Editors' note: This review is part of our Spring 2010 Retail Laptop and Desktop roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
In the previous holiday retail roundup of laptops, our favorite budget notebook ended up being the Toshiba Satellite A505-6980. At $629, its package of a Core 2 Duo processor, long battery life, bright 16-inch screen, and great speakers made it a heavy, rather unportable, but good-valued general computer.
The A505-S6025 falls into our mainstream category, not budget, chiefly because the price--$799--and increased feature set elevate it. Gone is the low-end Core 2 Duo processor, replaced with an Intel Core i3 CPU. Instead of integrated graphics, the A505-S6025 has Nvidia GeForce 310M dedicated graphics.
Otherwise, the screen size, speakers, and bulky battery--a 12-cell--remain largely the same. We can't say that this is the most affordable Core i3; however: in fact, it's one of the more expensive. And, unfortunately, it's as large as a tank. With Core i3 laptops becoming so incredibly affordable, the A505 lost whatever cache it once had last year and has become just another laptop. For just $629, you could get the Asus U50F instead and have a similar computing experience, minus the dedicated gaming graphics and longer battery life. The Satellite A505-S6025 is a well-constructed, gaming-capable laptop, yes, but also a large one--and for only a hundred more, you could easily enter the realm of higher-end machines. So, despite some decent specs and performance, the system's awkward in-between price works slightly against it.
|Price as reviewed||$799|
|Processor||2.1 GHz Intel Core i3 M330|
|Memory||4GB, 1066 MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 310M|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.1 x 10.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||16 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.2 / 8.2 pounds|
The Satellite A505-S6025 is one seriously thick laptop. With its chunky battery attached, it's even thicker than the 1.6 inches we measured--more like over 2 inches. At more than 8 pounds with its AC adapter, this is a computer that will need a reinforced bag and some good shoulder strength to carry.
It's not unattractive, however, on the inside. With a glossy black body and a dull silver trim around the edges, the A505 looks like a premium multimedia laptop with its lid open. Harman Kardon speakers flank both sides of an LED touch-key media control strip above the keyboard, and the edge-to-edge keyboard includes a full-size number pad.
The glossy black finish, etched with a spread of varying gray pinstripes that Toshiba calls "quantum black," is much like many other Satellites: curved and flashy, but awfully eager to show off smudges and prints. We liked the interior better, which is fortunate, since the A505 seems destined for a life seated on a desk, sedentary and unlikely to ever move into a backpack or bag.
The 16-inch glossy LED-backlit screen on the Satellite A505-6025 has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is a standard size for 16x9 screens in general, but a little low for screens in the 16-inch and larger range. Having a full HD 1,900x1,080 display would have been preferred (although they're rare under 17 or 18 inches), or at least 1,600x900.
Still, our display looked good both when computing and playing back videos and games, although to its credit, the Asus U50F, at only $649, looked equally good to our eyes. As always, Toshiba's speakers are decidedly better than average. The stereo Harman Kardon speakers on the A505--6025 are louder than nearly any other laptop we've recently reviewed and have well-defined bass, a rarity. We won't give this laptop a pass thanks to its speakers alone, but they help justify the relatively higher price.
|Toshiba Satellite A505-6025||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA sleep-and-charge port, SD card reader, mini-Firewire||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
With a laptop this huge, we would at least expect an extensive selection of ports, and the A505-6025 delivers on that front. USB 2.0, a combo eSATA and sleep-and-charge port, HDMI, FireWire and an ExpressCard slot round out a nearly complete set of options, with only Bluetooth omitted. The included 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM are nice touches, but hardly noteworthy anymore: in fact, they are fast becoming standards in the mainstream category, based on our recent reviews.
Running the show inside the A505-6025 is a new Intel Core i3 M330 CPU, a processor that has already impressed us with its speed and overall multitasking performance, especially for the price of the laptops it's being dropped into. Unfortunately, the A505-6025 performs nearly identically to other Core i3 M330 laptops. We say "unfortunately" because the Asus U50F-RBBAG05, also reviewed in this roundup, only costs $649. The Satellite A505-6025 is an extra $150, placing it at the upper end of Core i3 laptops.
The A505-6025 does have its advantages, however: first and foremost is its discrete graphics, thanks to an Nvidia GeForce 310M included inside. This is a good GPU, especially for a general mainstream user--our gaming benchmark had Unreal Tournament III running at 36 fps in 1,440x900 mode downscaled to native resolution, and it can play most mainstream games. That's an admitted plus for this Toshiba Satellite--many of the other Core i3s we reviewed only had integrated graphics. The question is: do you feel like paying $150 for that privilege?
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)