Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
While we've never been particularly enamored of the Toshiba NB205's awkward battery and terrible audio (or its oddly spaced keyboard), this $399 retail configuration is still a better deal than similar retail Netbooks we've reviewed at the same price from Asus and HP.
With a familiar set of components, including an Intel Atom N280 CPU (a tiny step up from the N270), 1GB of RAM, Windows 7 Starter, and a 160GB 5,400rpm HDD, the NB205 hits all the Netbook marks, but you can find similar components for as much as $100 less if you shop around.
That said, the textured design is a standout (available colors are blue, white, and pink), and the big touch pad and mouse buttons are among the best we've used on a Netbook.
|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 7 Starter|
|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|
When we first reviewed the launch version of the NB205, we were impressed with its fingerprint-resistant textured lid and multiple color options, which were 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 (except for the giant battery sticking out of the back like a carry handle, but more on that later).
The NB205 goes for a raised keyboard, with widely separated tile keys. That makes each key a little smaller, but the distance from letter to letter is actually close to what you'd find in a mainstream laptop keyboard. Some users claim to love this layout, and we eventually got used to it, but we prefer the low-profile wide, flat keys found on most other current Netbooks. In the NB205's case, some important keys get cut down a little too much, including the Tab key, and the tilde key is awkwardly shoved into the left of the spacebar, throwing off our touch typing.
Much better is the touch pad. It's a bit more than 3 inches wide, which is the biggest we've seen on a 10-inch Netbook. The oversized 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. More Netbook-makers should adopt this as their new standard.
One disappointing 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 without resorting to headphones.
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,024x600 native resolution, which is standard for Netbooks, although higher-resolution options are readily available in Netbooks that start at the same $399 you'll pay for the NB205.
|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||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 not included, nor is the newer 802.11n flavor of Wi-Fi--we'd expect to see at least one of those in a $399 Netbook.
Netbooks tend to live within a rather narrow performance margin, and the slightly faster N280 version of Intel's Atom processor found in the NB205 didn't have much of an impact compared with the N270 Netbooks in our Holiday 2009 Retail Laptop Roundup. That said, just about any Intel Atom N-series system offers enough computing power for the basic tasks for which they are designed--namely Web surfing, working on office documents, and some basic multimedia playback--as long as expectations are kept modest.
But keep in mind that the next generation of Atom chips is around the corner, and even some current or very imminent models include the dual-core Atom and Nvidia's Ion graphics chip, so the standards of acceptable Netbook performance may be about to change.