Editors' note: This review is part of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
If asked to describe the $749 Toshiba Satellite A305-S6872 in a single word, we'd say this: solid. The 15.4-inch system incorporates middle-of-the-road components that nevertheless outperformed similarly priced systems on our performance benchmarks. Its bulky nine-cell battery, though adding some weight and an inch of thickness at the back of the system, lasted more than 4 hours on our drain test. And the laptop features the shiny case and smart silver pinstripes that grace even more expensive Satellites. All of this adds up to a thoroughly decent midsize laptop that should especially appeal to home users who don't want to be constantly tethered to a wall socket. That said, if you want to carry something lighter and don't need the extra battery life, you should consider the nearly identical Sony Vaio NS140E/W ($799); it offers performance that's similar (though battery life that's briefer) to the Satellite A305-S6872.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800|
|Memory||3GB at 667MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.3 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches (battery adds 1 inch of height at the rear)|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.4 / 7.3 pounds|
The Satellite A305-S6872 features Toshiba's "Horizon" case pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver gray with pinstripes that resemble an optical illusion. The finish is almost mirrorlike, and even light handling will leave major fingerprints all over it. The case's rounded corners resemble the HP Pavilion dv6915nr, and the two systems are nearly identical in size. At 6.4 pounds with the included nine-cell battery, the Satellite A305-S6872 is a reasonable weight to carry on occasional trips but too heavy to carry every day.
The stripes continue inside the case, both along the sides of the keyboard and on the wrist rest (even the touch pad has a subtle striped design). The keys are made of very glossy plastic that fits the aesthetic but is so shiny, it can be distracting. Fortunately, the keyboard is comfortable; with your eyes closed it feels like any other nearly full-size board. The touch pad is likewise roomy, though we were annoyed by the glowing white stripe across the top of the pad, which seems to be just decoration (we thought maybe it would change colors if the touch pad were disabled, but no dice). We took some consolation in the fact that it--along with other distractingly illuminated case elements, a Satellite logo in the bottom left-hand corner and a row of touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard--can be turned off using Toshiba's HWSetup utility.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. The display's glossy finish produces rich colors and contrast; we found it minimally distracting while surfing the Web and typing e-mail, but quite enjoyable for movie watching. A Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.
While other versions of the Satellite A305 include four USB ports, the A305-S6872 trades one USB for an eSATA port so you can connect an external hard drive. The remaining USB ports incorporate Toshiba's Sleep-and-Charge feature, which means you can plug in and charge USB devices (iPods, mobile phones, and so on) even if the laptop is powered off, as long as it's plugged into an outlet. The Satellite A305-S6872 also restores the mini-FireWire connection that was left off previous editions. Sound from the stereo Harman Kardon speakers was surprisingly loud, but lacked low end--it's good for streaming TV shows, for example, but not great for music.
The retail-only Satellite A305-S6872 is a middle-of-the-road fixed configuration that includes a previous-generation 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 processor, 3GB of RAM, integrated Intel graphics, and a 5,400rpm hard drive with 250GB capacity. These components were enough to keep the Satellite A305-S6872 toward the front of the competitive pack on CNET Labs' benchmarks; it easily surpassed similar systems built around the AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core processors, such the Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7825 and the HP G60-125NR. The Satellite A305-S6872 did trail behind the HP Pavilion dv4-1125nr, which benefitted from an extra gigabyte of RAM, on our multitasking and Photoshop tests. However, we found the Satellite A305-S6872's speed perfectly adequate for standard multitasking (e.g., surfing the Web while streaming music and typing a document).
The Toshiba Satellite A305-S6872 took the battery-life crown among budget systems in our holiday roundup, lasting just over 4 hours on our video-playback drain test. That's well above average for a midsize laptop, and it's largely attributable to the Toshiba's nine-cell battery, which adds some extra weight and thickness to the system.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line and an online knowledge base and driver downloads.