Toshiba's Satellite brand has long played second-fiddle to the company's excellent Qosmio multimedia systems. But the updated Satellite line has a whole new look and feel, with a shiny metallic sheen and a clever new Sleep-and-Charge feature, which lets you charge USB devices even if the laptop is powered off.
The $999 fixed-configuration 15-inch Satellite A305D is similar to the 13 and 14-inch Satellites we've looked at recently, but dressed down with an AMD processor to cut a few dollars from the price. We still like the new look and the Sleep-and-Charge feature, but we were able to configure a Dell Inspiron 1525 for less, even with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and that system at least offers configuration options for features such as Bluetooth and mobile broadband.
|Processor||2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-64|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14.3x10.5x1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.2/7.0 pounds|
The new Satellite look is certainly an improvement over previous versions, which have alternated between slate grey and bizarre red-and-black flamed designs. This new model is decked out what Toshiba calls a "Horizon" pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver-gray and black pinstripes that combine for a distinct metallic sheen, also found on the new 13-inch Satellite U405 and the 14-inch Satellite M305.
The new finish is almost mirror-like, and even light handling will leave major fingerprints all over it. While we're used to having to watch out for fingerprints on a glossy laptop lid or wrist rest, this is the first time we can recall having to worry about fingerprints on the keyboard itself. The keys are made of an exceptionally glossy plastic, and the effect is almost distracting.
We liked that the touch pad is totally flush with the wrist rest--the Alienware m15x had a similar touch pad, but Toshiba does it better, using a different, matte surface material making it easier to discern the active area. The Alienware's touch pad was the same glossy material as the rest of the wrist rest, making it hard to use without looking at where your finger was.
Perhaps the most interesting new development, featured in all the new Toshiba Satellite models, is something 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 in sleep or hibernate mode, or 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).
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is fine for most 13-to-14-inch displays, but starts to feel cramped when you get to the 15-inch size. Sound from the stereo Harman Kardon speakers was surprisingly loud, but lacked low end--it's good for streaming TV shows, for example, but not great for music.
|Toshiba Satellite A305D-S6835||Average for category [thin-and-light]|
|Video||VGA out, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard slot||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
An issue we've noted across all the new Satellites is the excessive bloatware, trial software, and advertising links--more than we've seen in a long time. The desktop felt crowded, with icons pushing AutoBackup, Lojack for Laptops, QuickBooks, Skype, Napster, Vongo, multiple Microsoft Office come-ons, and more. We shouldn't have to spend an hour or so cleaning off our new laptop just to get the feel of a factory fresh installation. Fortunately for you, we have a handy video about ridding your PC of bloatware, so follow the instructions there and you can look forward to reclaiming a little hard-drive space, processing overhead, and consumer empowerment.
Instead of the 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU we saw in the 13 and 14-inch Satellites, the A305D uses a 2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-64 (or, as the Toshiba Web site refers to them, "value-laden AMD dual-core processors"). The Intel-powered Satellites were moderately faster than the AMD version in our benchmark tests, and for $50 less than the A305D, we were able to configure a Dell 1525 that included an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, plus 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Still, for typical multitasking use--Web surfing, office documents, media viewing, and so on--both are acceptable performers, with little or no slowdown or stuttering during basic tasks.
The Satellite A305D ran for 1 hours and 54 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, which is not especially impressive for a 15-inch laptop, and is about the same as we got from the Gateway P172X FX, a massive gaming-oriented 17-inch desktop replacement. The Dell 1525 we've mentioned a few times lasted nearly 50 minutes longer in the same test.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $149. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line and an online knowledge base and driver downloads.
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Toshiba Satellite A305D-S6835
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-64; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Xpress 1250; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm.
HP Pavilion dv9700t
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm.
HP Pavilion dv6700t
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia 8400M GS; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm.
Gateway P-172X FX
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTS; 160GB Seagate 7,200rpm (x2).