Toshiba Satellite U205-S5044
The Toshiba Satellite U205-S5044 is a little powerhouse of a laptop. It features the same chassis as the U205-S5022 model we reviewed earlier in the year, which straddles the line between ultraportable and thin-and-light, but underneath its hood the U205-S5044 now boasts a Core 2 Duo processor, a rarity among laptops of its size. Thanks in part to its Core 2 Duo T7200 chip and 2GB of memory, it's the fastest 12-inch laptop we've tested to date. If not for the tiny touch pad, we'd say the $1,599 Toshiba Satellite U205-S5044 is the perfect laptop for users looking for a fully featured, powerful laptop that's still small and light enough for daily travel.
The Satellite U205-S5044 is one of the chunkier laptops you'll find with a 12.1-inch wide-screen display. It measures 11.6 inches wide, 8.7 inches deep, and a somewhat portly 1.5 inches thick. By comparison, a similarly sized Acer Ferrari 1004WTMi is less than an inch thick, and Apple's 13.3-inch MacBook is an inch thick. The Fujitsu LifeBook T4215 is closer in size and thickness to the U205-S5044, but the LifeBook weighs about half a pound more. At 4.2 pounds, the U205-S5044 feels lighter than you'd expect. With its AC adapter, the total travel weight is 5.1 pounds.
As light as it is, the machine still feels sturdy and well built. The two hinges that support the display are thick, and Toshiba trumpets a spill-resistant keyboard and a shock-absorbing hard drive. Overall, the design can't be called inspired, but it is functional aside from the puny touch pad that we'll get to in a moment.
Like its precursor, the Satellite U205-S5044 supplies three USB 2.0 ports (two located on the right, one on the left), a four-pin FireWire port, a VGA-out, a CardBus card slot (in lieu of an ExpressCard slot), and a five-in-one media card reader. The notebook also features multimedia controls above the keyboard for playing, pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding either music or movies. With instant-on software, you can use these controls to play CDs and DVDs without first booting to Windows, a highly convenient feature. Also handy, the wireless on/off switch on the laptop's right side. The U205-S5044 includes a built-in 802.11a/b/g chip, along with a 10/100 Ethernet port, and a 56K modem jack, but no Bluetooth.
The 12.1-inch wide-screen display has a native resolution of 1,280x800, which is standard for this size screen. Toshiba outfits it with its TruBrite technology for a brighter, more vibrant image. Unlike other extra-bright laptop displays we've seen, the U205-S5044's screen doesn't result in overly distracting reflections and glare. Movies look great on it, though you'll want to use headphones because the integrated stereo speakers located just below the display are about as weak as they come.
Given the laptop's compact size, the keyboard is surprisingly comfortable, although it took a bit of time to get used to the shortened space bar. We don't think we'll ever grow completely accustomed to the tiny touch pad, which is only 2 inches wide by less than 1.5 inches deep. Perhaps our hand cramps will subside after continued use, but it's been more than a week, and our disdain for the teeny, tiny touch pad remains strong. Below the keyboard, you'll also find a handy fingerprint scanner for easy security and password maintenance. The lid and bezel that frame the screen are dark gray, while silver plastic surrounds the keyboard.
Toshiba sells a customizable version of the Satellite U205 on its site, but the U205-S5044 we received is a fixed configuration model, not that we'd change much about this laptop. Its 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 processor resides in the sweet spot of Intel's Core 2 Duo line; it's the lowest priced chip with 4MB of L2 cache. Also impressive is the system's 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM and its 120GB, 5,400rpm hard drive. One feature you must sacrifice in such a small package is dedicated graphics, but at least the system uses the most recent of Intel's integrated graphics chips, the GMA 950. The U205-S5044 won't do double duty as a productivity machine by day and a gaming rig by night, but GMA 950 graphics do support DirectX 9, which means this laptop will be able to make the leap to Windows Vista next year. Rounding out the core specs is a DVD burner.
The Satellite U205-S5044 turned in an impressive showing on CNET Labs' benchmark tests. It was able to keep pace with a larger, gaming-oriented laptop from Velocity Micro that uses the same Core 2 Duo T7200 processor. Compared to laptops closer in size, it easily outpaced an AMD-based, 12-inch Acer Ferrari and a 13.3-inch Sony VAIO that uses a less powerful Core 2 Duo processor with half the L2 cache. We included a 12-inch ThinkPad tablet in the charts to show the performance delta between a Core 2 Duo-based system and another with an older Core Duo chip. Granted, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet has half the memory of our Satellite review unit, but the results are still telling. The U205-S5044 turned a time that was 28 percent faster than the ThinkPad's. More impressively, the Toshiba competed out Photoshop benchmark in less than half the time.
The Satellite U205-S5044 uses a standard six-cell battery and turned in a score of 4 hours, 13 minutes, which roughly matches Toshiba's claims and compares favorably to similar laptops from Acer and Sony. The older Satellite U205-S5022 model, however, ran 26 minutes longer on the same test.
The bundled software starts with the Windows Media Center operating system and also includes Microsoft Works 8.5 for when you aren't watching movies or listening to music. InterVideo's WinDVD 5 and Creater 3 Platinum come preinstalled for playing and recording CDs and DVDs. Software trials includes 30 days for McAfee VirusScan and Internet Security Suite, 60 days for the Student Teacher Edition of Microsoft Office, and six months of Internet access from AOL.
Toshiba backs the Satellite U205-S5044 with the average one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Support is accessible through a 24/7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and both carry- and mail-in repair services.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)