Toshiba's Satellite 5105-S607 notebook reminds us of the overachiever who earns a Harvard MBA and an Olympic gold medal while always looking fashionable. Clothed in bright blue with accents of black and silver, this notebook not only has head-turning good looks and Intel's new mobile Pentium 4-M processor, but it also leads the early P4-M systems we've tested, in terms of performance and value. Toshiba's Satellite 5105-S607 notebook reminds us of the overachiever who earns a Harvard MBA and an Olympic gold medal while always looking fashionable. Clothed in bright blue with accents of black and silver, this notebook not only has head-turning good looks and Intel's new mobile Pentium 4-M processor, but it also leads the early P4-M systems we've tested, in terms of performance and value.
The fastest of the first
The Satellite 5105-S607 is one of the first notebooks out of the gate with Intel's new 1.7GHz P4-M processor. This new CPU is the foundation of a notebook that's definitely built for speed. The system's lavish 512MB of RAM gives you plenty of room to run applications, although, disappointingly, that's the maximum amount it will hold. The notebook's 32MB GeForce4 440 Go GPU, also recently announced, pumps the pixels with the best of them. In CNET Labs' tests, the Satellite 5105-S607 set the pace for this first crop of mobile Pentium 4-Ms, nudging past the Micron TransPort GX3 and putting a noticeable distance between itself and the Dell Inspiron 8200. It also beat the fastest mobile Pentium III-M system we've tested by a healthy 18 percent.
Now for the bad news: The Satellite 5105-S607's 10.8-volt, 3.6-watt-hour, lithium-ion battery is a normal size for a desktop-replacement notebook, but with a high-powered CPU and GPU to support--not to mention a large, high-resolution screen--it lasted only 90 minutes between charges. To its credit, Toshiba's installed power-management utility offers extensive and flexible options that go beyond Windows' standard offerings. Depending on what you're doing, you could stretch battery life to two hours or more with the right settings.
Toting a second battery is a small price to pay, considering the wealth of features the Satellite 5105-S607 contains--and given its downright sensible $2,499 price. It's typically sized for a desktop replacement, at 12.9 inches wide by 11.6 inches deep and 2 inches thick. The unit is wedge shaped; a pair of feet add to the unit's thickness but also create a comfortable typing angle. At 7.1 pounds, the system is 1 pound lighter than the Inspiron 8200. But when the unit's USB-based external floppy drive and 10-ounce AC adapter are added to the load, the travel weight rises to 8.3 pounds--average for this class of system but noticeably heavier than the Micron TransPort GX3. The roomy chassis includes plenty of internal storage via the 40GB Toshiba hard drive, and the combo DVD/CD-RW drive lets you burn backup CDs on office time and play movies while you're waiting for your flight.
The notebook's sharp, bright, 15-inch screen is a sure crowd-pleaser, as are its two other (smaller) LCD panels. The main display has a resolution of 1,600x1,200, offering plenty of detail for gamers, movie viewers, digital artists, and presenters. The second screen is a tiny, monochrome panel on the laptop's front edge used for viewing the contents of audio CDs; it can also be programmed to display the time or a message.
More than a touchpad
The final screen's location will surprise you. The Satellite 5105-S607 incorporates Synaptics's new cPad, which places a clear touchpad over a 240x160-pixel monochrome LCD. While you can use it just like a regular touchpad, the LCD also displays programmed icons, showing you which areas of the touchpad allow you to scroll, page back, and so on. Some touchpads have allowed you to do this for years, but the cPad graphically shows you which area does what.
The cPad may be one of the Satellite 5105-S607's most distinctive touches, but there's plenty more to like. For example, the machine comes with slots for both SmartMedia and Secure Digital flash cards. While we would've traded one of these technologies for the more popular and less expensive CompactFlash cards, the notebook is still very useful as an on-the-go repository for MP3 tunes and digital photographs. The system plays audio CDs with the computer turned off, and you'll want to use this feature, given the Harman Kardon speakers with a subwoofer on the bottom of the notebook. Most laptop speakers are woefully inadequate, but this unit is capable of rich, deep sound and enough volume to annoy coworkers and airplane seatmates alike. Despite its multimedia abilities, however, the Satellite 5105-S607 is quiet; its fan rarely comes on, and when it does, it's not nearly as loud as its peers, and it shuts off quickly.
We found only a few missteps in this impressively outfitted system. While the 19mm translucent keyboard has some accent lights, the keys are not backlit for low-light computing; they also don't have the deep travel and sturdy feel that we prefer. And although the Satellite 5105-S607 forgoes parallel and serial ports, it's otherwise well connected, with audio-in/out (which doubles as an S/PDIF connection for five speakers), video-out, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 56K V.90 modem, external monitor, and three USB ports (two on the front and one on the side). You also get a pair of Type II (one Type III) PC Card slots. The real surprise is the inclusion of a Fast IR port--increasingly rare on notebooks these days--for wireless data transfers.
The software bundle is pretty good. In addition to Windows XP Home, the system comes with the Lotus SmartSuite application set, Intuit Quicken Basic, and two more titles from an extensive list for a nominal $8.95 shipping fee for both.
Toshiba's service and support for the Satellite 5105-S607 is pretty good as well. The one-year warranty is typical but short, especially compared to the Micron TransPort GX3's three years. You can extend the Satellite 5105-S607's warranty to three years for $150. Telephone support is available 24/7, as is Ask Iris, an automated, Web-connected knowledge base that's good for simple problems but not much more. If you require repairs, you'll have to ship the system to Toshiba techs, but the company pays the postage.
The Toshiba Satellite 5105-S607 enters with a splash by beating its early mobile Pentium 4-M competition in speed tests and significantly trumping their features as well. While its battery life is a real disappointment, other attributes make this system worth considering as a desktop replacement--just don't travel too far from an AC outlet.
--By Brian Nadel
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1)
Longer bars indicate better performance
Battery life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
Dell Inspiron 8200
Windows XP Home; Pentium 4-M 1,700MHz; 256MB RAM; Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go 64MB; IBM Travelstar 30GB 4,200rpm
Micron TransPort GX3
Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M 1,700MHz; 256MB RAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 AGP 32MB; Hitachi DK23DA-40F 40GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba Satellite 5105-S607
Windows XP Pro; Pentium 4-M 1,700MHz; 512MB RAM; Nvidia GeForce4 440Go 32MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 40GB 5,400rpm
The Satellite 5105-S607 set the pace for this first crop of mobile Pentium 4-M notebooks, nudging past the Micron TransPort GX3 and putting a noticeable distance between itself and the Dell Inspiron 8200. It also beat the fastest mobile Pentium III-M system we've tested by a healthy 18 percent.