Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
Coming in at the lower end of the $600-$899 mainstream category in our current retail laptop roundup, the Toshiba Satellite A305-S6905 is a well-designed, middle-of-the-road system with a 15-inch display, 320GB hard drive, touch-sensitive media controls, and Harman/Kardon-branded speakers.
If you must have Bluetooth with your laptop or have a pet peeve about visible fingerprints, then this glossy, black Toshiba A305 may not be for you. Also worth noting: this system's slightly more expensive cousin, the $749 Toshiba Satellite A305-S6916, looks similar and adds more RAM plus a dedicated video card for casual gaming.
|Price as reviewed||$629|
|Processor||2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400|
|Memory||3GB, 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Hard drive||320GB (5400rpm)|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.3 inches wide by 10.5 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.3 pounds|
The Toshiba Satellite A305-S6905 has a modern look and feel, with rounded edges and a black, glossy finish with a silver, striped pattern along the edges. Toshiba calls the pattern Horizon, and it gives the A305 a little more design flair than other budget laptops.
The flat trackpad is backlit, as are the media controls that sit above the keyboard. The sizable, rounded, silver mouse buttons are easy to find without have to look down at them. While the glossy keyboard keeps with the overall modern design, it is a tad unusual in that the individual keys are especially fingerprint-prone (in the same vein as the Toshiba Satellite A305-S6916).
One slight drawback was the lack of volume controls (other than mute) in the row of media control buttons. The volume was easily adjusted on the physical volume control wheel at the front of the device, but you'd have to know to look for it.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280 x 800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. This provides for text and icons that are highly readable, and while it's well-suited for 720p HD video content, you won't get the full effect of true 1,080p video downloads, which are becoming more popular.
|Toshiba A305-S6905||Average for category (mainstream)|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), mini-FireWire, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Modem||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
While Bluetooth is conspicuously missing, we do credit the budget-priced A306-6905 with including a full ExpressCard/54 slot and a combo USB/eSATA port, both of which will be very helpful for expanding your system down the line.
Intel's 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 CPU is pretty much the default for mainstream laptops under $900, and the Satellite S6905 was on par with other T6400 laptops in our benchmark tests. The very similar Satellite S6916 was slightly faster, thanks to 4GB of RAM versus 3GB in the S6905. In real-world terms, any of these T6400 laptops is fine for typical use, such as Web surfing, office documents, media viewing. The S6905 was a perfectly acceptable performer, with no slowdown or stuttering in anecdotal use.
The Satellite S6905 performed better than the S6916 in terms of battery life on our video playback battery drain test, running for an impressive 3 hours and 36 minutes. The S6916 also has to power a dedicated video card, so it understandably ran for a little less than 3 hours.
The Satellite S6905 includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads. While Best Buy is happy to sell you an in-store extended warranty, those are often expensive and hard to use, so we don't recommend them.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)