Toshiba's Satellite U500 series has been around for a while now, but the new U500-1EX is the first to offer a touch-screen display.
The plastic chassis has a rather odd leather-style surface to it, but otherwise the laptop looks attractive. However, measuring 38mm at its thickest point it's also rather chunky. Add to this a weight of 2.4kg, and you've got a small but not particularly portable laptop.
The 13.3in touch-screen display is capacitive, so only the lightest of finger presses is required, but we immediately noticed that it's not as bright as other displays we've seen. Furthermore, the screen has a faint mottled effect, which makes images appear grainy.
The display has a widescreen resolution of 1,280 x 800, supports multi-touch and can therefore recognise up to four simultaneous finger presses. However, although the included Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) has extra-large finger-friendly taskbar icons and built-in touch support, there are very few applications that actually make use of multi-touch.
Zooming in and out is made easier by using iPhone-style pulling and pinching gestures with two fingers, while navigating back and forth on web sites can be performed with a quick flick of the finger. But other functions can be incredibly frustrating to perform by hand.
Closing individual windows, for example, requires a very delicate touch, while clicking on links within web sites often requires repeated attempts. Ultimately, after an initial honeymoon period, we suspect that most people, especially corporate users, will ditch the touch controls altogether.
A set of media controls is situated just above the keyboard. Lit up by a bright backlight, this strip can be extremely distracting, but Toshiba thankfully includes the ability to switch off the light should you require.
Stereo speakers are located either side of this control strip and provide better-than-average audio for a laptop. The bass isn't exactly thumping, but they're suited to audio for company presentations.
The keyboard is a decent size but, with each key having a glossy coating, it's not the most comfortable to type on. More of a worry, though, is the huge amount of flex in the middle of the keyboard. Most laptops exhibit a degree of flexing, but the U500-1EX acts like a trampoline when typing at speed.