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 U505-S2970 is a thin-and-light laptop that is neither thin nor light. It feels solidly built, but this is a 13.3-inch laptop that is only a hair lighter than the 14.1-inch Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802. We prefer the larger Satellite; though it costs $50 more for roughly the same components, it features a more comfortable keyboard, better battery life, and a longer warranty. Aside from its unique, textured chassis, slot-loading DVD drive, and backlit keyboard, we found the Satellite U505-S2970 a thoroughly average, midgrade laptop.
|Processor||2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450|
|Memory||4GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.5 x 9.1 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.9 / 5.7 pounds|
Like the Sony Vaio VGN-NW270F/S, the Satellite U505-S2970 features a textured, plastic chassis. It's brown in color, and the textured pattern brings to mind a car's dashboard. It's an appreciated alternative to the glossy, fingerprint-attracting surfaces found on an increasing number of today's laptops.
The Satellite U505-S2970 is heavier than it looks, weighing 4.9 pounds. Toshiba's 14.1-inch Satellite E105-S1802 weighs 5 pounds, while another 14.1-inch laptop, the Dell Inspiron 1470-3282, is lighter at only 4.7 pounds. The Satellite U505 is a bit portly, too, measuring 1.5 inches thick. The aforementioned Dell is just over an inch thick. The added heft lends a rugged feel to the laptop. The plastic chassis hardly flexes, and the wrist rests feel particularly bulletproof.
Less able to stop a bullet is the flimsy keyboard. The keys aren't the clackiest you'll encounter, but they feel light and of a lesser quality than the rest of the laptop's build. The mouse buttons are less than ideal, too. They offer a loud click with each press.
We also had difficulty with the touch pad. After experiencing a variety of mysterious cursor miscues, we dug into the touch-pad properties and Toshiba's utilities to correct this behavior, disabling the zoom utility, the browser support function, and the inertial movement functions along the way. Things improved, but we still suffered from the unexpected yet frequent zoom while innocently typing in Word or browsing in Firefox. We discovered that the overly sensitive touch pad features two-finger gestures, and we disabled the Zoom Pinch function to bring an end to our constant zooming in and out of windows. We also suggest you head to Toshiba's utilities and disable the LED lights used for the strip of media control keys that runs above the keyboard and the strip of light that runs along the top edge of the touch pad. The LEDs are a blinding white and are very distracting.
The 13.3-inch display features the standard-for-its-size native resolution of 1,280x800 pixels. It's not the brightest display we've encountered, and while we wouldn't call the colors dull, they're not the most vivid we've seen from a laptop's LCD. The display suffices for productivity use, but movie buffs and photo hobbyists will be better served shopping for a brighter display. The Satellite U505's integrated stereo speakers are a bit better than average, supplying passable audio at max volume. They're certainly better than the wimpy set on the Satellite E105-S1802.
|Toshiba Satellite U505-S2970||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, Webcam||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks, FM antenna jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, eSATA, mulitformat 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||Slot-loading DVD burner||DVD burner|
A slot-loading DVD burner highlights the Satellite U505's standard assortment of ports. You get three USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA port. FireWire is missing, but we were pleased to find HDMI next to the standard-issue VGA port to complete your video-output options. Despite its trim dimensions, the U505 finds room for an ExpressCard/54 slot. Draft N Wi-Fi is included, but corporate users on Gigabit Ethernet networks will be disappointed with the 10/100 Ethernet connection.
Like other laptops hovering around the $800 mark, the Toshiba Satellite U505-S2970 pairs the midlevel Core 2 Duo P7450 processor, clocked at 2.13GHz, with 4GB of DDR2 memory. Its 500GB hard drive is larger than the 320GB one found in competing models such as the Dell Inspiron 1470-3282 and the HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx. On CNET Labs' tests, its application performance was no different than that from the rest of its price group. You'll be able to engage in heavy multitasking with little-to-no lag, but after-hours gaming is a no-go thanks to the integrated Intel graphics.
|Toshiba Satellite U505-S2970||Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)|
|Raw kWh Number||53.53|
|Annual Energy Cost||$6.08|
Like the rest of the system, battery life was decent but not spectacular. The Satellite U505-S2970 ran for 3 hours 28 minutes on CNET Labs' grueling video-playback battery drain benchmark. That's an acceptable score for a laptop using a standard six-cell battery. We've seen a fairly large performance delta with six-cell batteries. For example, the Sony Vaio NW270 lasted 8 minutes longer than the U505, while the HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx was 39 minutes shorter.
Toshiba backs the Satellite U505-S2970 with an industry-standard one-year warranty. Support is accessible 24-7 via a toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and a Web site with driver downloads.