Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
Sitting at the budget level of our roundup (a step above entry-level), the Satellite M505-S4945 is positioned as a midrange multimedia laptop designed for affordability and some degree of style. It's in a similar territory to the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 and the Gateway TC7804u, both in specs and price. At $699, the M505-S4945's price isn't rock bottom, but it's a decent option for those who want a Core 2 Duo machine with good audio. However, if you're a heavy multimedia user, it's lacking Blu-ray, higher-end discrete graphics, and full HD resolution, all of which can be had for a few hundred more in other laptop models.
Equipped with a Core 2 Duo processor and integrated graphics, as well as better-than-average speakers and a good 16x9 display, the M505-S945 presents the best value for someone who wants to view a lot of media files (as long as it's not full HD). For heavy office workers and writers, however, this slightly ungainly machine might disappoint.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$699|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500|
|Memory||3GB, DDR2 800 MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.5x9.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.44 / 6.10 pounds|
Covered with a pinstripe dark gray glossy finish and lined in silvery plastic, the Satellite M505-S4945 has an attractive look to it, although the surfaces (including the keyboard, which also has a glossy finish) are extremely fingerprint-prone. This is a boxy laptop, though: at 1.6 inches thick, it has a seriously chunky base compared with recent thin-and-light machines with optical drives.
While the keyboard of the M505 isn't backlit, dedicated media keys above the function keys are LED-lit and touch-sensitive, controlling volume, play/pause and track-skipping, a launcher to Toshiba's PowerCinema photo/video viewing software, and a hot key to an Eco utility panel for energy-saving presets. The touch keys work, but the volume buttons are finicky and make annoying beeps when used. The keyboard is flat, with soft-feeling keys. Typing was made slightly awkward by the slick surfaces of the keys, which tend to feel greasy after a while. A multitouch touch pad has an LED-strip at the top for (we assume) finding it in dim rooms, but the glossy feel to the pad, as well as its smaller-than-normal size compared with the buttons below it, made it feel inaccurate and hard to control.
The 1,366x768 14-inch screen is a standard resolution for a 16x9 LCD of this size. LED-backlit, its colors were sharp and bright during video playback, and viewing angles were decent. Of particular note are the built-in Harman/Kardon stereo speakers, which have great sound compared with most laptops in this range. They're similar to the speakers in the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450, and are a notable improvement from the lackluster speakers in the recently reviewed entry-level Satellite L305 and the L505 laptops.
|Toshiba Satellite M505-S4945||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, SD card reader, FireWire||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G WAN||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The port selection covers many of the basic needs for mainstream laptop owners: a generous three USB ports, plus a sleep-and-charge USB/eSATA combo port, which can charge USB devices when the laptop is sleeping or even off. This is a nearly universal Toshiba laptop feature, but it's a notable benefit for those who own Satellites. HDMI, a full-size ExpressCard slot, and a memory card slot are all welcome features. The M505 even has a 3G WAN antenna in addition to b/g/n Wi-Fi, and included wizards for configuring a broadband wireless account.
What's not great, though, is the hard-drive size. At 160GB, it feels ridiculously small. While 3GB of DDR2 RAM is a fair amount, the total package still feels inferior to what the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 provides. Although the Toshiba Satellite M505-S4945 costs $100 less and has a slightly faster T6500 processor, the IdeaPad's keyboard, touch pad, and overall feel were superior--plus it had a larger base hard drive. Then again, the M505 does offer a fairly complete total package that should be just fine for someone who wants a media-savvy, somewhat stylish all-in-one option.
One other note: an included vibration-sensitive hard-drive protection feature was hyperactive in our model, often activating in the middle of typing. It's nice to be safe, but our M505 felt cautious to a fault in its base configuration (this can be adjusted).
The T6500 Core 2 Duo processor and Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics are a package that's similar to what the IdeaPad Y450 and Gateway TC7804u featured, although those had slightly slower T6400 processors. The T6500 processor is a decent dual-core that will perform most office and casual media tasks well. In our multimedia multitasking tests, all three machines performed similarly, with some minor variations. For most office and casual use, and even some basic game playing without graphics card requirements, the M505 will perform just fine.
|Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.57|
|Sleep (10 percent)||1.09|
|Idle (25 percent)||17.03|
|Load (5 percent)||38.65|
|Annual energy cost||$6.60|