Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 Retail Laptop and Desktop Spring roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
At this year's CES, one of the technologies that captured our interest was Intel's Wireless Display technology, or WiDi. Presented as a simple plug-and-play way of transmitting a laptop's video signal to any TV with the help of a small Netgear-made box, WiDi presents a tempting solution to the often messy methods currently available to those who want to get their Hulu on the big screen. (For more on Intel's Wireless Display, check out our hands-on report and video.)
WiDi, however, needs to be built into a compatible laptop. One of the first notebook computers to include WiDi at retail is the $899 Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904, a model that's exclusive to Best Buy. Though having WiDi included makes the E205-S1904 intriguing enough, we're also excited because the last Best Buy exclusive design that Toshiba made, the E105-S1802, was one of our favorite Satellite laptops. We particularly liked it for incorporating a more comfortable keyboard and touch pad than are available in most mainstream Satellite models.
The new E205 changes the look of the E105 considerably. Gone is the boxy but clean look, replaced with a sleek curved blue design. A new Intel Core i5 processor replaces the previous Core 2 Duo, offering some performance upgrades and power-management advantages. A slot-loading DVD/CD drive is also included. The keyboard is still backlit, and speaker volume is improved over the E105. At a price of $899, it's only $50 more than last year's E105 Blue Label offering. For the improved CPU and wireless display functionality alone, however, it's arguably worth it.
|Price as reviewed||$899|
|Processor||2.26 GHz Intel Core i5 M430|
|Memory||4GB, 1066 MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Media Accelerator HD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.7 x 9.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.8/5.1 pounds|
One of the biggest changes to the Toshiba Satellite E205 is cosmetic: whereas the E105 series had a clean, somewhat boring gray chassis and a solid, tapered keyboard, the E205 adopts a totally new look with a dark blue plastic finish (called Fusion Finish in metallic blue), rounded edges, and a slot-loading DVD drive. The laptop feels more plasticky and slightly less rugged than the E105, but it also looks trimmer, too. The E205 looks thin, but a lot of that is a visual effect produced by the extremely tapered edges along the sides and front. Still, the Satellite E205 is thinner than many full-size laptops at only 1.2 inches. A larger-than-normal rear hinge enables the 14-inch screen to open up at an angle that "floats" a little more off the keyboard than standard lids. The lid also opens up at a very wide angle.
Toshiba's move to a flat backlit keyboard instead of the very comfortable tapered keyboard on the E105 is frustrating: it's a return to the keyboard lineup available on most Satellites, and frankly, the flat keys leave something to be desired. Though the E205's flat keyboard seemed to respond a little better than the keyboards on other Satellites we've reviewed, the main part of the keyboard still flexes too much for our taste. The multitouch touch pad beneath is smaller than the stiff-clicking buttons beneath, which is awkward--but the flush matte touch pad surface worked fine for us as we used the E205. A row of dedicated media touch-keys run down the right side of the keyboard, controlling audio, basic play functions, an Eco power utility, and backlighting.
The Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904's 14-inch LED screen has a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is standard for mainstream HD laptops. With a 16x9 display and reasonably bright backlighting, the screen looked great when playing DVDs or streaming Hulu videos, although the glossy screen offered up a considerable amount of glare in an office environment. The big disappointment on the Satellite E205-S1904 is its stereo speakers: embedded in the front-facing underside of the laptop, they sounded middling and soft even at maximum volume. Toshiba laptops usually have strong speaker quality, and for a Blue Label product sold at Best Buy, we expected more.
|Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904||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, SD 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/CD burner||DVD burner|
The Satellite E205-S1904 lacks a few features available on mainstream-or-better machines, most notably Bluetooth, but its inclusion of a high-speed eSATA port and a USB sleep-and-charge port make up for the loss. The 4GB of included RAM can be expanded up to 8GB, and the 500GB hard drive is plenty generous for most people.
The included Intel Core i5 processor was a pleasure to use in our anecdotal testing, feeling snappier and better at multitasking than most mainstream Core 2 Duo processors. That was reflected in the benchmark results: though the Core i5 is an improvement over the E105-S1802's Core 2 Duo processor in iTunes and Photoshop tests, it's a huge leap forward in our multitasking test.
Loading videos in Flash and performing media tasks was a snap, especially with the built-in Intel HD Media Accelerator. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the E205-S1904 has no dedicated gaming graphics. The E205 can't play mainstream games, therefore limiting this device to those looking for very solid media and video playback. Still, this E205-S1904 has great bang for the buck on most mainstream computing needs.
The E205's most notable feature, one we've profiled in great detail, is its Intel Wireless Display capability, or WiDi. The E205 can, with the assistance of a simple Toshiba software tool, send its video display to any TV with RCA or HDMI input jacks, courtesy of the included Netgear Push 2 TV box. The WiDi connection is akin to that of a Wi-Fi bridge, but has surprisingly decent clarity and can be initiated at the push of a button. Our initial tests worked well and at a far range, although a few subsequent tests had connection difficulties.
The playback works at resolutions up to 720p (although you can run 1080p files as well, they'll just display at the lower resolution), but DVDs and Blu-ray-formatted Discs are locked out for DRM reasons, limiting WiDi users to streamed Web programs or downloaded video files. The included Netgear box will eventually sell for $99 when this technology spreads to other laptops; if you consider that an included value, then the price of the Satellite E205-S1904 becomes even more reasonable. We also love that WiDi includes the transmission of sound, making it a complete cord-free solution for home users. We were very impressed with the results, but running WiDi will slow down your computer a good deal, which isn't going to be a problem, since the E205 mirrors whatever's on the screen to your television, and if you're streaming video, you likely won't be working on other projects.
|Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh Number||53.42|
|Annual power consumption cost||$6.06|