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Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940 review: Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940

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Scott Stein
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Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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5 min read

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

OVR
5.8

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940

The Good

Good speakers; decent screen for music/video playback.

The Bad

Uncomfortable touch pad and keyboard; outdated processor.

The Bottom Line

Equipped with great speakers and a good screen but an inferior processor and keyboard, the Toshiba M505-S4940 just isn't a good enough buy for the money.

Positioned as a midrange affordable laptop in the budget area of our back-to-school retail roundup, the Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940 is a machine that simply looks a little better than it is. In terms of body design and many features, it's very similar to the almost identically-named Toshiba Satellite M505-S4945, which we also reviewed. At $649, the 14-inch S4940 falls into a range already mapped by products such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 and the Gateway TC7804u. But, buyers beware: for the $50 savings, the S4940 bumps you down to an inferior Pentium Dual Core processor and lops off an HDMI port. On the other hand, the hard-drive space and RAM are greater compared with the S4945--nice adds, but it still doesn't make the processor faster or less outdated. Even with the added RAM and storage space, we say you're better off spending the extra $50 on the S4945, or spending a little more for any other machine with a Core 2 Duo processor, an option available on many models in its price range.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $649
Processor 2.0GHz Pentium Dual Core T4200
Memory 4GB, DDR2 800 MHz
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel GM45
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium SP1
Dimensions (WD) 13.5x9.1 inches
Height 1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 14 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.38 / 6.06 pounds
Category Mainstream

At 1.5 inches thick, however, the Satellite M505-S4940 is one chunky laptop (chunk-top for short). It has an identical case shape to the M505-S4945, but with a "special edition" gold stripe pattern across its glossy black interior and exterior. The look is attractive, particularly with its LED-backlit media control keys above the keyboard illuminated. The touch-sensitive keys are for volume, play/pause and track-skipping, a launcher to Toshiba's PowerCinema photo/video viewing software, and the Eco utility panel for energy-saving presets.

The volume buttons are finicky and make annoying beeps when used, but the other buttons work well. As for the keyboard itself, it's not backlit and it's annoyingly glossy and flat, with soft-feeling high-flex keys. Typing on the keyboard after a while felt extremely uncomfortable, at least to us--the glossy surfaces got slick and greasy. The smaller-than-normal multitouch touch pad was matte but slick to the touch, and blends in with the case, making its borders hard to sense. Even worse, the LED strip above the pad only served to blind us when we looked at it in dim lighting. Using it and the larger silver buttons below felt like a clinic in anti-ergonomic awkwardness.

The 1,366x768-pixel resolution 14-inch screen is a standard resolution for a 16:9 LCD of this size. LED-backlit, its colors were sharp and bright during video playback, and viewing angles were decent. Of particular note are the built-in Harman/Kardon stereo speakers, which have great sound compared with most laptops in this range. They're similar to the speakers in the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450, and are a notable improvement from the lackluster speakers in the recently reviewed entry-level Satellite L305 and L505 laptops.

  Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940 Average for category [mainstream]
Video VGA-out VGA-out, HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader, USB/eSATA combo 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

The port selection covers many of the basic needs for mainstream laptop owners: a generous three USB ports, plus a sleep-and-charge USB/eSATA combo port, which can charge USB devices when the laptop is sleeping or even off. This is a nearly universal Toshiba laptop feature, but it's a notable benefit for those who own Satellites. A full-size ExpressCard slot and a memory-card slot are all welcome features, but HDMI has been dropped in the S4940--a plugged-up port is all that remains.

The 320GB hard drive is actually generous, and we can't complain there. So are the 4GB of memory. But the older T4200 dual-core processor is a step backward from similarly priced models, and produced benchmark results that lagged compared with its S4945 sibling in most categories. In this day and age at this price, we recommend ponying up a little more money for a Core 2 Duo processor (similar-sounding to the Dual Core, which can fool tech newcomers, but a better buy). The T4200 will perform basic office tasks and even play a few very basic games, but it's not a cutting-edge processor by any means, and is behind the performance of Core 2 Duo chips found in nearly every other mainstream machine.

Juice box
Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940  
Off (watts) 0.95
Sleep (watts) 1.31
Idle (watts) 13.46
Load (watts) 39.09
Raw (annual kWh) 574
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $5.99

The M505-S4940's six-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes in our battery-drain test. That's below average for what we'd expect in a standard 14-inch laptop. However, our video-playback battery drain test is grueling--you can expect longer battery life under normal office work and casual Web use conditions.

The Toshiba Satellite L505-S4940 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. While retail shops are happy to sell you an in-store extended warranty, they are often expensive and hard to use, so we don't recommend them.

Note: While this machine comes with Windows Vista, many retailers, including Best Buy, and some hardware manufacturers are offering a free upgrade to Windows 7 for systems purchased after the end of June.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940
966 
HP G60-445dx
1,254 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Annual energy consumption cost
Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940
$5.99 
HP G60-445dx
$8.02 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T4200; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

HP G60-445dx
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core RM-75; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8200M G; 320GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.19GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core RM-74; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4945
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 160GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

OVR
5.8

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 6Battery 6Support 7
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