The following post provides a high-level view of the Toshiba S55t B5233 lap-top and its performance as a video editing laptop. The intent isn’t to provide a comprehensive review, but to give a snapshot of a couple of days of use for primarily editing videos using Sony Vegas 13 with various 3rd-party plug-ins. This combination of plug-ins with Sony Vegas 13 have caused various issues, as will be documented in another article.
The issues I had seen with Sony Vegas, combined with NewBlue effects caused me to search for a more powerful computer. I tried a Lenovo Y50 and it had incredible specifications, but, as posted here, it may be a little too far ahead of the software. After returning the Lenovo, I took my wife’s advice and stopped by Costco and purchased the Toshiba S55t B5233. Costco has a 90-day, no questions asked return policy, so it was little risk to give it a spin. The specifications that were of most interest to me were:
- Intel® Core™ i7-4710HQ Processor 2.5GHz
- 16GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
- 1920 x 1080 Display
It uses integrated Intel(R) HD Graphics 4600, which supports Open CL version 1.2. It is unclear whether this will support some of the more graphics’ intensive plug-ins. It does support a 4k output via its HDMI connector (unclear whether it is only HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 – most likely 1.4 and 30 frames per second, not the 60 FPS of HDMI 2.0).
The performance of the 5,400 RPM, 1 TByte drive doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of rendering or editing, as compared to a desktop machine I also own that has a 7,200 RPM drive.
Although this laptop will never be a desktop replacement with the ability to have a discrete graphics card, it makes up for this with a relatively lightweight (4.9 lbs) in an attractive, brushed aluminum case.
- Sony Vegas loads faster than compared to my i5-based lap-top with 4 Gbytes memory. Sony Vegas 13 crashed only once during two days of editing. I suspect a big part of the reason that it isn’t crashing is because of the extra memory.
- It hasn’t crashed once while rendering a file with Sony Vegas 13. Rendering has typically been faster than or around real-time for a single pass. There is an issue that seems to have to do with using Open CL with the NewBlue effect. This doesn’t seem to be specific to Lenovo and will be covered in another article.
- The location of the keyboard, relative to the trackpad is much more convenient than the Lenovo Y50.
- The touchscreen capability is a nice bonus.
- At $849 ($999 less $150), the price is hard to beat.
- It would be nice to have an option for a solid state drive, to, potentially, improve battery time, reduce the weight and improve start-up and rendering time.
- Battery time seems weak. It looks like it will get about 2.5 hours with just casual web surfing/posting this article. It seemed to last a little over an hour when editing video.
- No optical drive. This means bringing along an external drive a couple of times a year, when I have to burn a DVD.
- [Added 10/10/14] Battery life is awful. I get about 1.5 hours (in “eco mode”) using batteries. Barely enough juice to make it between, say, Denver and Chicago. I suppose poor battery life is a trade-off to get light weight and relatively low price.
So far, it is exceeding expectations, as far as editing and rendering with Sony Vegas 13 and NewBlue effects. The size and weight (relative to my old laptop) somewhat offsets the disadvantage of a battery-life that won’t last even a short airplane trip. It probably isn’t the laptop that I will be use to render 4K videos in 5 years, but it looks like one that will be a relatively inexpensive workhorse for editing HD videos for the next couple of years.
Support Addendum – Won’t Turn On After Updating to BIOS Version 1.8 – Added 11/19/2914
After updating to BIOS 1.8, the lap-top would no longer turn on; black screen. The only indication of life was that the power switch would blink with about a 3 second duty cycle. I tried all the routine stuff, like pulling the power cord, holding the power button down (first for 5 seconds, then for 20 seconds, but to no avail). I thought about removing the battery, but didn’t see how (more on that below).
The Toshiba support web site’s forums suggested battery removal (which would apparently require removal of the back cover) might fix the problem. Reluctant to removed the cover, I instead followed a troubleshooting process on the support site which revealed a Toshiba support phone number to call.
The support hold time was less than five minutes and the support person was nice enough. We went through the same steps I did, except she also suggested connecting the lap-top to an external monitor. She also tried to have me reset a non-existent reset button. She informed me that I could return the lap-top for repair.
I asked her about how I would go about backing up the data and she indicated that I would be responsible for doing so and she suggested that this be done prior to returning the lap-top to Toshiba. Upon further questioning, she said opening the cover (which is needed to access the hard-drive) would not void the warranty.
Whether or not this statement about removal of the cover not voiding the warranty is true, I don’t know, but my screwdriver was busy removing the screws while we were finishing the call. As a disappointing aside, I noticed that one of the screws was missing and that several others were loose. The screws had adhesive, but that wasn’t enough to secure them in place. I had similar problems with my previous lap-top, so it looks like screw tightening is something that should be part of a regular maintenance plan.
Based on what I had read in posts on the Toshiba support forum, I thought the battery was under the cover and I started to use a credit card to slip between the cover and chassis to pry open the cover. It wasn’t easy and, as I pried and pulled, I accidentally removed the battery. To remove the battery, only two screws need to be removed (see above picture) and then only a slight downward pressure needs to be applied for it to pop off the back of the chassis. Sure enough, removal and re-insertion of the battery fixed the problem.
Overall, the support for the product in terms of responsiveness, friendliness and willingness to take the product wasn’t bad, relative to many high-tech products. Still, it is disappointing that they missed such an easy fix and that they don’t have better documentation on their website.