Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
For less than $530, the Toshiba Satellite L305D-5934 is a decent-looking laptop with all the necessary ports and connections for average day-to-day use, and just enough performance to do what a lot of people do with their computers: surf the Web, send and receive e-mail, and run some productivity apps, all while streaming video, playing a DVD, or listening to music. If you can afford a little more, we recommend the $599 HP G60-235DX for better performance, a bigger hard drive, and more battery life, plus a 16:9 display and separate number pad.
|Price as reviewed||$529.99|
|Processor||2.0GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core RM-70|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3100 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium SP1 64-bit|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.3 inches wide by 10.6 inches deep|
|Height||1.5 inches high|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.0/6.9 pounds|
There's no mistaking this laptop as anything other than a Toshiba, due to the inch-high silver branding on the lid. The top is a shiny, pearlescent, dark blue that, while attractive, retains your fingerprints with every touch. The same goes for the glossy, black keyboard and wrist rest. The notebook has a comfortable, matte-black keyboard with bright white markings, which makes them visible in low light.
Over the keyboard is a row of multimedia controls, including programmable mute and CD/DVD buttons. (Out of the box they're set for mute and launching Windows Media Player.) Below the keyboard is a standard, two-button trackpad. However, the only thing delineating it as a trackpad is that the case's texture turns from smooth to slightly rough. It's not a problem per se, but if you're used to having a bit of an edge to run your finger around, this might take a little while to get used to. Also worth noting is the welcome inclusion of a physical volume dial on the case's front lip.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. It's a bit big for regular travel (we like to stick to 14 inches and below for that), but text and icons are highly readable and movies look very good.
Above the screen is a serviceable 1.3-megapixel Web cam and there is included software for using it. In fact, Toshiba includes a lot of software--most of it trialware--which will either make you happy, because it's less work for you, or cranky, because you have to uninstall so much of it to reclaim hard-drive space. One thing we do like is Toshiba's drop-down menu for the Function keys and other hardware- and software-management tools.
|Toshiba Satellite L305D-5934||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, multi-format media-card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Toshiba Satellite L305D-5934 has just enough ports and connections to keep us placated. Other vendors in this class included more than this laptop's VGA-out for connecting to an external monitor, three USB ports, and 802.11g Wi-Fi adapter, but we were happy to find an ExpressCard reader.
Internal components are in line with what other vendors are offering at the L305D-5934's sub-$530 price: an AMD dual-core processor, 3GB of DDR2 memory, and a respectable 250GB hard drive. This Toshiba's performance was near the bottom in our collection of entry-level retail fixed-configuration laptops (with systems costing under $600), but not by a deal-breaking margin.
The 2.0GHz AMD Turion X2 dual-core RM-70 is good enough for basic multitasking, but we were disappointed in the speed at which it handled our CNET Labs' tests. The integrated ATI graphics processor doesn't support much beyond casual gaming and movie playback, but that's really all that's needed in an entry-level laptop, and overall we were pleased with its capabilities. In the same price range, there are a couple of Intel Dual-Core-powered laptops, such as the HP G60, which perform better.
The notebook ran for 1 hour and 54 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included eight-cell battery. This isn't bad, all things considered, but when compared with Intel-based systems--even those with older processors and chipsets--it's clear that AMD has catching up to do on its processors' power consumption. Our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.
The Toshiba Satellite L305D-5934 is backed by an industry-standard, one-year warranty. Support is accessible 24-7 via a toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and a Web site with driver downloads.