percent mark, but is otherwise very good. The panel hit 3.3 on Delta-E, which measures accuracy (the ideal score is 0). That’s much more accurate than the 9.3 category average.Despite its rich color, the P50T isn’t very bright, measuring just 208 lux on our light meter, far short of the 265-lux mainstream laptop average. The MacBook Pro measured 324 lux, while the M3800 was 328 lux.The 10-point touch screen was quick and responsive, enabling us to draw with all 10 fingers in Paint. We also quickly performed Windows 8 gestures, as well as pinch to zoom.
You can adjust the screen’s color temperature using Toshiba’s Chroma Tune software. The five settings (Technicolor, Cool Warm, Rec. 709 and Full) let you pick the ideal color scheme for the content. However, you can’t create custom profiles.We used the Cool Warm setting to cut down on over-saturation as we watched “Sailor Moon” on Hulu. The Full setting delivered more-vivid hues when we viewed wildlife pictures. Chroma Tune settings can be mapped to specific applications using the App Sync function. We foresee photo and video editors getting a lot of use out of this software.
Toshiba Audio Enhancement
Toshiba has also added its own audio enhancement software. Source filtering has the ability to enhance voice or background sound quality. Sliding the marker towards the Voice Enhancement option fades out the background audio while preserving the vocals. Using the Background Sound Enhancement has the opposite effect.The Earphone Audio Enhancement software added fullness to music when we used in-ear headphones. With this effect enabled, we heard deep bass, bright guitar and full keyboard while listening to “Bliss” with our Harmon/Kardon AE-S headphones. There was still some distortion due to the crowded soundscape, however.
The Satellite P50T-BST2N01 is more than just a beautiful display; the laptop boasts a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ quad-core processor, 16GB of memory, and an AMD Radeon R9 M265X discrete graphics card. The result is a potent combination of visual splendor and processing power. It finished PCMark 8 with 4,441 points, well ahead of the Toshiba Kirabook, which scored 2,344 points. It showed its chops in Photoshop, finishing in 3 minutes 27 seconds, just behind the Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch and the Dell XPS 15 (9530), both of which finished in 3:14, but well ahead of the Toshiba Kirabook (4:37).While that AMD Radeon R9 M265X graphics card gets plenty of work simply supporting that 4K display, it still has the processing muscle to support heavy graphics rendering. In 3DMark CloudGate, for example, the Satellite P50t scored 10,204 points, and 907 points under FireStrike Extreme; contrast this with the capabilities of the Toshiba Kirabook, which scored 4,376 points (CloudGate) and 267 points (FireStrike Extreme) which used integrated graphics alone. That said, in gaming tests, the Satellite P50T-BST2N01 produced barely playable frame rates in Heaven at mere 1,366-by-768 resolution, with low detail settings, and never approached acceptable gaming levels in our other tests, Heaven (at higher resolution) and Valley (both low and high resolution). Where the Satellite P50T-BST2N01 fails to impress is on battery life. In our rundown test, the system lasted a very brief 2 hours 47 minutes. That’s not just slightly behind competing systems, it’s several hours behind; the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch led the category with 8:52, but even the others did better, with the Toshiba Kirabook stretching to 8:44, and the Dell XPS 15 lasting 6:49. This can be almost entirely explained by the sheer amount of power it takes to support the 4K display, but it’s still disappointing.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Satellite P50T provides a large, island-style keyboard complete with a full number pad and good spacing. We measured 2mm for vertical travel, well within the typical 1.5-2mm range that makes for a comfortable typing experience.The flat, black keys provided firm, springy feedback, allowing us to hit 60 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, well above our usual 55 wpm score. The backlighting on the keyboard isn’t the brightest we’ve seen, but it worked well in a dim setting.The 4.2 x 2.6-inch touchpad is big enough to easily execute gestures, including launching the Windows 8 Charms menu and three-finger flick and press. The touchpad’s edges felt mushier than we like, but did a solid job of acting as left and right mouse buttons.
Despite all that video- and photo-editing power, the Satellite P50T manages to keep its cool for the most part. After we streamed a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad and the space between the G and H keys measured 79 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.The bottom of the notebook, particularly the vent on the removable plate at the front right corner, blew a hot 98 degrees. That’s several degrees above our 95-degree comfort threshold. However, we used the laptop in our laps for over an hour without discomfort.
