The NB550D looks much like any other netbook, although that's an appellation that Toshiba probably wouldn't apply to this particular system. Unlike the vast majority of netbooks currently on the market, the NB550D eschews Intel's Atom platform for AMD's competing Fusion platform, similar to the. Unlike the Sony, though, Toshiba's pricing for the NB550D puts it squarely in the sights of the cheaper set of Atom-powered netbooks. Does that make it a notebook? A netbook-style product? A notenetbook?
While its innards don't match up to the previous generation of netbooks, the style is undeniably still netbook-like. It's available in four colour variations; brown with dots, green with dots, orange with dots or blue with dots. The blue sample (technically the NB550D/00J PLL5FA-00J01S, but we're betting that's a name that only its mother uses) was the one we've tested, but having seen the range in the flesh, we've got to say that the blue and green are the standout choices. The blue, because it's perhaps the most sedate and ordinary of the designs (which many users may favour) and the green because it's undeniably lurid if that's what you like.
The NB550D has many of the high points and low points of the classic netbook design. You're not getting the full notebook keyboard experience, but Toshiba's design does at least stretch the keys out to the side of the netbook body, allowing for slightly larger keys and a more comfortable keyboard experience.
Toshiba equips the NB550D with a low power 1GHz AMD C-50 CPU, or as AMD would prefer it be called, an APU, because built into the CPU die is an integrated Radeon HD 6250 256MB GPU. Intel's been in the integrated graphics business for a good long time now, but AMD's take on the concept offers a greater graphics performance promise, although it'll eat into the general memory for an additional 118MB of shared memory when it needs to.
The C-50 aside, most of the NB550D's offerings are more from the pure netbook playbook, including a 10.1-inch 1024x600-pixel display screen, 250GB 5400rpm SATA hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and 10/100 Ethernet and media card reader slot. Nice touches include three USB 2.0 ports, one of which supports sleep charging of external devices and an HDMI-out socket. Combined with the Radeon GPU, this gives the NB550D some genuine possibilities for high-definition video output, at least in theory.
There are two distinct problems with the NB550D's basic specifications and they both relate to memory. The on-board 1GB of memory is adequate but definitely shows its limitations when you've got multiple applications running. Nobody expects a netbook to fly through performance tasks, but it's pretty clear that upping the memory, even if only to 2GB as Sony did with the Vaio YB, would pay big performance dividends. Toshiba also pre-installs Windows 7 Starter Edition 32-bit, meaning that if you were to upgrade the memory, you'd be limited to just over 3GB of usable memory, a limitation the 64-bit version of Windows 7 doesn't have at all.