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.
You can't argue with a large-screen, value-priced laptop when it delivers good performance, and looks nice to boot. We appreciated the Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960 when we reviewed it in our 2009 back-to-school retail roundup, liking its affordability, large screen, strong battery life, and excellent-sounding speakers. Just a few months later, we find ourselves with a nearly identical model in the Satellite A505-S6980. The difference is mainly that Windows 7 is preinstalled in the new model rather than Vista, but the S6980 also has a slightly faster processor and a hard drive bumped up to 500GB--all for $20 less than the S6960. We liked it before, and like it even more now.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$629|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600|
|Memory||4GB, DDR2 800 MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.1 inches wide by 10.2 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||16 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7 / 7.8 pounds|
Toshiba uses its Fusion Finish on the A505-S6980 just as it did with the S6960, calling it a "sonic pattern in black onyx." It's a stylish look, with a light-gray, wavy, pin-stripe pattern on a glossy black background on the lid, palm-rests, and speaker grills above the keyboard. The Harman Kardon speakers sound great, exhibiting a quality usually found only in laptops that cost significantly more than the S6980's budget price.
The keyboard is comfortably large, with a full number pad on the right end. We appreciate that the edge-to-edge space is fully utilized. The large keys are flat and placed close together, but are also somewhat slick, making the keyboard slightly unsatisfying to type on. Due to the glossy nature of everything, the laptop also collects a lot of fingerprints. A row of touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard and a Webcam and mic above the screen round out the package.
The A505 has a thick body made thicker by the extended-life battery that comes with this system. The 12-cell battery adds weight and bulk compared with a standard 6-cell pack and lifts the back of the keyboard off your lap or work surface. This provides better airflow under the notebook, as well as an improved typing angle, but will make it a tighter squeeze into some laptop bags; it's like a laptop riser you can't remove.
The 16-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is typical for its size. As we've come to expect from Toshiba's laptops, it's a quality display, with good color, contrast, and brightness. The wide screen has plenty of real estate for laying out two documents side-by-side, and videos looked and sounded great.
|Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA sleep-and-charge, multiformat card reader||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|
The I/O, port, and jack connections are what we expect from a laptop in this price range, though we were happy to find Toshiba's sleep-and-charge eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port and HDMI in attendance. Unfortunately, most of the connectors are crammed into the front half of the left side to accommodate a large heat vent. If you plug in peripherals at a desk, there's a good chance you'll have all manner of cables snaking from that area. The only thing we really found lacking is built-in Bluetooth, but at this price it's not a shocker.
The Toshiba Satellite Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980 is a retail-only fixed configuration. However, the memory and hard-drive compartments are easily accessed through the bottom of the case should you want to do post-purchase upgrades.
The 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 processor is a small step up from the 2.1 GHz T6500 in the previous retail version, and it basically adds up to a nearly identical experience. While it's a budget version of the Core 2 Duo, it has plenty of horsepower to accomplish nearly all basic tasks a normal user would want to do. While the S6980 doesn't have discrete graphics, meaning it's not really able to play many games, most casual browser-based games will run just fine.
|Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980||Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)|
|Raw kWh Number||44.3|
|Annual Energy Cost||$5.03|
The A505-S6980 ran for 6 hours and 2 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 12-cell battery. That's a really excellent number for a machine this size, and should have plenty of juice to fill a good part of a day's computing. The only drawback to the battery is its size, so if you're not traveling with the laptop and just need extra lap time without a power cord, this is a good option. Plus, our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect all-day life from casual Web surfing and productivity tasks. This notebook is also Energy Star qualified.
The Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980 is backed by an industry-standard, one-year warranty. Support is accessible 24-7 via a toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and a Web site with driver downloads. While retail shops are happy to sell you an in-store extended warranty, they are often expensive and hard to use, so we don't recommend them.