Review: Updated: Toshiba Satellite Radius 12

Introduction and design

Toshiba notebooks and 4K screens almost seem mutually exclusive. Just about every laptop in the Japanese electronic firm’s portfolio comes with an Ultra HD (UHD) option.

The Satellite Radius 12 comes as the company’s latest and smallest convertible laptop yet to go 4K. The 12.5-inch Ultrabook features a stunningly vibrant and sharp screen with a claim to fame of being Technicolor certified.

Of course, in today’s Ultrabook world, high-resolution displays have become commonplace, with stiff competition from the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Yoga 900. Although all three notebooks are outfitted with nearly the same hardware, down to an identical Intel Core i7 processor, the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 comes out on top in some regards.

However, this small convertible notebook also has a handful of disappointing missteps that hold it back from Ultrabook perfection.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

Design

Much like its larger sibling, the Satellite Radius 15, the Radius 12 is a gorgeous, modernly designed machine. The exterior is completely wrapped with dark, brushed aluminum.

The all metal body is also accented with bits of black, rubbery plastic you’ll find along the edges. The extra bit of rubber at the rear of the Radius 12 is an especially nice touch, as it adds a soft and grippable texture for towing around the laptop.

On the interior of this notebook, the bottom lip of the screen juts out enough to comfortably rest your thumb against it while using the device as a tablet. Thanks to its small, 12.5-inch screen size and relatively light, 3-pound weight, this is one hybrid device you’ll be able to use regularly as a Windows 10 tablet, too.

The laptop’s overall look is stately, reserved and sophisticated. From a distance, it looks like a plain and uncommonly thin business laptop. The Radius 12 won’t catch much attention in the office, and that’s not something I can say about the flashier Dell XPS 13, with its unique 11-inch chassis or the Lenovo Yoga 900’s blinged-out watchband hinge.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

Bad touch

Although Toshiba made some smart decisions with the Radius 12’s aesthetic and ergonomics, this machine has a quirky keyboard.

Given its 12.5-inch screen, the keyboard is understandably smaller, but the keys are frustratingly short both in terms of key travel and the physical shape of the keys. Every letter and punctuation mark key seems a bit squished – but there’s plenty of room along the sides and above the top of the keyboard deck for larger buttons.

Even the keyboard’s layout has been rearranged in an odd fashion, starting with the tilde key, which has been repositioned beside the left alt key. Meanwhile, dedicated page up and down keys were haphazardly jammed just above the arrow keys into the space typically reserved for the right shift key.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

Thankfully, the trackpad was spared any size reduction and it’s actually spacious and responsive for navigating the laptop’s 12.5-inch screen. That said, this broad pointing device is only made with plastic, so it lacks the same smoothness of a glass touchpad found on Ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13 or the Surface Book. Instead, the touchpad is actually textured with a brushed finish.

The coarse pattern is a helpful touch to inform you of any accidental cursor movements should you accidentally glide your fingers across the touchpad.

Specifications and value

The Radius 12 is one tight little package and, thanks to it 12.5-inch screen, is a bit smaller than other 13-inch Ultrabooks. The notebook’s overall footprint is only 11.8 x 8.2 x 0.61 inches or 300 x 208 x 15mm (W x D x H). By comparison, the 12.75 x 8.86 x 0.59-inch (323 x 225 x 15mm) Lenovo Yoga 900 is larger. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 is a bit wider but narrower than the Toshiba 2-in-1, measuring 11.97 x 7.87 x 0.35 0.59 inches (304 x 200 x 9-15mm).

In terms of weight, all three laptops are so closely matched to the point where a few fractions of a pound won’t matter much. Weighing in at 2.9 pounds (1.32kg), the Radius 12 is a light machine that won’t drag you down like a MacBook Pro. It even beats out the XPS 13’s weight by 0.03 pounds (0.01kg) but it’s heavier than the Yoga 900 by 0.06 pounds (0.03kg).

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

Spec Sheet

Here is the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 configuration sent to techradar for review:

  • CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U (dual-core, 4M Cache, up to 3.1 GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,600MHz)
  • Screen: 13.3-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) TruBrite LED backlit touchscreen
  • Storage: 256GB SATA SSD
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.0 w/Sleep and Charge, 1 x USB Type C, SD card reader, headphone/mic combo jack
  • Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7265; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: HD webcam with TruTalk dual microphones
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Size: 11.8 x 8.2 x 0.61inches (W x D x H)

The Toshiba Radius 12 is priced as a premium Ultrabook, and for the configuration you see, it’ll cost you $1,249 (about £999). In Australia, the only 4K screen model available comes with a 512GB solid-state drive for AU$2,799.

The good news? This particular hybrid is more affordable, with a $1,599 (£1,149, AU$2,499) Dell XPS 13 getting you almost all the same specs save for a lower-res 3,200 x 1,800 display. The Lenovo Yoga 900 configured identically as the Dell Ultrabook (again, save for a 3,200 x 1,800 screen), comes in a 2-in-1 laptop shell for $1,199 (£1,299, AU$2,399) – just a tad less.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

If having an Ultra HD screen to gawk at isn’t a priority, there’s also a Full HD and Intel Core i5-powered version of the Radius 12 that could be had for $1,099 (£849, AU$2,399). There’s isn’t a comparable less-than-4K version of the Yoga 900, but the XPS 13 is also available with a 1080p screen and the same processor for $1,099 (£949, AU$1,999).

