Editor's note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
With a shiny black case and smart silver pinstripes, the $749 Toshiba Satellite A305D-S6848 features the upscale design found on the more-expensive 13-inch Satellite we reviewed earlier this year. It also incorporates the company's cool new Sleep and Charge feature, which lets you charge USB devices even when the laptop is shut down. But while the 15.4-inch model's far lower price is partly a function of size (bigger laptops are easier to design), it also comes from a number of economies inside the case--namely, a budget AMD processor that posted some of the lowest benchmark scores among a group of similarly priced systems. Users who need more multitasking oomph will be better served by the $729 Dell Inspiron 1525-122b or the $799 Gateway T-6836.
|Processor||2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60|
|Memory||3GB at 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||200GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Radeon Xpress X1250 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.3 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.1 / 7.0 pounds|
The Satellite A305-S6848 features Toshiba's new "Horizon" case pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver-gray and black 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 6.1 pounds, the Satellite A305-S6848 is average for the mainstream category, and reasonable to carry on occasional trips but perhaps not daily around campus.
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 as to 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 offers a 1,280x800-pixel 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 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.
Like all new Satellite models, the Satellite A305D-S6848 incorporates a feature called Sleep and Charge, 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. Most laptops provide power to USB ports only while they're turned on. Note that this feature is turned off by default for no particularly good reason, and you'll have to hunt to find how to turn it on, as it's completely buried in a series of submenus. (Start > All Programs > Toshiba > Utilities > HWStup > USB).
The Toshiba Satellite A305-S6848 incorporates plenty of USB jacks for all your accessories but lacks FireWire, which we're seeing less frequently. 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 A305D-S6848 is a fixed configuration that includes a budget 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 processor, 3GB of RAM, and integrated ATI graphics. We are sensing a pattern; like the slightly pricier AMD-based Satellite A305D-S6835 model we reviewed in May, this Satellite unit trailed behind a handful of similarly priced Intel Core 2 Duo systems on CNET Labs' benchmarks. In fact, the Satellite A305D-S6848 came in last or near-last place on almost all of our tests, performing right in line with the (also AMD-based) HP Pavilion dv6915nr. While we found the speed adequate for basic Web surfing and media playback, we do think users looking for a bit more oomph will be better served by any of the Core 2 Duo-based laptops in this price range in our back-to-school roundup, all of which performed significantly better than the Satellite A305D-S6848.
The Toshiba Satellite A305D-S6848 ran for 2 hours and 25 minutes on our video playback battery test, using the included six-cell battery. That's slightly above average for a mainstream laptop, and 10 minutes longer than the time posted by the Dell Inspiron 1525-122B. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.
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.