Editors' note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
Just when Toshiba had lulled us into complacency with its pinstriped Satellite design, it throws us the Satellite A305-S6858. The special-edition laptop incorporates a cool, swooshing, gray-and-silver case finish that will definitely prompt a few jealous looks in the campus coffee shop. Inside the case, you'll find standard mainstream Intel components and a generous memory allotment that (when combined with 64-bit Windows Vista) took the Satellite A305-S6858 to the head of the pack on our performance benchmarks. Unfortunately its extended battery, which adds significant weight to the system, didn't fare quite as well. If you're going to carry around the extra weight, you want to get maximum battery life, but the Satellite died out well before the HP Pavilion dv6985se, which is almost the same weight. We prefer the Pavilion, but we also recognize that its unique copper case won't appeal to everyone. The Toshiba Satellite A305-S6858 is an acceptable runner-up, particularly considering its slightly lower price.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750|
|Memory||4GB at 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||300GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel 965GM Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.3 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.5 / 7.3 pounds (includes extended battery)|
The Satellite A305-S6858 features a special edition of Toshiba's "Fusion" finish, with exaggerated, almost cartoonish gray curves on a silver background and a modest Toshiba logo in the lower-right corner of the lid. The curves continue inside the case, slashing across the wrist rest and even across the touch pad, though the keyboard is a shiny solid black. The finish is almost mirrorlike, and even light handling will leave major fingerprints all over it.
Color scheme aside, the case's rounded corners resemble the HP Pavilion dv6985se, though the Toshiba has a slightly larger footprint. Like the HP, the special edition Satellite A305-S6858 incorporates a bulky extended battery that raises the back of the system an inch and contributes to its hefty 6.5-pound weight. The extra juice will come in handy when cranking out term papers, but you probably won't enjoy carrying the laptop to the library.
As with other Satellite A305 models, the Satellite A305-S6858's keys are made of very glossy plastic that fits the aesthetic but is so shiny as to be distracting. Fortunately, the keyboard is comfortable; with your eyes closed it feels like any other nearly full-size board. The touch pad is likewise roomy, though we were annoyed by the glowing white stripe across the top of the pad, which seems to be just decoration (we thought maybe it would change colors if the touch pad were disabled, but no dice). We took some consolation in the fact that it--along with other distractingly illuminated case elements, a Satellite logo in the bottom left-hand corner and a row of touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard--can be turned off using Toshiba's HWSetup utility.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. The display's glossy finish produces rich colors and contrast; we found it minimally distracting while surfing the Web and typing e-mail but quite enjoyable for movie watching. A 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.
Like all new Satellite models, the Satellite A305-S6858 incorporates a feature 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 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 to find how to turn it on, as it's completely buried in a series of submenus. (Start > All Programs > Toshiba > Utilities > HWStup > USB).
|Toshiba Satellite A305-S6858||Average for mainstream category|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks, FM tuner||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Toshiba Satellite A305-S6858 incorporates plenty of USB jacks for all your accessories, and it includes a FireWire connection, which we're seeing less frequently. In a very odd touch, Toshiba has included a small, 3.5-inch FM radio antenna that connects to a special jack on the laptop, presumably so you can listen to your favorite campus station. Unfortunately, during our use the antenna never proved powerful enough to tune in any stations while indoors. It's just as well: sound from the stereo Harman Kardon speakers was surprisingly loud, but lacked low end; this makes it good for streaming TV shows, for example, but not great for music.
The retail-only Satellite A305-S6858 is a fixed configuration that includes the 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 processor and integrated Intel graphics that are the standard for mainstream systems. On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Satellite A305-S6858, unsurprisingly, posted scores equivalent to the identically configured HP Pavilion dv6985se. Both systems benefited from 4GB of RAM paired with 64-bit Windows Vista, which gave a boost on our Photoshop CS3 benchmark. The Satellite A305-S6858 went on to perform near the top of the class on our Multitasking and iTunes benchmarks, promising strong performance for all your scholarly pursuits.
The Toshiba Satellite A305-S6858 includes a nine-cell extended battery that adds significant heft to the system. The trade-off for carrying the extra weight is lengthy battery life; the laptop lasted an above-average 3 hours and 33 minutes on our video playback battery test. However, heavy battery consumers should note that the Pavilion dv6985se includes a 12-cell battery that lasted nearly 2 hours longer than the Satellite A305-S6858 in exchange for carrying just 0.1 pound of additional weight.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7, toll-free phone line and an online knowledge base and driver downloads.