Though the Radius 12 isn’t as affordable as the Yoga 900, it’s not that much more expensive. Plus, for the extra cheddar, you get a more vibrant and sharper screen and slightly faster performance. The Dell XPS 13 still remains to be one of the best laptops in existence. If the whole convertible craze means nothing to you, that’s the machine I would recommend above all else.

Performance and features

Toshiba’s Radius 12 is a lithe beauty on the outside, it’s a beast when it comes to performance. The machine’s Intel Core i7 processor had more than enough power to drive the 4K screen without the slightest hints of slowing down, even when using multiple applications, including editing photos in Lightroom.

Furthermore, our benchmark testing revealed the Toshiba 2-in-1 to be a touch faster than the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Yoga 900, despite both machines having to power a lower-res screen.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5,707; Sky Diver: 3,484; Fire Strike: 797
  • Cinebench CPU: 317 points; Graphics: 37 fps
  • GeekBench: 3,191 (single-core); 6,797 (multi-core)
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,340 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 42 minutes

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

Although all three of these laptops come with nearly identical hardware inside, the Radius 12 leads the benchmark race in processing power. The 12-inch convertible churned out a PCMark 8 score of 2,340 points, just a little ahead of the Dell XPS 13’s 2,276-point score, while the Lenovo Yoga 900 trails behind with 2,261 points.

On the graphics end, the Radius 12 is also in the lead, as it achieved a Sky Diver score of 3,494 points. By comparison, the Dell Ultrabook turned in a 3,462 point performance, while the Lenovo hybrid came dead last, with a score of 2,931.

Overall, this is a tight race and there aren’t too many outstanding discrepancies in performance to make a significant difference. Each machine is just as quick as the other at everything from loading web pages to rendering movies.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

That said, the Radius 12’s most glaring deficiency is battery life. The 12-inch convertible only lasted for 3 hours and 42 minutes on our PCMark 8 battery test, meanwhile the XPS 13 kept chugging along for 4 hours and 39 minutes. The Lenovo Yoga 900 outlasted both, finally clocking out after 5 hours and 6 minutes.

Just 4 hours and 22 minutes was the longest runtime I was able to squeeze out of the Radius 12 during our own battery rundown test via local video loop. If you’re looking for a longer lasting machine, you’re better off with the Lenovo Yoga 900, which ran for an impressive 7 hours in the same test. The Dell XPS 13 can also get you through a long flight, with 5 hours and 51 minutes of local video playback.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 review

Photography-grade screen

Though the Radius 12 has some impermissible flaws between its odd keyboard and short battery life, almost all could be forgiven with its excellent display. The 4K screen on this hybrid is one of the most colorful displays I’ve ever seen, resolving so many more distinct shades of color while offering excellent contrast to boot.

It’s been a dream to work with an almost 100% color accurate screen for the last few weeks while editing photos in Lightroom. Beyond media production, the screen is simply amazing for watching movies at a much higher level of sharpness and color depth.

And to top off the picture quality, the Harman Kardon speakers conduct a rich audio experience filled with plenty of bass, if you’re a fan of explosions and hot beats.

Verdict

The Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 seems like such a promising laptop, incorporating a powerful processor, 4K screen and all the versatility of a hybrid laptop packed into a small Ultrabook. However, basic flaws hamper this machine in a big way, making it hard to recommend for anyone but creative types with the keenest eye for color accuracy.

We liked

The 4K screen is simply spectacular. Whether you’re a photographer or just looking to watch some movies on this laptop, the vibrancy and color accuracy of the Radius 12’s screen is among the best I’ve ever seen.

At the same time, the solid performance you can get out of this machine shows that 4K Ultrabook have at last come into their own as reliable devices for life and work. Well, so long as this particular laptop is plugged into a wall socket.

We disliked

Although I really enjoy playing around with Radius 12, it suffers from some glaring issues that hamper everyday use namely the keyboard for starters. Layout issues aside, the keys themselves are simply too small to comfortably type on for long stretches, and there’s no reason for the buttons to be as short as they are.

I’m not a fan of the short battery life, either. With an Ultrabook, you come expecting a battery life of five hours at a minimum, and the Radius 12 doesn’t deliver on this. Instead, you’ll be lucky to get four hours of usage out of this 12-inch convertible, while some key competitors can last for nearly twice as long.

Final verdict

The Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 is an attractive little package, with its reserved looks and one of the industry’s best 4K displays. While this laptop is clearly batting in the Ultrabook major leagues, it simply suffers too many flaws to compete with nigh-perfected systems, like the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Yoga 900. Both machines, hands down, offer better keyboard and much longer battery life to boot.

Though the Dell XPS 13 is the most expensive option, this Ultrabook is also one of the best designed machines that’s currently hard to beat. The Radius 12 appeals most to creative professionals who need a super portable laptop with an extremely color accurate screen. Otherwise, I would strongly recommend the refined, longer-lasting Yoga 900 as a lower-cost convertible alternative.

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