Toshiba's new NB550D netbook looks almost identical to the company's older model, but don't be fooled by its appearance -- under the bonnet, there's a whole new engine at work. Whereas the NB520 relied on a dual-core Intel Atom processor, the NB550D uses one of AMD's new C-50 chips. Available for around £280 online, does this 10.1-inch netbook represent the dawn of the Atom-killing age?
Copper or boy in blue
The NB550D is available in two colours: copper and blue. The copper model is called the NB550D-109 and the blue model is the NB550D-10G.
We found our review sample's copper colouring quite fetching, but the overall design of the netbook left us with mixed feelings. We love the soft-to-the-touch, rubberised finish on the lid, for example, but the matte black plastic employed elsewhere is pretty underwhelming.
Measuring 262 by 36 by 190mm, and weighing 1.3kg, the NB550D isn't the slimmest or lightest netbook on the market, but it does feel like it's built to last.
Like the NB520, this model has two fairly large Harman Kardon speakers embedded in the wrist rest, behind small metal grilles. These speakers aren't exactly hi-fi quality, but they do produce much louder sound, with more body, than pretty much any other netbook speakers we've encountered. In fact, they're better than many laptop speakers. We can see them being really useful if you like to use your computer to watch movies, but don't always want to have to slap on a pair of headphones.
This screen has a resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, rather than the 1,366x768 pixels you get on some higher-end displays. The display is relatively bright and, although it has a glossy coating, it's not massively reflective, so you can use it indoors under bright overhead lights without too much bother. Nevertheless, the horizontal viewing angles aren't great, as colours go very dark when you sit at an angle to the screen. Overall, though it's not a bad display.
The keyboards on netbooks are always a compromise due to the limited amount of space available. However, Toshiba has done a reasonably good job here. Although the keys initially feel like they rattle too much under your fingers, you soon get used to this and start to appreciate their intelligent layout and springy, responsive action.
Toshiba hasn't skimped on ports either. Along with the usual three USB ports, there's an HDMI output that makes it easy to connect the NB550D up to a high-definition TV. This is because HDMI carries audio and video over the same lead.