Beyond the realm of nearly identical $300 Netbooks, a new category of 11.6-inch "premium" Netbooks has arisen to offer better performance in a slightly larger body, answering some concerns that limited-use Netbooks raise. This trend has been largely a 2010 phenomenon, but we actually saw its seeds last year. The Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1140RD is part of a line of Toshiba 11.6-inch laptops with AMD Athlon II Neo single or dual-core CPUs, an evolution of the T115-S1105, a model we reviewed in December 2009.
Packed into a plastic chassis reminiscent of most Netbooks but affording slightly more keyboard room and wrist-rest space, the single-core AMD Athlon II Neo T215D-S1140 is a slightly redesigned but otherwise similarly configured notebook to the T115.
Last year's model featured a single-core Intel Pentium processor for a price nearly the same as this year's version: $469. A dual-core T215D only costs $30 more, but our review sample was the single-core version, and we found that apart from multitasking, it's still the same better-than-Netbook experience we found last December. More than six months later, the premium cost on this minilaptop might be too much for some to bear, but it's definitely worth a look for anyone who's in the market for a highly portable computer with passable performance for most tasks.
|Price as reviewed||$469|
|Processor||1.5 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125|
|Memory||2GB, 1,066 MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||ATI RS880M + SD820M|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.2 x 8.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.2 / 3.8 pounds|
Available in both red and a dark gray, the compact T215D-S1140RD bears a lot of similarities to the rest of Toshiba's Netbook line, particularly the Mini NB305, and it's identical looks-wise to its 2010 13-inch counterpart, the T235D-S1345, only smaller. The same feelings we had with the T235D hold true here: the design is glossy and a little bit garish on the inside, with a dark ruby-red patterned lid that hides fingerprints with varying degrees of success.
A glossy, silvery textured plastic covers the keyboard deck, which feels a bit cheap. That's not to say the laptop doesn't feel sturdy overall: it does, and the all-plastic chassis seems more forgivable in a smaller laptop such as the T215D. Maybe with Netbooks, we've come to expect this type of construction.
The T215D-S1140RD's raised keyboard is far better than the T115's flat keyboard, which we didn't like nearly as much. It's smaller than full-size and isn't as comfortable overall as on the T235D, but it's a better experience than most smaller Netbooks, including Toshiba's own Mini NB305. One caveat: we did have one key pop off, which gave us cause for concern about overall build quality (it reattached, but still looked cock-eyed afterwards).
Like the T235D, the wide multitouch touch pad felt a bit too smooth to the touch for our taste, but to its credit, it performed very responsively. Two convex curved buttons hug the chassis' outer edge beneath, and are easy to find and click.
The glossy, LED-backlit 11.6-inch display on the T215D-S1140RD has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. That's standard for most laptops up to 15 inches, and it's better than you're likely to find in smaller Netbooks. The screen effectively feels less cramped as a result. Videos, pictures, and text all looked sharper than average for an 11-inch laptop, but we didn't have the same pleasant experience with the T215D's audio.
Stereo speakers pipe their sound from below the front edge of the laptop's base, and the sound quality was neither loud enough nor robust enough to avoid seeming soft and tinny. A built-in Webcam has similar picture quality to the T235D: muddy and pixelated, suitable for basic Web chat but not professional quality. We tried making a Skype video call and found the streaming choppier than normal, though that's most likely because of the single-core processor.
|Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1140RD||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||HDMI-out, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 of them an eSATA combo), SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Despite its smaller size, the T215D has the same selection of ports found on the larger, 13.3-inch T235D. They were good for a 13-inch laptop, but they're great for an 11.6-incher. An included combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port also acts as Toshiba's ubiquitous sleep-and-charge USB port, powering USB devices when the Satellite is asleep or even turned off. It turns a laptop into a large battery for your phone when travelling, which is even more useful than it sounds.
The Satellite T215D-S1140 has an AMD Athlon II Neo K125 single-core CPU, offering performance that's considerably better than an Atom, but below what we'd expect in a higher-powered mainstream laptop processor. Slower in its single- and multitasking performance than the dual-core T235D-S1345, its closest equivalent in its single-task benchmarks is, in fact, Toshiba's 11.6-inch 2009 predecessor, the T115-S1105. For another $30, a dual-core Athlon II Neo K325 dual-core configuration is also available. The Dell Inspiron M101z, which features the same dual-core Athlon II Neo K325 processor, performed considerably faster in multitasking scenarios. We haven't tried Toshiba's dual-core configuration, but the upgrade might be worth your money provided battery life doesn't take a huge hit.
The included ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 graphics are close to Intel's integrated graphics in terms of effective performance. Video definitely gets a boost, but any games that rely on 3D are hardly playable. Unreal Tournament III ran at 11.2 frames per second at 1,200x768 pixels. Full-screen streaming HD video played, albeit at chopped frame rates. Lower-res full-screen streaming video ran decently, enough to be livable, and far better than on a Netbook. Locally stored HD video files, as expected, played perfectly.