Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)
Alienware 14 (Core i7, 16GB, 256GB SSD, Nvidia GTX765M)stars
No complaints about the performance, but the design changes don't go nearly far enough.
Editors' note: August 8, 2008. We incorrectly identified the CPU as a Core 2 Duo T2390 for this laptop. It uses the older Pentium Dual-Core Mobile Processor T2390, which features 1MB of L2 cache and operates on a 533MHz frontside bus. Most Core 2 Duo mobile processors operate on a faster bus and all offer 2MB or more of L2 cache. Both the Pentium Dual-Core and Core 2 Duo chips are manufactured using the same 65-nanometer process.
This review is part of our Back-to-School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
The Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875 is a thoroughly average, entry-level laptop. It wasn't too long ago that an average, entry-level laptop meant one that was underpowered and shabbily designed. These days, spending between $600 and $700 for a laptop means you are getting a relatively modern dual-core configuration that comes housed in a decent-looking case. While the $679 Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875, a fixed configuration that you'll find on big-box store shelves this summer, will suffice for students, the Sony VAIO VGN-NR430 E/L proved itself to be imperceptibly faster in the labs with a perceptibly longer battery life. The Sony also can be found for less--as low as $599 at the time of this writing--and feels sturdier with a better keyboard.
|Processor||1.86GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2390|
|Memory||3GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz|
|Hard drive||200GB, 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM965 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.2 x 10.7 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.0 / 6.9 pounds|
Like the 17-inch Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815, the 15-inch Satellite L305-S5875 features a glossy dark blue lid ("onyx blue," according to Toshiba) and a glossy black interior. The touch pad features a matte finish and seamlessly borders the wrist rest; it also includes the always-appreciated vertical and horizontal scroll zones. (Still, nothing beats the MacBook touchpad's two-finger scroll function. Though we didn't review the MacBook as part of our back-to-school sweep this month, we reviewed it upon its last update at the end of 2007 and still think it belongs on the shortlist of any back-to-school shopper.)
The Satellite L035-S5875's keyboard isn't as comfortable to type on as we found the Sony VAIO NR430's flat keyboard. The Satellite's keyboard flexes a bit too much for our taste, and the keys themselves feature a tad too much travel. It almost feels like the keys are raised up higher than they should be; there's a clearly visible gap underneath the row of F keys along the top, for example, that not only looks like a magnet for dust and dirt but also raises concerns about a key getting snagged along its bottom edge and snapping off. Also flimsy: the display's two hinges. They are much weaker than the pair on the Sony VAIO NR430. The Toshiba's display is prone to wobble when bumped, whereas the Sony's display stays firmly rooted in place.
Centered above the keyboard is a row of media control keys to pause, stop, rewind, and fast forward. Two programmable keys default to mute and open Windows Media Player. A volume dial site on the front edge, which is our preferred method of adjusting the volume on a laptop. A small Wi-Fi on/off switch is another item we like to see on the front edge of the laptop and is found here.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen display features the typical 1280x800-pixel native resolution. It features a glossy screen coating, which may be more distracting to those in sunny climes. Those intent on matriculating to the University of Florida, for instance, may want to consider a matte finish, while those attending college in central New York, where flannel gray skies are the norm from October through April, should do just fine with the Satellite L305-S5875. Apart from the finish, the display is otherwise average. We found the VAIO NR430's display to be a touch brighter with more vivid colors. Audio from the Satellite's speakers reached a higher volume than we expected, but it was predictably tinny. You'll want to utilize the headphone jack for anything more than YouTube videos.
|Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 5-in-1 card reader||4 USB 2.0, card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Fitting of this average laptop is an average set of ports. You won't find FireWire, as you do on the Sony VAIO NR430, or the Dell Inspiron 1525-121B, nor do you get HDMI as you do on the Dell. Those two competing entry-level laptops also provide Bluetooth connectivity, which is absent on the Toshiba. The Satellite L305-S5875 does supply a Webcam, which is not a feature found on either the Dell or Sony models.
The Satellite L305-S5875 will require immediate cleanup; upon powering it on for the first time, you'll be greeted with 26 desktop icons. Twenty-six! That might be a record. Not all are trial offers, but you'll find the majority useless, unwanted, or not worthy of a spot on your desktop.