Toshiba is more than a little late to the Netbook party, and its inaugural effort (at least aimed at U.S. consumers) is the slick-looking Toshiba Mini NB205, but an awkward six-cell battery and some of the worst audio we've heard on a Netbook may not justify the now-premium $399 price.
With a familiar set of components, including an Intel Atom N280 CPU (similar to recent Asus models, and a tiny step up from the N270), 1GB of RAM, Windows XP, and a 160GB 5,400rpm HDD, the NB205 hits all the Netbook marks, but one can find the Acer Aspire One AOD250 for $299 (which does trade down to the N270 CPU), or a longer-lasting, but less awkward, battery in the $398 Asus Eee PC 1005HA.
That said, the textured white design is a standout (other available colors are blue, brown, and pink), and the big touch pad and widely spaced, raised keys may feel more familiar to those used to traditional full-size laptops.
|Price as reviewed||$399|
|Processor||1.66GHz Intel Atom N280|
|Memory||1GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 950 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows XP|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.4 x 7.6 (8.6 with battery) inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.9/3.5 pounds|
At first glance, the NB205 stands out from the Netbook crowd with a fingerprint-resistant white textured lid and a silver keyboard tray. It's a nice break from the glossy black systems we've seen from Asus, HP, and others. While not the slimmest Netbook we've seen, the chassis has a boxy, flat design with rounded corners, which makes for a nicely sophisticated look.
One of the most notable features on the NB205 is the keyboard. Breaking from the recent trend toward Apple- or Sony-style keyboards, with flat, low-profile keys, the NB205 goes for a raised keyboard, with widely separated tile keys. That's makes each key a little smaller, but the distance from letter to letter is close to what you'd find in a mainstream laptop keyboard. We had to take some time to get used to the new keyboard design, but eventually found it very easy and comfortable to use. However, some important keys get cut down a bit too much, including the Tab key, and the tilde key is awkwardly shoved in to the left of the spacebar, throwing off our touch typing.
Even better is the touch pad, a bit more than 3 inches wide, which is the biggest we've seen on a 10-inch Netbook. The oversize mouse buttons are also very useful, making for much easier screen navigation--there's nothing more frustrating than trying to navigate a tiny screen with a tiny touch pad.
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,024x600 native resolution, which is standard for Netbooks, although higher-resolution options will become more readily available from several PC makers later this year. The LED display helps make the lid thinner and uses less power, but the edges of the lid (what we call the screen bezel) extend far past the actual glass, making the screen feel smaller than it should.
|Toshiba Mini NB205||Average for category [netbook]|
|Audio||headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (one sleep-and-charge USB), SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Toshiba outfits nearly all its laptops with sleep-and-charge technology, including one of the three USB ports on the NB205. That allows you to power or charge USB devices from that port, even if the laptop is sleeping, hibernating, or off. Bluetooth is included, but not the newer 802.11n flavor of Wi-Fi (although relatively few people have N-level routers).
One distracting feature was the system's audio, or lack thereof. The single speaker, located on the underside of the system, was nearly useless--even with the volume cranked all the way up, we could barely make out the audio from podcasts, music, or Web video.
Netbooks across the price spectrum tend to live within a rather narrow performance margin, and the Toshiba NB205 was no exception. However, while the slightly faster N280 version of Intel's Atom processor found in the NB205 (as well as the Asus Eee PC) helped the system do well in our single-app tests, the NB205 fell behind other Netbooks in our multitasking test (although no Netbooks, which all have single-core processors, do particularly well in this benchmark). Still, any of these current minilaptops offers enough computing power for the basic tasks for which they are designed--namely Web surfing, working on documents, and some basic multimedia playback--as long as expectations are kept appropriately modest.
The NB205 scores another hit with its battery life, running an impressive 6 hours and 14 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. Of course, we'd expect at least that much with the giant six-cell battery protruding a full inch from the rear of the system. Other Netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 1005HA manage to work in a six-cell battery without breaking the silhouette, but at the expense of an overall bulkier look.