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.
The Toshiba Satellite P505-S8980 is best suited for those conflicted souls who cannot decide whether to purchase a desktop or a laptop. Though technically a laptop, the Satellite P505, with its 18.4-inch wide-screen display and nearly 9-pound weight, will most likely be found sitting atop a desk rather than your lap. Regardless of its perch, it can't stray too far from an outlet because its battery life is poor for even a big, power-hungry desktop replacement.
It serves up a fairly average configuration for the price: for $849, you get a midrange Intel Core 2 Duo processor, an ample 6GB of memory, integrated Intel graphics, and a roomy 500GB hard drive. Pleasant surprises among its features include a Blu-ray player and Harman Kardon speakers. The keyboard and mouse buttons don't provide the best experience, however, and we are puzzled by the media control keys' placement to the left of the keyboard. And why Toshiba has the controls emit a loud beep by default when activated is also a puzzler (something we've noted in previous Toshiba reviews).
You'll get better battery life and save about 1.5 pounds of system weight and some cash by opting instead for a 17.3-inch model such as the Dell Studio 1745-3691MBU or the HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx, but the Dell lacks a Blu-ray player and the HP lacks decent speakers.
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600|
|Memory||6GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||17.4 x 11.6 x 1.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||18.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8.9 / 9.8 pounds|
Your typical desktop replacement has a 17-inch display and weighs between 7 and 8 pounds. The Toshiba Satellite adds more than an inch to the display and 1 to 1.5 pounds to the weight, bumping the display up to 18.4 inches on the diagonal and weighing in at 8.9 pounds. This is not a laptop that will leave the home with any regularity.
The Satellite P505-S8980 features Toshiba's Fusion finish. The plastic chassis is a glossy black with a subtle pattern of curved, criss-crossing pinstripes running across it. It looks nice, but the glossy finish attracts fingerprints almost immediately.
The keyboard, too, features a glossy finish. The keys are flat and roomy but they feel thin and a bit flimsy. The keyboard is raised up a bit too high from the tray for our taste, making the gap around its edges a clear destination for crumbs and dirt. And given the large expanse available, we don't think it's unreasonable to ask that the four arrow keys be full-size instead of half-height. A separate number pad sits to the right of the keyboard.
Toshiba unwisely chose the area to the left of the keyboard to place the touch-sensitive media control keys, where you're likely to accidentally graze them, particularly the volume-up button in the lower-right corner. A better spot for them would have been the large, blank area above the keyboard and between the speakers.
By default, the media control keys emit a horrendous beep each time you purposely or accidently touch them. Thankfully, you can disable the beep through the Toshiba Assist utility (Optimize > Toshiba Hardware settings > Button Setting tab > Disable Function Button Beep). But as we've pointed out in previous Toshiba reviews, having this beeping turned on by default is an incomprehensible design decision.
The touch pad is the only matte surface on the entire laptop, though the Fusion design continues across, allowing it to blend into its surroundings. It's a good size, too--not as large as the Dell Inspiron 1745's huge touch pad, which we frequently brushed with our palm, resulting in spastic cursor movements. A bright white LED light runs across the top edge of the Satellite P505's touch pad, providing the only visual clue to its presence. You can disable the LED lights via the Toshiba Assist utility, but in doing so you'll also disable the lights for the media control keys (they'll still light up for a second or two when touched) and the small "Satellite" logo in the bottom left corner. The two chrome-plated mouse buttons are large and slightly angled to provide comfort. Unfortunately, they're also loud and clacky.
Its 18.4-inch display features a 1,680x945 native resolution. That's an odd pixel count for this size screen. Pricier 18.4-inch models, such as the Asus N90Sv X1 and the Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q850, feature a finer 1,920x1,080 resolution. Still, the Satellite P505's image looked crisp and sharp. The glossy screen finish helps smooth edges with DVDs and HD videos, and it also lets colors pop. It's not an LED-backlit display; in fact, the Dell Inspiron 1745-3691's LED display was both brighter and thinner.
The Satellite P505-S8980 features Harman Kardon stereo speakers. They emit clear, full sound that is more than acceptable for movies and even some music--as long as you're not attempting to fill a big room. The Harman Kardon speakers are clearly superior to your standard pair of laptop speakers, but the Dell Inspiron 1745 does you one better by including a small but effective subwoofer. Its JBL 2.1 speakers offer bigger, fuller sound than the Satellite P505's speakers as a result.
|Toshiba Satellite P505-S8980||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone/ microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, eSATA/USB port, FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray player / DVD burner||DVD burner|
Given its large size, we thought the Satellite P505-S8980 might provide some extra ports. But Toshiba didn't take advantage of the laptop's huge case and merely outfitted it with a standard assortment of ports. FireWire also joins the party, which is increasingly left off of the invite list on today's laptops. The USB/eSATA combo port features Toshiba's Sleep-and-Charge function, which lets you charge USB devices when the laptop is turned off or asleep. HDMI is present, which is a must with a Blu-ray player on board. In addition to playing Blu-ray Discs, the optical drive can read and write DVDs and CDs, and it also features LabelFlash, which lets you laser-etch graphics on special discs.
The Satellite P505-S8980 features a typical midrange configuration, using the 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 processor and integrated Intel graphics. The only spec out of the ordinary for this price point is the 6GB of RAM. Most laptops near the Satellite P505's price feature 4GB of RAM. As it turns out, the extra memory didn't do much in CNET Labs testing. The Satellite P505 finished squarely in the middle of the mainstream pack. Its performance will suffice for the majority of mainstream users. Windows 7 felt peppy, even during heavy multitasking. Gaming isn't much of an option, however, since the laptop relies on integrated Intel graphics.