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Grow Your Business Technology

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 (4K) Review: Is It Good for Business?

Toshiba Satellite Radius 12, business laptops The Satellite Radius 12 earns 3 out of 5 stars. / Credit: Jeremy Lips

Working on a 12-inch laptop doesn't feel so cramped when you have a supersharp 4K display. That's what you get in Toshiba's Satellite Radius 12: a compact, powerful work machine with high-enough resolution for serious productivity. A versatile folding hinge that lets you use the device like a tablet is just a bonus.

Unfortunately, a few glaring weaknesses limit the Radius 12's business potential. Its battery life is too short, and its keyboard and touchpad were victims of some odd design choices. But can strong performance and a brilliant display make this $1,299 notebook worth the money?

At 2.93 lbs., the Radius 12 is noticeably more portable than rival 12-inch hybrids like the ThinkPad Yoga 12 (3.52 lbs.). That makes Toshiba's laptop the more attractive pick for commuters and frequent travelers who don't want to lug a heavy machine around. On the other hand, the Radius 12 is heftier than many standard 12-inch laptops, including the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 (2.68 lbs.) and the MacBook (2.03 lbs.).

Size aside, the Radius 12 looks every bit as sleek and professional as its premium price tag would suggest. I love the glossy look of the lid, which sports a nice brushed-metal effect, even if it is a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

Plus, the overall build quality is excellent. The Radius 12 feels really sturdy, without any noticeable flex in the lid or keyboard deck.    

The Radius 12 has a special hinge that lets you flip the display back a full 360 degrees so you can use it like a large tablet. But remember that the Radius 12 weighs 3 lbs., making it about three times as heavy as an iPad. In other words, it's too heavy to hold up in the air for a long time.

Business users will probably get more mileage out of the tent and stand modes, which let you prop up the device screen-first, which is handy for presentations. I also like using stand mode to get better access to the touch screen in cramped quarters, such as on an airplane tray table.

It's worth pointing out that the Radius 12 runs on Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft's PC operating system, which includes separate laptop and tablet modes. Laptop mode presents the standard desktop interface you're used to, while tablet mode makes it easier to use touch-based apps, with a full-screen interface that includes large navigation buttons at the bottom.

I just wish the Radius 12 were compatible with a digitizer stylus for taking notes right on the display, which would have made its hybrid design a lot more useful. Some competing slates, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12, do include that functionality.

The Radius 12's 4K display is stunning. In fact, it's one of the prettiest laptop screens I've seen.

And the higher resolution actually makes it easier to multitask on the Radius 12's relatively compact display. Screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents and editing spreadsheets feel really comfortable, and there's plenty of room for split-screen multitasking.

Text looks really sharp on the Radius 12, and colors are vibrant, too. In fact, our tests showed that Toshiba's laptop delivers far better color accuracy than the average laptop.

But 4K displays do have one big downside: They're serious battery hogs. The Radius 12's screen may be nice to look at, but it also makes short work of the machine's battery. 

The notebook ran for a meager 5 hours and 17 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's almost 3 hours less than the ultraportable laptop average of 8 hours and 2 minutes.

To be fair, short battery life is expected on laptops with 4K displays, which sap power at a much faster rate than lower-res screens. The trouble is that even other 4K notebooks outlasted the Radius 12, including the Dell XPS 13 (7:24) and the HP EliteBook Folio 12 (6:49). If you need a high-res notebook that can last through a long business flight, this isn't it.

The Radius' keyboard delivers an underwhelming typing experience, and has a few quirks on top of that. The biggest issue is the relatively shallow key travel of about 1.35 millimeters, which is below the 1.5-mm laptop average. Slightly deeper keys would provide a more comfortable, desktoplike typing experience, which is expected on a laptop in this price range.

Unusual key placement might also throw off some touch typists. Specifically, the tilde key has been moved from its usual position to the left of the "1" key, and is now nestled awkwardly between the left Alt key and the spacebar. It's not a huge deal, but I did find myself accidentally striking the tilde key from time to time. The other issue is that the arrow keys are extremely small, which makes it a bit difficult to navigate documents.

Then, there's the touchpad, which is actually designed pretty well. Cursor control is responsive, and I like the pad's smooth finish, which my finger glided over easily. But again, the unorthodox placement of the pad is a problem. Instead of being centered under the G and H keys, it's positioned slightly to the left. The result was that my left palm would occasionally brush against the pad while I was typing, causing the cursor to jump around my document. Upping the palm-rejection sensitivity in the Control Panel helped, but not enough to curb my frustration.

The Radius 12 includes a healthy number of ports, especially compared to other 12-inch notebooks. The left side has a USB 3.0 port, a full-size HDMI port for connecting a monitor or projector, and a USB Type-C port. The latter is a forward-thinking addition that will come in handy if you happen to own a newer USB Type-C-based smartphone or tablet, which allows for faster charging and has a reversible design.

The right edge sports a second USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot for expanding the notebook's internal storage. You also get a dedicated Cortana button, which is useful for summoning Microsoft's virtual assistant app while using the Radius 12 in tablet mode. Cortana makes it easy to perform all sorts of tasks, from searching your desktop to setting a reminder or adding an appointment to your calendar.

The Radius 12 delivers excellent performance for the price. Under the hood, there's a 6th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. I never noticed a hint of slowdown during my testing period, even in the midst of heavy multitasking.

Those impressions were reflected in our tests. The Radius 12 racked up an impressive score of 5,779 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That score beats the category average of 4,340, and easily outdoes rival laptops like the Core M-powered HP EliteBook 1020 (3,814) and the Apple MacBook (4,631).

Toshiba sells the Radius 12 in a couple of different hardware configurations. The top-end model — the one I tested for this review — comes with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 4K display, all for $1,299.

A more affordable model is also available for $999. That model includes a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a lower-res 1080p touch screen. We didn't have a chance to test that model, but it's sure to get better battery life than our 4K unit.

A handful of good productivity apps come preloaded on the Radius 12. They include OneNote and Evernote, both of which make it easy to take notes and keep them organized. Also included is OneDrive, which lets you upload your documents to the cloud so they're backed up and accessible from anywhere. You also get a free one-month trial of Microsoft Office 365 — which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint — though you'll have to pay for a subscription if you want to keep using the apps past the trial period.

Toshiba also included a few of its own productivity apps. My favorite is TruRecorder, which lets you record audio and then isolate and tag individual speakers to better hear an individual voice. That could really come in handy for reviewing business meetings.

A 4K display is a nice perk on a work laptop, since it lets you view more content at once on a small screen. Toshiba's Satellite Radius 12 delivers that and more, providing solid performance and a sturdy, lightweight design. The 360-degree hinge is a nice perk, too.

Still, most workers would be better off opting for another 4K machine, such as the Dell XPS 13 or the HP EliteBook Folio 1020, both of which offer significantly better battery life than the Radius 12. And if you can live with a lower-res screen, Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 12 is an excellent hybrid laptop with good battery life and a digitizer pen.

Still, if you plan to work near a power outlet most of the time, the Satellite Radius 12 is worth a look.

Brett Nuckles

A former Ohio newspaper man, Brett Nuckles fled the Midwest in 2013. He now lives in Seattle, where he spends his days tinkering with smartphones, tablets and computers. He loves to think about the intersection of technology and productivity, and how to get the most out of new gadgets and apps. He's also a big fan of vegetarian food and digital painting. In his off hours he spends most of his time drawing and painting sci-fi/fantasy scenes on his PC with his trusty Wacom stylus in hand.