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.
It's hard to believe that it's possible to get a laptop with an 18-inch screen for less than $550 and have it be worth buying, too. But here's the Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930: a massive notebook with a large, wide-screen display, AMD dual-core processor, plenty of memory, and a decently large hard drive, wrapped up in a fairly good-looking chassis. Too bad the performance and reasonable battery life are so lacking.
|Price as reviewed||$549.99|
|Processor||2.2GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core Mobile RM-74|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB ATI Radeon HD 3200|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||17.4 x 11.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||18.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||9/10 pounds|
Instead of just a flat solid color, Toshiba used its Fusion Finish on the P505D with its sonic pattern in black onyx. It's a light pinstripe pattern on a glossy black background on the lid, with palmrests, and speaker surround above the keyboard. The speakers sound great by the way, far above the laptop's budget price tag. The keyboard is large and comfortable with a full number pad on the right end. The keys are flat like a chiclet-style keyboard, but they float above the tray so you'll have to watch your cookie crumbs. They're also somewhat slick, making it slightly unpleasant to type on. Due to the glossy nature of everything, the laptop collects a lot of fingerprints. Overall, the P505D is a nice-looking package and is certainly what a majority of its cost went to.
To the right of the keyboard is a set of backlit touch-sensitive media controls, the power button, and an Eco mode key. This mode significantly cuts back on power usage by cutting back on display brightness and other nonessential features. It also shows a line graph to prove the power savings.
The 18.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,680x945native resolution, which is not standard for a screen this size. In fact, we've never tested a system with this size screen carrying such a low resolution. More standard for this size are resolutions of 1,920x1,080 or 1,900x1,200. Despite the lower resolution, the screen is good for just about anything you'll do on it, with decent color performance, brightness, and dynamic range. If those are two things you're interested in, you'll want to search out a P500-series laptop that actually has them.
|Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, eSATA/USB, multi-format card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, modem||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Ports for the most part are what we expect to find on a system in this price range. Only the eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port is an anomaly, but it's a good one and has Toshiba's sleep-and-charge feature for charging devices even when the computer's sleeping. Also, though there are spots for HDMI and DisplayPort connections on the left side, they have been plugged up. If those are two things you're interested in, you'll want to check out another version of the P500 series that actually has them.
The Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930 is a retail-only fixed configuration, so what you get is what you get. However, the memory and hard-drive compartments are easily accessed through the bottom of the case. This model comes with 4GB of memory, but can be expanded to 8GB total.
Performance from the P505D-S8930 is a bit depressing. The budget section of our Back-to-School roundup (laptops priced $500 to $699) consists of three Toshiba systems, including the P505D, and an HP. The other two Toshiba laptops are more expensive, but they performed noticeably better on all of our tests. We're chalking it up to the middling AMD dual-core processor, another of which can be found in the similarly pitiful HP G60-445DX. In the end, though, you're not going to find an 18-inch laptop with better specs at this price. If you need the large screen, the performance of the P505D-S8930 will suffice for general productivity tasks, Web surfing, e-mail, mild multimedia enjoyment, and even some very light gaming. Just don't expect a lot of power simply because it's large.