It's what's inside that counts
Get past the looks, and the A660 has a lot to commend it. There are four USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles up as an eSata connector, rather than the usual count of three, and an HDMI connector too.
Avoid the Blu-ray version and save £££s
While including an ExpressCard 34 slot might not matter much to most folk, Toshiba equips the entertainment-oriented A660 with a wee Windows Media Center-friendly remote control that slips neatly into said slot when not required. That's an example of smart design that even Apple failed to manage in the days when it was shipping MacBook Pros with remotes.
I looked at the A660-15T variant, which packs in a Blu-ray drive and a four-core, eight-thread Intel Core i7-720QM processor, but Toshiba offers a range of i3, i5 and i7 CPUs. All the A660s come with 4GB of 1066MHz DDR 3 memory, SDXC-compatible card readers and 802.11n Wi-Fi, though, and most have 500GB hard drives - one model has a 320GB unit.
The glossy 16in screen is here driven by an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M GPU, but others have the GeForce G 310M or even Intel's CPU-integrated core, so check which you're getting before you buy.
Next page: Pleasing performance
What lousy specs
For 900 quid they couldn't even increase the resolution of the screen the tiniest bit? I haven't bought a new laptop in years because the trend has actually been toward increased dot pitch, not decreased. I also find 16:10 generally better for everyday tasks than either 4:3 or 16:9, hits the sweet spot somehow, but I must be in the minority. Too bad my choices have been effectively wiped out by profit mongering.
That's barely adequate specs
You used to be able to get PCs that put that to shame: 1920x1200 in 15". What happened? Was that just a seasonal fad, then people figured out that software hadn't quite caught up to the hardware, or OEMs had no idea how to preconfigure font scaling? (Though OS font scaling and browser pic scaling seems to work fine these days.)
Laptops these days require external keyboard and monitor
1) Widescreen laptops have their vertical pixels reduced to x768 where it used to be x800. This means a lot more downward scrolling. Waste of time. Also because the screen is more restrictive than the graphics card, to see in a higher resolution you need to plug in an external monitor.
2) Keyboards with Numeric Pads are not good if they result in more keys on the standard keyboard being doubled up requiring the Function Key to be pressed such as Home / End / Page Up / Page Down. Try positioning your cursor in an MS Word Document somewhere in the middle and selecting all the text to the bottom of the page. CTRL-SHIFT-END becomes CTRL-SHIFT-FUNC-END. What a joke. So you now need an external keyboard. (You'll also note that the Back Space, Enter and Right Shift key will be shortened - so when you use your little fingers on the right to hit the delete, you'll have more chance of missing the key.)
So the above two combine to slow down productivity on a laptop compared to previous generations.
Today's laptops are rubbish.