Editors' note: This review is part of our spring 2010 retail laptop and desktop reviews roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Big-screen desktop replacement laptops are one of the greatest sources of highway robbery in the entire retail computer-shopping world. It's always tempting to gravitate to a massive 18-inch model flooded with LED lights and dream of a superpowered experience, especially when the price is reasonable. However, buyers beware. Many retail configurations are fitted with middling innards to achieve that price point, resulting in machines that are more bark than bite.
The Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8007 is a perfect example of this. We found its retail predecessor, the P505-S8980, to be a relatively good value. That was 2009 and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. In 2010, the P505D-S8007 has an AMD Turion II running the show along with middling ATI graphics chip, a combination that results in a decidedly last-generation performance at a price that's hardly cheap: $749. For only $50 more, Toshiba has another laptop, the Satellite A505-6025, that's a relative bargain with a far faster Core i3 processor and actually good Nvidia graphics chip. For only $649, you could get a 16-inch Asus U50F-RBBAG05 with a Core i3 processor would also provide a better, lighter experience . Is there any good reason to get the P505D-S8007? Let's see. Graphics? No. Performance? No. Price? No. Battery life? No. This system was at the bottom of every chart. If we could stamp a "no buy" label on one product, this would be it.
|Price as reviewed||$749|
|Processor||2.3 GHz AMD Turion II Dual-Core M520|
|Memory||4GB, 800 MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||17.4x11.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||18.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||9.0 / 10.0 pounds|
Not for the weak of arm or those short in desk space, the Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8007 is one seriously big laptop. Weighing in with its adapter at 10 pounds and measuring 17 inches long, the P505D won't fit in many laptop backpacks--but at least its battery doesn't bulge in the back. Its glossy "sonic black" plastic chassis with "fusion finish"--understated gray lines etched through--is a fingerprint magnet, although the base's bottom is dull matte black. The body of the P505D is virtually the same as the one that graces Toshiba's high-end Qosmio line of multimedia laptops, but here, looks are deceiving. Toshiba's Qosmios have a lot more under the hood, while the P505D is barely breaking ordinary.
Under the LCD, the laptop certainly looks attractive. It has a wide, flat keyboard, a full number pad, a set of touch-enabled media controls to the left of the keyboard, and Harman Kardon speaker set above the keys--rimmed with chrome accents to catch the eye. The tremendous screen fills up most of the upper lid, with a little room at the top to fit the Webcam.
The keyboard is the same wide flat affair that graces almost all Toshiba Satellites. While we've largely hated its glossy finish, it might not bother other people as much as it bothers us. There's plenty of room to rest your palms, and on Toshiba's larger media-oriented laptops, these flat keys somehow bother us less. Of greater concern is the laptop's tiny matte touch pad that has a width that is considerably less than the two massive chromed buttons set beneath it. Our fingers tended to slide around the pad without getting the cursor to react how we wanted it to, and the lack of space on the pad got on our nerves, especially when everything else on the P505D is glacial--it felt like driving a toy car on a real-life racetrack.
The 18.4-inch glossy LED-backlit display is arguably the star of the show on the P505D-S8007, and the most likely reason why anyone would be attracted to this Satellite. It is a fine display, with good colors and only decent brightness, but its maximum resolution--1,680x945 pixels--is a puzzler. That's better than the standard 1,366x768-pixel screen resolution found on smaller laptops, but it's less than the typical full-HD resolution (1,900x1,080 pixels) we'd expect from such a large screen. Budget desktop replacement systems can get away with a 1,600x900-pixel resolution (or 1,680x945 pixels in this case), but why not offer full-HD resolution here? Unfortunately, the displays low resolution showed, as full-screen HD video tended to demonstrate a bit of pixelation when viewed up-close. The Harman Kardon speakers were, as always, very good, and had a nice combination of bass and volume.
A word on the media-control bar on the left of the keyboard: with eight discrete functions ranging from volume control to simple playback and screen settings/power modes, the touch panel had some use to us. Toshiba's insistence, however, in having the touch keys emit a hideous high-pitched beeping sound (that reminded us of a smoke alarm) by default when touched is unfortunate.
|Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8007||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA sleep-and-charge port, multiformat memory card reader, mini-FireWire||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|
To its credit, the P505D-S8007 manages to earn a few ports many laptops don't, such as having am eSATA port, ExpressCard. and mini-FireWire. Unfortunately, and baffling, the P505D is one of the few large laptops we've seen in the last six months that doesn't have an HDMI-out port. On a big-screen desktop replacement laptop, having a video-out to an HDTV is one of the top features we'd look for. To add insult to the omission, the P505D has two blocked-off holes where HDMI and DisplayPort connections could have been. We don't care about its lack of DisplayPort, but not having HDMI is silly.
Then again, maybe Toshiba is onto something. While the AMD Turion II processor was certainly able to play HD video files quiet well, our attempts to stream full-screen Hulu in 480p (we tried "Caprica" as a reference video) resulted in unsuitable choppiness. Being able to stream sub-HD, full-screen video is a minimum expectation in any laptop that deems itself to be a big-screen mainstream machine in the modern era. This isn't a Netbook, after all. The P505D is aiming itself as a media machine and likely TV replacement, and it can't even do that well.