Editors' note: This review is part of our Back-to-school 2009 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
When Best Buy introduced its Blue Label laptops from HP and Toshiba last year, the machines featured thin and lightweight designs, long battery life, backlit keyboards, and two-year warranties. These were features Best Buy shoppers had put at the top of their laptop wish lists in a customer survey. This year's version of Toshiba's Blue Label laptop, the Satellite E105-S1602 adds another feature that's sure to be a hit with laptop buyers: recession pricing. The Satellite E105-S1602 comes outfitted in the identical chassis with nearly the same specs as its predecessor and costs $300 less. That's a considerable amount when you consider the only step back it takes is the move to a marginally slower Core 2 Duo processor. What's more, the hard drive is larger on this year's model. The $799 Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602 is among our favorite mainstream laptops for its solid construction and good looks, comfortable keyboard and touch pad, and substantial price break.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350|
|Memory||4GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB, 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.4 x 9.7 x 1.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.2 / 5.7 pounds|
The Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602 uses the same chassis as last year's Satellite E105-S1402, which is to say it's a departure from the standard Satellite styling. The boxy shape looks very different from the sloped, angled edges found on other Satellite laptops; the straight, vertical edges bring to mind the shape of an Apple MacBook. The E105 chassis is draped in a silver--almost pewter--color with Toshiba's "Fusion" finish, a pleasing, subtle pattern of pin stripes and curved lines on the lid, keyboard deck, screen bezel, and touch pad.
The keyboard is exceedingly comfortable--akin to the quality found with a ThinkPad keyboard. There's little of the flex that can be found on some keyboards, and the keys offer good travel along with backlighting, a tenet of Best Buy's Blue Label program. The strip of illuminated, touch-sensitive media control buttons to the right of the keyboard, however, means that some of the keys are shorter than you'd expect from a keyboard on a 14-inch laptop, particularly the space bar and right Ctrl key in the bottom row. And on more than one occasion, we found the volume mysteriously decreasing until we discovered our pinky finger had come to rest on the volume-down button at the bottom of the vertical strip of media control keys. We'd prefer that strip of keys run horizontally above the keyboard.
We have no complaints, however, about the touch pad. Toshiba's Fusion finish pattern runs uninterrupted across the touch pad, but while the rest of the laptop features a glossy finish, the touch pad has a matte finish for a comfortable mousing experience. Many laptops, HP's Pavilions being prime examples, have a glossy touch pad, which doesn't provide the best feel when dragging your finger across its surface. Below the touch pad, two wide but squat mouse buttons flank an always appreciated fingerprint reader.
The laptop's 14.1-inch screen features a 1,280x800 native resolution. The screen has a glossy finish, but it's far from the worst offender in terms of producing glare and reflections. It also offers only merely average image quality. During movie playback, we saw some color banding. Below average is the audio output from the two stereo speakers located on either side of the laptop's front edge. Movies and music sounded muddled and tinny. At maximum volume, we had to lean in close and still could barely make out Sam Elliott's intro to "The Big Lebowski." Integrated speakers are limited by their nature, but the E105-S1602's two speakers failed to meet even our low expectations.
Above the screen sit a Webcam and built-in microphone for video chats. Below are two sturdy hinges that keep the screen firmly rooted in place.
|Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, Webcam||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks, FM antenna jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 eSATA/USB), mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Satellite E105 provides an average allotment of connections, serving up three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, and a multiformat media card reader. An eSATA connection is becoming a more frequent addition to laptops, and one of the E105's USB ports doubles as an eSATA port for faster data transfer times to external hard drives with this interface. You won't find FireWire, which is found on less and less laptops these days, nor will you find a ExpressCard slot. The most surprising inclusion here is an FM radio jack; Toshiba includes a small FM antenna in the box should you want to listen to the radio over the airwaves instead of streaming it over the Internet.
The retail-only Satellite E105-S1602 is available in a single fixed configuration, based on Intel's Centrino 2 platform. It features the 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo P7350 processor, which is basically the same chip as the Core 2 Duo P8400 found in last year's E105 model. The only real difference between the two processors is clock speed: the P7350 is clocked at 2.0GHz, and the P8400 runs at 2.26GHz. Though it trims $300 off the price of its predecessor, the E105-S1602 features a larger hard drive, replacing the 320GB unit with a 500GB drive.
While some laptops in this price range, such as the Dell Studio 1440-022B, Dell Studio XPS 1340-024B, and the HP TouchSmart tx2-1275dx, feature dedicated graphics, the E105 relies on Intel's integrated chip that borrows resources from the main system memory. Gamers searching for a bargain should keep looking, but for general mainstream use, the Satellite E105-S1602 offers competitive performance for a mainstream laptop. It didn't take top honors on any of CNET Labs' application benchmarks, but--to borrow a line from the just-completed Tour de France--it finished with the peloton on each test (and none of our tests featured a breakaway group).
|Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.50|
|Sleep (10 percent)||0.89|
|Idle (25 percent)||12.02|
|Load (5 percent)||37.38|
|Annual energy cost||$5.23|
Lengthy battery life is a key point in the Blue Label program, and Toshiba outfits the Satellite E105 with an eight-cell battery, which can hold on longer than a standard six-cell battery. It topped the 4-hour mark on our demanding video playback battery drain test. The 13-inch HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx uses a nine-cell battery and was able to last for more than 5 hours on the same test, while the 14-inch HP Pavilion dv4-1465dx hit the 5.5-hour mark, thanks to a 12-cell battery (it also weighs nearly a pound more than the Satellite E105).
Nearly every consumer laptop sold today is backed by a one-year warranty, but Best Buy customers said they wanted something more, and the Blue Label program doubles down on the length of the warranty. The Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602 is backed by a two-year term. You'll find user forums, driver downloads, and a toll-free support phone number on Toshiba's Web site.