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Toshiba Satellite U505 review: Toshiba Satellite U505

Toshiba Satellite U505

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. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
5 min read

We've reviewed a lot of Toshiba laptops lately, mainly because they've released a veritable flood of midrange laptops onto the market over the last few months. Slotting into a range of similar-looking products, the Satellite U505-S2940 looks like an iteration on the compact design of the Satellite M505, focusing on portability while including some higher-end features such as a backlit keyboard and a slot-loading optical drive.

7.6

Toshiba Satellite U505

The Good

Attractive look; loud speakers; long battery life.

The Bad

Uncomfortable keyboard; more expensive than comparable laptops.

The Bottom Line

The stylish design and high-end feel of the Toshiba U505-S2940 don't make up for mediocre ergonomics and performance that can be had for less in other laptops.

But, priced at $949 and lacking any discrete graphics, we can't find much reason to choose this Satellite over other more affordable models--especially since the retail-only Satellite E105-S1602 (recently reviewed in our back-to-school retail roundup), despite having a different design, is $150 cheaper, has a similar Core 2 Duo processor, a larger hard drive, and a more comfortable keyboard.

At $949 for our configuration, it's not exactly bargain-priced, especially considering that it lacks high-end extras such as Blu-ray or a gaming-level GPU. What you're getting is a nicely designed, more luxurious-feeling Satellite with a larger hard drive and a slot-loading DVD drive, and a better-than-average Core 2 Duo processor, offset by a mediocre keyboard/touch-pad experience.

Listed as a "thin and light" on Toshiba's Web site, the U505-S2940 is anything but. The chassis is thick and the laptop feels heavier than average. If anything, this laptop feels compact and dense. From our experience, many of the Satellite laptops from Toshiba have tended toward the chunky side. While the dimensions in terms of width and length are compact, the thickness of the U505 chassis is considerable, especially with the extended battery clamped on the rear. It provides a nice built-in laptop stand to elevate the keyboard on a desk, but lap use can be pretty uncomfortable.

The U505's outer and inner surfaces are covered in a textured Matrix finish with a pebbled feel--our model came in an attractive, leather-like dark brown called Luxe Brown (other colors are Luxe Pink and Luxe White). Mirrored chrome highlights around the speaker grilles, Webcam, and touch-pad buttons, along with the backlit keyboard and capacitive-touch control bar, add some extra flair.

We didn't like the Satellite keyboards we reviewed recently in our back-to-school retail roundup, especially the smooth, flat keyboard type in the midrange Satellite line. The U505, sadly, is no exception. Not only are the keys prone to tilt from side to side when pressed on their edges, but smooth surfaces are difficult for finger traction and the whole keyboard feels annoyingly cramped. It wasn't a joy to type on. The touchpad also feels too small for the laptop design, whereas the touch-pad buttons are large and easy to access. It's an odd setup for serious writers.

On the multimedia side of things, however, the U505 is a solid but slightly underwhelming performer. The 13.3-inch screen, while not 16x9 resolution, is 1,280x800, a standard resolution for a laptop this size. Video, text, and icons all looked crisp, well-defined, and easy to read, although the colors sometimes looked washed out. Our favorite feature on recent multimedia Satellites, Harman/Kardon speakers, aren't included here. However, the bass-enhanced stereo speakers are still much better than the average.

The Satellite U505-S2940 has a good selection of ports, ranging from HDMI-out and ExpressCard to the Toshiba hallmark sleep-and-charge USB/eSATA combo port, which can charge devices even when the laptop is asleep or powered down. Sleep-and-charge needs to be configured before use, but it's otherwise a really useful inclusion. A strange omission is Bluetooth, although it can be added in online configurations.

On Toshiba's Web site, the U500 line can be customized with hard drives up to 500GB, and an optional ATI Mobility Radeon H4570 GPU ($76). Bluetooth, lacking in our model, can be added for $20.The processor can be boosted an extra level as well, to a 2.53 GHz P8700 Core 2 Duo ($184 vs. $108 for the P7350 we reviewed).

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940
154 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940
184 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940
329 

In our multimedia and multitasking benchmarks, the Satellite U505-S2940 performed well, doing better than its P7350 Core 2 Duo sibling, the E105-S1602. The Core 2 Duo P7350 processor is better than the more budget-level T6500 series, but is still not as fast as higher-end laptops. For most users, however, it's perfectly capable of running most applications and does a good job multitasking--better than the laptops we compared against. Without discrete graphics, the U505-S2940 isn't a gaming machine, so don't bother with anything above casual games.

Juice box
Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940  
Off (watts) 0.56
Sleep (watts) 1.15
Idle (watts) 13.04
Load (watts) 39.47
Raw (annual kWh) 49.80
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $5.65

Annual power consumption cost
Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940
$5.65 

The Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940's included 12-cell battery lasted for 5 hours and 29 minutes in our video-playback battery drain test, which dwarfed the results of competitors. On the other hand, this would be expected, since the U505 packs a seriously thick 12-cell battery pack. We can't complain too much, although laptops like the 13-inch MacBook Pro manage to get equivalent or better battery life with no bulge at all.

The Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940 is backed by an industry-standard one-year warranty, which can be extended to three years for an additional $80. Support is accessible 24-7 via a toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and a Web site with driver downloads.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940
Windows Vista Home Edition SP1; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 400GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite E105-S1602
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 500GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron 1545
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

7.6

Toshiba Satellite U505

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 8Support 7