Toshiba Satellite U505 review: Toshiba Satellite U505

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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.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8
  • Support 7

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.

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.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $949
Processor 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350
Memory 4GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive 400GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel GM45
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD
Operating System Windows Vista Premium SP1
Dimensions (WD) 12.5 x 9.08 inches
Height 1.16-1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.56/6.24 pounds
Category Thin and light

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.

  Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940 Average for category [thin and light]
Video VGA-out, HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo, SD card reader 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

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).

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite U505-S2940

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

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