So let’s turn our attention to the Satellite P50t’s other first: The first laptop to be Technicolor Color Certified. You’ve probably seen the Technicolor brand in the credits of many films. The company did pioneering work in color film processes in the early days of Hollywood, and it has provided technical services to the motion-picture industry for decades. Technicolor developed the Technicolor Color Certified specification as a means to guarantee the color you see on a consumer computer or mobile display is accurate, without needing to whip out a colorimeter or other pricey hardware. The spec focuses on three use cases: Entertainment, e-commerce, and consumer content creation.In the entertainment space, Technicolor Color Certified guarantees that the colors you see on your display when you’re watching a movie or video are exactly what the director and the cinematographer intended. When it comes to e-commerce, the spec ensures that the color of the items you buy from online retailers will match what you saw online when you placed your order, eliminating unpleasant surprises when you open the box when it arrives in the mail. And when you’re producing your own content, you can be certain that the photos and videos you shoot will look the same on your computer as they do in your camera.As Technicolor VP, Technology Licensing Ed Thompson explained in a recent briefing: “The benefit to the consumer is to provide an accurate color experience. The real goal of the program is to match the color format of the content to the display capability of the monitor.” Technicolor partnered with software developer Portrait Displays to achieve this goal. Portrait’s software talks to the computer’s graphics and display hardware to automatically control color settings and adjust color gamut. But you can’t simply install the software to get Technicolor certification.
Representative samples of the LCD panels each OEM decides to use are calibrated at the factory, and the data needed to tune that panel to comply with the spec is loaded into the software that’s delivered to the OEM.You’re not limited to using the Technicolor color space. Using Portrait Displays’ Chroma Tune app, you can switch between Technicolor and a “cool” color space for working with productivity apps, for instance. Chroma Tune also has a “warm” color space, one that fits the Rec. 709 standard developed for HDTV), and “full” color space. You can also assign color spaces to particular applications, so that your computer automatically switches to the desired color space when you launch a given program.Put these two technologies together and you get an absolutely gorgeous display. The 4K demo footage Toshiba preloaded on the machine looks amazing, as do games—when you turn the resolution down to 1920×1080 to get a playable frame rate, that is. At that res, the P50t delivered BioShock Infinite at 37.4 frames per second. There’s just one major shortcoming: Glare. There are times when the Satellite P50t’s screen looks like a 15.6-inch mirror. The problem is particularly acute with nighttime scenes. This is a common shortcoming with color touchscreens, but it’s one you should be aware of.
No 4K video capture here. However, the Satellite P50T’s camera did a superb job with color, accurately capturing our hot pink sash, ivory dress and neon green headphones. Details could have been sharper, however, as we could see graininess throughout our test shots.
The Satellite P50T is loaded with ports, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, jacks for headphones and microphone, and a secure lock slot on the right. A 6-in-1 card reader resides on the right front lip of the laptop. The left side of the notebook holds two more USB 3.0 ports, a tray-loading DVD player, Ethernet and a power jack.
Is it just too early for 4K?
The Toshiba Satellite P50t delivers the highest resolution of any laptop you can buy today. But you won’t want to play games at its native resolution, and there’s almost no entertainment content to watch on its beautiful screen. It’s an awesome tool for digital content creators, provided you can get by with its 15.6-inch panel. No one will want to use it with an external 4K display at a refresh rate of 30Hz.The day will come when 4K movies are as common as 1080p video is today. Until then, dropping $1800 for a Toshiba Satellite P50t buys bragging rights and a color-accurate display more than anything else.
The Toshiba Satellite P50T has a lot of things going for it, but battery life is not one of them. When we ran the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits brightness (67 percent brightness for this notebook), the P50T only lasted 2 hours and 38 minutes. That’s less than half the 6:11 category average.Both the MacBook Pro and the Dell Inspiron M3800 used the older version of the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web-surfing over Wi-Fi at 40 percent brightness). The 15-inch MacBook Pro lasted 8:57, while the M3800 clocked in at 6:54.
The Toshiba Satellite P50T-BST2N01 is a great system, with generally strong performance and a slick design, not to mention a jaw-dropping display that blows past every competitor on the market, but the short battery life puts a serious damper on our enthusiasm. The 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro remains our Editors’ Choice for high-end desktop-replacement laptops, largely due to its superb battery life and superior performance, but even the MacBook’s Retina Display can’t offer true 4K images. That makes the Toshiba Satellite P50T-BST2N01 the system to get if you need 4K UHD and nothing less.