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Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852 review: Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852

Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

5 min read

Editors' note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.

5.5

Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852

The Good

Stylish new design; can charge USB devices, even when off; eSATA port provides fast data transfers to external hard drives.

The Bad

Performance lags behind competition; woeful battery life; glossy finish attracts fingerprints.

The Bottom Line

Toshiba's thin-and-light Satellite U405 is a sleek and affordable alternative to the 13-inch MacBook, but this 13-inch laptop trails the pack in both performance and battery life.

Toshiba's recently revamped Satellite line is most notable for its clever new Sleep-and-Charge feature, which lets you charge USB devices even if the laptop is powered off, and for being a relatively affordable 13-inch laptop, a size most closely associated with the popular MacBook line.

We liked the $1,150 Intel Core 2 Duo version we looked at back in April, and this fixed-configuration retail version, called the Satellite U405D-S2852, comes in even cheaper, at $949, but trades the CPU down to a 2.0 GHz AMD Turion X2 Mobile RM-70.

While we like the idea of charging our iPods overnight without having the system on, the U405 brought up the rear in almost all of our benchmark tests, including battery life, so there are clearly better options in the just-under-$1,000 category.

Toshiba refers to the current Satellite design as a "Horizon" pattern in a "Fusion" finish, which basically means silver-gray and black pinstripes that combine for a distinct metallic sheen. It's a smart look that will work in both casual and professional settings, but the lid is far too fingerprint-prone, as are the glossy keyboard keys. We did, however, like that the touch pad is totally flush with the wrist rest--using a different, matte surface material for the touch pad, so you can still easily discern the active area.

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 U405, as it seemed more resistant to excessive glare than other glossy screens.

The ports and connections on the U405 are a bit on the skimpy side, with only two USB ports and only a VGA-out (there's labeled spot for an HDMI output, but it's plugged shut). There's no Bluetooth, either, but, surprisingly, there's an eSATA port for connecting an external hard drive.

In all the retail back-to-school laptops we've looked at, the systems with AMD CPUs have consistently underperformed Intel-powered laptops in the same price range. This was also true of the U405, which had a 2.0GHz AMD Turion X2 Mobile RM-70. Other systems in the same price range, such as the HP Pavilion dv6985 Special Edition, did better with a middle-of-the-road Intel Core 2 Duo T5750. You can see a trend looking at our charts, where the three AMD-based models in this price range finish at or toward the bottom of the charts, including battery life.

The Satellite U405 ran for 2 hours and 6 minutes on our video playback battery-drain test, which is near the bottom of the barrel among the eight mainstream-priced retail back-to-school laptops we've tested, and not terribly useful for a small 13-inch laptop that will probably be carried from class to class, or at least make extended visits to the library.

Toshiba includes an industry-standard, one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line and a reasonable detailed online knowledge base. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive and hard to use, so we do not recommend them.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr
1,246 
Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852
1,290 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr
327 
Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852
332 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852
235 
HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr
238 

Video Playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852
126 
HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr
123 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1; 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile RM-70; 3072MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon 3100; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dv2945se
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-60; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB Nvidia MCP67M; 320GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dv6985 Special Edition
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dv9925nr
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-60; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 64MB Nvidia MCP67M; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Sony VAIO VGN-CR150E
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 3072MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Sony VAIO VGN-NR498 E/W
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 3072MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 250GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite A305-S6858
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750; 4098MB DDR SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 300GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

5.5

Toshiba Satellite U405D-S2852

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 4Battery 3Support 6
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