Toshiba's mainstream Satellite laptops have impressed us lately with their smart design and a varied mix of specs and prices. The 14-inch $849 Satellite M205 hits a decent middle ground; it offers an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (the budget 15-inch Satellite A215 uses an AMD processor and starts at less than $700) but strips away many of the extras we've come to expect from Toshiba, including 802.11n Wi-Fi, Harman Kardon speakers, and a LabelFlash optical drive that can burn text and images on your optical media. An identically configured Dell Inspiron 1420 is a few bucks more at $924, but Dell's customization options may steer you toward the Inspiron instead of the fixed-configuration Satellite M205-S7452, or slightly more expensive entries (the Sony VAIO CR120 and Lenovo 3000 N200) that offer faster processors.
|Price as reviewed||$849|
|Processor||1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250|
|Memory||1GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.0x9.5x1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.1 / 6.0 pounds|
From the outside, the Satellite M205 is nearly identical to the other laptops in Toshiba's current lineup, such as the Satellite U305, with the same rounded edges, black accents, and silver interior. The dark-blue-speckled lid has a high-gloss coating--making it especially vulnerable to fingerprints and smudges, but it's attractive otherwise. One of our common complaints about the company's laptops remains the giant "Toshiba" emblazoned in large silver letters across the laptop's lid and the backlit Satellite logo on the front edge. It all adds up to branding overkill, making us feel like a walking billboard.
Blue LED lights on the front edge give you updates about battery status and hard drive activity without causing distraction, and a row of media control buttons (play/pause, and so forth) sits above the keyboard, between the stereo speakers. These are not the Harman Kardon speakers found on more expensive Toshiba laptops such as the X205, but the sound quality is acceptable for casual listening, although still too thin and brittle for enjoying music. The keyboard has a little of that click-clack quality some find annoying, but it wasn't a deal-breaker.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size, and the same as Toshiba's 15-inch A205. It provides for highly readable text and icons, and the screen is bright and stands out against the black screen bezel. A Web cam is built into the top screen bezel--making it one extra that wasn't cut for budgetary reasons.
|Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452||Average for mainstream category|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||PC Card slot||PC Card or Express Card slot|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
While almost no one has an 802.11n Wi-Fi router yet, we're getting used to seeing it included as part of the standard equipment on all but the cheapest laptops. At nearly $900, we expected to find it here (as on the Fujitsu LifeBook A6110). Bluetooth is also not an option, which is disappointing, and many of Toshiba's only slightly more expensive laptops include a Labelflash DVD drive, which can burn grayscale text and images onto specially coated media.
The M205's Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 processor features a relatively slow 1.5GHz clockspeed, but it operates on Intel's latest Santa Rosa platform and is more than adequate for basic Web surfing, media playback, and productivity tasks, although attempting to multitask all three at once led to some sputtering. Adding a second gigabyte of RAM, as in the otherwise similar Fujitsu LifeBook A6110, meant faster performance in some applications, particularly Photoshop, but you're stuck with 1GB in the fixed-config M205.
The Satellite M205 ran for 1 hour and 55 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's a bit short of acceptable for a laptop of this size, and Sony's similar NR160 ran for 2.5 hours on the same test. Still, our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the Satellite M205. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $134, or $224 with on-site service. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.