With a lineup of perfectly serviceable, but not exactly standout mainstream laptops, Toshiba's Satellite brand has long played second fiddle to the company's excellent Qosmio multimedia systems. Aiming to correct this, Toshiba has a whole new look and feel for its mainstream consumer products, with a shiny metallic sheen and a clever new Sleep-and-Charge feature, which lets you charge USB devices even if the laptop is powered off.
The $1,149 Satellite U405 is a sleek, light 13-inch system, and while it won't be replacing the 13-inch MacBook in our affections anytime soon, the new features and decent specs make it worth a look in the thin-and-light category.
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.3 x 9.1 x 1.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.7/5.6 pounds|
|Category||Thin and Light|
The new Satellite look is certainly an improvement over previous versions, which have alternated between slate gray and bizarre red-and-black flamed designs. Toshiba says the new look is a "Horizon" pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver-gray and black pinstripes that combine for a distinct metallic sheen. Nearly identical in terms of features and design are the new 14-inch Satellite A305D and the 15-inch Satellite M305.
The interior smartly makes maximum room for the keyboard, and the large keys are comfortable and easy to use. While we're used to having to watch out for fingerprints on a glossy laptop lid or wrist rest, this is the first time we can recall having to worry about fingerprints on the keyboard. The keys are made of an exceptionally glossy plastic, and the effect is almost distracting.
We liked that the touch pad is totally flush with the wrist rest--the Alienware m15x had a similar touch pad, but Toshiba does it better, using a different, matte surface material for the touch pad, making it easier to discern the active area. The Alienware's touch pad was the same glossy material as the rest of the wrist rest, making it hard to use without looking at where your finger was.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature is something called Sleep-and-Charge, which means you can plug in and charge USB devices (iPods, mobile phones, and so on) even if the laptop is in sleep or hibernate mode, or is totally powered off, as long as it's plugged into an outlet. Most laptops provide power to USB ports only while they're turned on. Note that this feature is turned off by default for some reason, and you'll have to hunt around to figure out how to turn it on, as it's buried in a series of submenus. (Start > All Programs > Toshiba>Utilities > HWStup > USB).
The 13-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. We generally prefer matte finishes on laptops screens, but didn't mind the glossy display on the U305, as it seemed mostly immune from glare and reflections.
|Toshiba Satellite U405-S2830||Average for category|
|Video||VGA out||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard slot||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Our review sample had an HDMI port on the side--or at least a spot intended for one. The port was covered over with a plastic plug (which still says HDMI above it), and it's not going to be an option on the final shipping version, leaving you with just a standard VGA output.
We were inundated with more bloatware, trial software, and advertising links than we've seen in a long time. The desktop felt positively Vaio-like, with icons pushing AutoBackup, LoJack for Laptops, QuickBooks, Skype, Napster, Vongo, multiple Microsoft Office come-ons, and more. We shouldn't have to spend an hour or so cleaning off our new laptop just to get the feel of a factory fresh installation. Fortunately for you, we have a handy video about ridding your PC of crapware, so follow the instructions in the video and you can look forward to reclaiming a little hard drive space, processing overhead, and consumer empowerment.
Intel's Penryn-class 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU is the new default for mainstream performance, and the Satellite U405 was on par with other T8100 laptops, such as the 14-inch Toshiba Satellite M305, in our benchmark tests. Bumping up the CPU up a bit to the 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo T9300, as in the HP Pavilion dv2700t, actually makes a significant difference in performance. However, for typical multitasking use--Web surfing, office documents, media viewing, and so on--the U405 is fine, with no slowdown or stuttering.
The Satellite U405 ran for 2 hours and 18 minutes on our DVD battery-drain test, which is acceptable, but not especially impressive for a 13-inch laptop. Our DVD battery-drain test is especially grueling, though, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use, and we got closer to 3.5 hours in anecdotal use.
Toshiba includes an industry-standard, one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $149. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line and an online knowledge base and driver downloads.
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Toshiba Satellite U405-S2830
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 358MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
HP Pavilion dv2700t
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS; 250GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite M305-S4826
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
Apple MacBook Core 2 Duo - 2.2GHz / 13.3 inch
OS X 10.5.1 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz; 2,048GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 144MB Intel GMA X3100; 160GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm