In the short time since Toshiba sent us our Satellite A205-S6808 review unit, the company has ceded the HD format war to rival Blu-ray, making the laptop's HD DVD drive a quaint novelty rather than a killer feature (fortunately, the drive still functions as a plain-old DVD burner). Aside from the high-definition drive, this thoroughly average laptop has little to distinguish it from other sub-$1,000 laptops, except for its bargain-basement $799 price tag. Otherwise, the Toshiba Satellite A205-S6808 offers an attractive case and basic feature set that are best suited for student or second-computer use.
|Price as reviewed||$799|
|Processor||1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5450|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||200GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||14.3x10.5x1.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.2 / 6.9 pounds|
Like other laptops in Toshiba's consumer line, the Satellite A205-S6808 features rounded edges, a reflective blue-black exterior (unfortunately prone to fingerprints and smudges) and a silver interior. We like the look, though we could do without the excessive branding. The giant Toshiba logo emblazoned in 0.75-inch silver letters across the lid and the bright blue glowing Satellite logo on the left side of the front edge are a bit much. We also like the single long hinge that runs almost the entire length of the display, which feels sturdier than the typical two-hinge setup on most laptops.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD offers a standard 1,280x800 native resolution that keeps text and icons highly readable. Movie-watching is also a pleasure with the TruBrite screen finish, which provides increased color saturation and contrast. While the glossy coating causes some reflections, we think Toshiba has done a pretty good job of balancing the demands of image quality with the demands of on-screen reading. A 1.3-megapixel Webcam sits above the display for videoconferencing.
We were a bit bothered by the flex in the Satellite A205-S6808's full-size keyboard; though it didn't result in any typos, it was unnerving to watch the whole board bounce under the pressure from our fingers. The keys were also quite loud, which would make us feel self-conscious while working in a quiet library. We're more fond of the laptop's roomy touch pad and broad mouse buttons, and appreciate that the touch surface is recessed, which prevents you from accidentally grazing the touch pad and shifting the cursor while typing. Above the keyboard are basic media controls (play/pause, stop, track forward, and track back) as well as buttons to launch the media player and your default Web browser. A volume wheel and a Wi-Fi on/off switch on the front edge round out the features.
As with other inexpensive Satellites, the A205-S6808 seems to be in part subsidized by software makers, which is a polite way of saying it's packed with bloatware. Out of the box, our review unit included no fewer than 15 desktop shortcuts to third-party software and Web sites, such as eMusic, Napster, Vongo, and Skype. Removing much of this junk, especially the programs that run in the background, can speed up a sluggish system. Check out this helpful video on removing crapware from your laptop for step-by-step instructions.
|Toshiba Satellite A205-S6808||Average for midsize category|
|Video||VGA, S-Video||VGA, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi|
|Optical drive||HD DVD-ROM/DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Toshiba Satellite A205-S6808's feature set offers about what we'd expect from such a low-cost laptop, with the bonus of an ExpressCard, rather than an older PC Card, slot. Of particular interest (but not in a positive way) is the already-obsolete HD DVD drive, which is little more than a novelty item now that Toshiba has waved the white flag in the HD format war.
One of three fixed Satellite A205 configurations, the A205-S6808 runs on a somewhat slow, 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 processor. Otherwise the laptop includes decent components, including a 200GB hard drive. On CNET Labs' benchmarks it finished ahead of its physically identical corporate sibling, the Satellite A215-S4757, which runs on an AMD processor. The A205-S6808 also performed more or less in line with a $948 Lenovo 3000 N200 with a slightly faster Intel processor. During our anecdotal use, the Satellite provided decent performance for day-to-day for Web surfing, productivity applications, and media playback.
However, we were really disappointed in the laptop's battery life. The Satellite A205-S6808 lasted just 1 hour, 32 minutes on our DVD battery drain test--not even long enough to make it through most mainstream movies. We'd prefer to see at least two hours battery life on a system this size--perhaps the A205-S6808 was designed only to move between locations that are close to a wall outlet.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the Satellite A205-S6808. It's a mail-in warranty, but the company has a deal where you can just drop your system off for service at any UPS Store, and they'll pack it up and deliver it to the repair depot. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base and driver downloads.