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Toshiba's Satellite A505-S6960: our back-to-school retail laptop roundup "budget" pick

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

In that budget level category, covering laptops between $500 and $699, we we found systems that in many cases offered only modest improvements from their slightly less expensive entry-levelcousins, leading us to crown Toshiba's Satellite A505-S6960 the winner, as it the offered a true Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (instead of a slower "Intel Dual-Core" model), along with a big 320GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM.

Two important notes -- on this particular page we're *only* talking about a handful of retail-specific models that cost between $500 and $699. For a roundup of retail laptops in all price ranges, check here; for our latest MacBook reviews, check here.

Check out details of each system below:

HP Pavilion G60-445dx
The good: Good keyboard and touch pad; decent 16x9 screen.

The bad: Worse-than-average AMD processor and battery life; no Bluetooth.

The bottom line: For $549, the HP Pavilion G60-445dx has a mediocre processor and performance in a package that's not much of a bargain.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960 *BEST*
The good: Long battery life; solid performance for the money; great-sounding speakers; HDMI out.

The bad: Glossy design is fingerprint magnet; slick keyboard; no Bluetooth.

The bottom line: Good components and a big battery push the Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960 in front of other retail budget laptops.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940
The good: Good speakers; decent screen for music/video playback.

The bad: Uncomfortable touch pad and keyboard; outdated processor.

The bottom line: Equipped with great speakers and a good screen but an inferior processor and keyboard, the Toshiba M505-S4940 just isn't a good enough buy for the money.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4945
The good: Good speakers; decent all-around performance; included 3G antenna.

The bad: Uncomfortable touch pad and keyboard; no Bluetooth.

The bottom line: Positioned as an affordable design-conscious Core 2 Duo laptop for less than $700, Toshiba's Satellite M505-S4945 is better for media than it is for all-day office work.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930
The good: Attractive design; large LCD for the money; touch multimedia controls; great speakers.

The bad: Slow performance; short battery life.

The bottom line: The Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930 is perfect if you need a large-screen portable computer, but you're not too much of a multitasker or in need of a long battery life.

Read the full review here.

Check out the rest of the 2009 Back-to-School retail laptop and desktop roundup here.