With a lineup of perfectly serviceable, but not exactly standout, mainstream laptops, Toshiba's Satellite brand has long played second fiddle to the company's excellent Qosmio multimedia systems. Aiming to correct this, Toshiba has a whole new look and feel for its mainstream consumer products, with a shiny metallic sheen and a clever new Sleep-and-Charge feature, which lets you charge USB devices even if the laptop is powered off.
The $1,049 fixed-configuration 14-inch Satellite M305 is nearly identical to the 13-inch Satellite U405 we looked at recently, adding Harman Kardon speakers, but losing Bluetooth connectivity. The U405 stood out by offering decent specifications and features in the sparsely populated 13-inch thin-and-light category, but the 14-inch market is much more crowded, and we liked the slightly thinner, and configurable, 14-inch HP dv2700t a bit better.
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel 965GM Express (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.2x9.5x1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.2/6.1 pounds|
The new Satellite look is certainly an improvement over previous versions, which have alternated between slate gray and bizarre red-and-black flamed designs. This new model is decked out what Toshiba calls a "Horizon" pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver-gray and black pinstripes that combine for a distinct metallic sheen, also found on the new 15-inch Satellite A305D and the 14-inch Satellite U405.
The new finish is almost mirror-like, and even light handling will leave major fingerprints all over it. While we're used to having to watch out for fingerprints on a glossy laptop lid or wrist rest, this is the first time we can recall having to worry about fingerprints on the keyboard itself. The keys themselves are made of an exceptionally glossy plastic, and the effect is almost distracting.
We liked that the touch pad is totally flush with the wrist rest--the Alienware m15x had a similar touch pad, but Toshiba does it better. The M035's touch pad features a matte surface material, making it easier to discern the active area without having to take your eyes off the screen. The Alienware's touch pad was the same glossy material as the rest of the wrist rest, which caused us to frequently glance down at the touch pad to find it.
Perhaps the most interesting new development, featured in all the new Toshiba Satellite models, is something called Sleep-and-Charge, which means you can plug in and charge USB devices (iPods, mobile phones, and so on) even if the laptop is in sleep or hibernate mode, or is totally powered off, as long as it's plugged into an outlet. Most laptops provide power to USB ports only while they're turned on. Note that this feature is turned off by default for no particularly good reason, and you'll have to hunt around to figure out how to turn it on, as it's completely buried in a series of submenus. (Start > All Programs > Toshiba > Utilities > HWStup > USB).
The 14-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for most 13- to 15-inch displays. Overly glossy screen coatings usually give us pause, but we didn't see excessive glare or reflections from other light sources on the M305's glossy screen. The sound from the stereo Harman Kardon speakers was reasonably clear, but lacked low end--good for streaming TV shows, for example, but not great for music.
|Toshiba Satellite M305- S4826||Average for category [thin-and-light]|
|Video||VGA out||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard slot||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Our review sample had an HDMI port on the side--or at least a spot intended for one. The port was covered over with a plastic plug (which still says HDMI above it), and it's not an option on the final shipping version, leaving you with just a standard VGA output. The 13-inch Satellite U405 we looked at had a similar faux HDMI port.
Another issue we've noted across the new Satellites is the excessive bloatware, trial software, and advertising links--more than we've seen in a long time. The desktop felt crowded, with icons pushing AutoBackup, Lojack for Laptops, QuickBooks, Skype, Napster, Vongo, multiple Microsoft Office come-ons, and more. We shouldn't have to spend an hour or so cleaning off our new laptop just to get the feel of a factory fresh installation. Fortunately for you, we have a handy video about ridding your PC of bloatware, so follow the instructions there and you can look forward to reclaiming a little hard-drive space, processing overhead, and consumer empowerment.
Intel's Penryn-class 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU is the new default for mainstream performance, and the Satellite M305 was on par with other T8100 laptops, including the nearly identically configured 13-inch U405. Bumping up the CPU up a bit to the 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo T9300, as in the HP Pavilion dv2700t, makes a difference in benchmark scores, but for typical multitasking use--Web surfing, office documents, media viewing, and so on--all are fine performers, with no slowdown or stuttering.