Featuring the same chassis as the U205-S5044 model we reviewed late last year, the Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057 straddles the line between ultraportable and thin-and-light. The difference between the two models is inside the case: the U205-S5057 incorporates more modest components than its costlier sibling, relying on an entry-level Core 2 Duo processor and a scant 1GB of RAM to run Windows Vista. That's not to say, however, that its performance tanked; though we'd have preferred more RAM, the U205-S5057 provided plenty of oomph for typical computing tasks and excelled on our Office productivity application tests. All told, we think the $1,299 Satellite U205-S5057 is a great choice for anyone seeking a compact, full-featured laptop for daily travel.
The Satellite U205-S5057 is one of the chunkier laptops you'll find with a 12.1-inch wide-screen display. It measures 11.6 inches wide, 8.7 inches deep, and a somewhat portly 1.5 inches thick. By comparison, a similarly sized Acer Ferrari is less than an inch thick, and Apple's 13.3-inch MacBook is an inch thick. The Dell XPS M1210 is closer in size and thickness to the U205-S5057, but the Dell weighs 0.7 pound more. At 4.2 pounds, the U205-S5057 feels lighter than you'd expect. With its AC adapter, the total travel weight is 5.1 pounds.
As light as it is, the machine still feels sturdy and well built. The two hinges that support the display are thick, and Toshiba trumpets a spill-resistant keyboard and a shock-absorbing hard drive. Overall, the design can't be called inspired but it is functional, aside from the puny touchpad, which we'll get to in a moment.
Like its precursor, the Satellite U205-S5057 supplies three USB 2.0 ports (two located on the right, one on the left), a four-pin FireWire port, VGA-out, a CardBus card slot (in lieu of an ExpressCard slot), and a 5-in-1 card reader. Along the right side of the case sits a built-in DVD burner. Above it you'll find a volume-control wheel; the notebook also features multimedia controls above the keyboard for playing, pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding either music or movies. With instant-on software, you can use these controls to play CDs and DVDs without first booting to Windows, a highly convenient feature. Also handy is the wireless on/off switch on the laptop's right side. The U205-S5057 includes a built-in 802.11a/b/g chip along with a 10/100 Ethernet port and 56K modem jack, but no Bluetooth. The Satellite U205-S5057 also lacks the built-in Webcam found on the displays of competing laptops, such as the Dell XPS M1210.
The 12.1 wide-screen display has a native resolution of 1,280x800, which is standard for this size screen. Toshiba outfits it with its TruBrite technology for a brighter, more vibrant image. Unlike other extra-bright laptop displays we've seen, the U205-S5057's screen doesn't result in overly distracting reflections and glare. Movies look great on it, though you'll want to use headphones because the integrated stereo speakers located just below the display are about as weak as they come.
Given the laptop's compact size, the keyboard is surprisingly comfortable, although it took a bit of time to get used to the shortened spacebar. Keyboard shortcut users will be frustrated by the fact that the Windows key has been moved to the upper-right side of the keyboard, and the right-side control key has been completely eliminated. We also don't think we'll ever grow completely accustomed to the tiny touchpad, which is only 2 inches wide by less than 1.5 inches deep. Below the keyboard, you'll also find a handy fingerprint scanner for easy security and password maintenance. The lid and the bezel that frames the screen are dark gray, while silver plastic surrounds the keyboard.
Toshiba sells a customizable version of the Satellite U205 on its site, but the U205-S5057 we received is a fixed configuration that costs $1,299. Its 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 occupies the low end of Intel's Core 2 Duo line; likewise midrange are its 1GB of RAM and its integrated Intel CMA 945 graphics card. We were impressed, however, that such a small laptop could pack a 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive.
The Satellite U205-S5057 did pretty well on CNET Labs' benchmarks, keeping pace or pulling ahead of the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet (built on a low-voltage, 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor and twice as much RAM) on all but one of our tests. The only place where the Satellite U205-S5057 seemed to drag was on our RAM-intensive Photoshop CS2 test; we suggest doubling the Satellite's RAM (which adds $168 to the price) if your work requires more than the typical e-mail and Office productivity apps. Unsurprisingly, the $2,329 Dell XPS M1210 we tested, with a faster, 2.0GHz processor and twice as much RAM, ran faster than the Satellite U205-S5057 on all but our Office productivity test.