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Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057 review: Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057

Users who want a laptop with solid performance, a rich feature set, and a compact design will be pleased by the affordable Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057.

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Matt Elliott Michelle Thatcher
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Matt Elliott

Matt Elliott, a technology writer for more than a decade, is a PC tester and Mac user based in New Hampshire.

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Michelle Thatcher

Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

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5 min read

Featuring the same chassis as the U205-S5044 model we reviewed late last year, the Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057 straddles the line between ultraportable and thin-and-light. The difference between the two models is inside the case: the U205-S5057 incorporates more modest components than its costlier sibling, relying on an entry-level Core 2 Duo processor and a scant 1GB of RAM to run Windows Vista. That's not to say, however, that its performance tanked; though we'd have preferred more RAM, the U205-S5057 provided plenty of oomph for typical computing tasks and excelled on our Office productivity application tests. All told, we think the $1,299 Satellite U205-S5057 is a great choice for anyone seeking a compact, full-featured laptop for daily travel.

7.0

Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057

The Good

Lightweight yet sturdy; good performance; comfy keyboard; bright but not overly glossy screen; includes handy fingerprint reader.

The Bad

Tiny touchpad; keyboard layout thwarts shortcuts; thicker than other laptops in its class.

The Bottom Line

Users who want a laptop with solid performance, a rich feature set, and a compact design will be pleased by the affordable Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057.

The Satellite U205-S5057 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 is less than an inch thick, and Apple's 13.3-inch MacBook is an inch thick. The Dell XPS M1210 is closer in size and thickness to the U205-S5057, but the Dell weighs 0.7 pound more. At 4.2 pounds, the U205-S5057 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 touchpad, which we'll get to in a moment.

Like its precursor, the Satellite U205-S5057 supplies three USB 2.0 ports (two located on the right, one on the left), a four-pin FireWire port, VGA-out, a CardBus card slot (in lieu of an ExpressCard slot), and a 5-in-1 card reader. Along the right side of the case sits a built-in DVD burner. Above it you'll find a volume-control wheel; 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 is the wireless on/off switch on the laptop's right side. The U205-S5057 includes a built-in 802.11a/b/g chip along with a 10/100 Ethernet port and 56K modem jack, but no Bluetooth. The Satellite U205-S5057 also lacks the built-in Webcam found on the displays of competing laptops, such as the Dell XPS M1210.

The 12.1 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-S5057'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 spacebar. Keyboard shortcut users will be frustrated by the fact that the Windows key has been moved to the upper-right side of the keyboard, and the right-side control key has been completely eliminated. We also don't think we'll ever grow completely accustomed to the tiny touchpad, which is only 2 inches wide by less than 1.5 inches deep. Below the keyboard, you'll also find a handy fingerprint scanner for easy security and password maintenance. The lid and the bezel that frames 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-S5057 we received is a fixed configuration that costs $1,299. Its 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 occupies the low end of Intel's Core 2 Duo line; likewise midrange are its 1GB of RAM and its integrated Intel CMA 945 graphics card. We were impressed, however, that such a small laptop could pack a 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive.

The Satellite U205-S5057 did pretty well on CNET Labs' benchmarks, keeping pace or pulling ahead of the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet (built on a low-voltage, 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor and twice as much RAM) on all but one of our tests. The only place where the Satellite U205-S5057 seemed to drag was on our RAM-intensive Photoshop CS2 test; we suggest doubling the Satellite's RAM (which adds $168 to the price) if your work requires more than the typical e-mail and Office productivity apps. Unsurprisingly, the $2,329 Dell XPS M1210 we tested, with a faster, 2.0GHz processor and twice as much RAM, ran faster than the Satellite U205-S5057 on all but our Office productivity test.

The Satellite U205-S5057's standard six-cell battery lasted two hours and 19 minutes in our DVD drain test, which compares favorably against the HP Pavilion tx1000's similarly size battery. The Dell XPS M1210's nine-cell extended battery, though, lasted 90 minutes longer than that of the Satellite U205-S5057.

Toshiba backs the Satellite U205-S5057 with an average one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Support is accessible through a 24 hours a day, seven days a week toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and both a carry- and mail-in repair service.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Microsoft Office productivity test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

DVD Battery Drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops. System configurations:

Dell XPS M1210
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition: 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 7400; 120GB Hitachi 5,400rpm SATA/150

HP Pavilion tx1000
Windows Vista Home Premium (Build 5808); 1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 6150; 120GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet
Windows Vista Business Edition; 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo L2500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Intel Mobile Express 945GM; 100GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 528MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express Chipset; 160GB Hitachi, 5,400rpm


7.0

Toshiba Satellite U205-S5057

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 7Support 5