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Toshiba Satellite X205 review: Toshiba Satellite X205

Toshiba Satellite X205

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
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
6 min read

The current flood of excellent gaming laptops (Dell's XPS M1730, HP/Voodoo's Envy, and Alienware's m9750) means that PC gamers have plenty of choices when it comes to picking a new mobile rig. To break through the clutter, Toshiba, not exactly the first name that comes to mind when you think of gaming, would have to offer something special. By putting dual SLI Nvidia GeForce 8600M GPUs in its standard 17-inch Satellite chassis for as little as $1,999, the company has done just that. Our slightly upgraded Satellite X205-SLi3 cost a little more at $2,499, but that's still a few hundred dollars less than the cheapest SLI configurations from Alienware or Dell (although they start with the higher-end Nvidia 8700). If you're looking to harness the power of dual video cards without sending your bank account into the red, the X205 walks the fine between mainstream and gamer.


Toshiba Satellite X205

The Good

SLI graphics at a relatively low price; good gaming performance; HDMI output.

The Bad

Pitiful battery life; too much Toshiba branding; mini spacebar; fixed configuration means no GPU options; lower screen resolution than some other 17-inch laptops.

The Bottom Line

Toshiba's Satellite X205 offers dual-GPU SLI graphics starting at less than $2,000, making it a solid choice for mobile gamers on a budget.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $2,499 / $1,999
Processor 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500
Memory 2GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 320GB (2x160) 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel 965
Graphics SLI Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT (x2)
Operating System Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WDH) 15.6 x 11.5 x 2.0 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.0 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 8.9/11.1 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

From the outside, the Satellite X205 is nearly identical to the other laptops in Toshiba's current lineup, such as the Satellite P205, with the same rounded edges, black accents, and silver interior. The back of the lid has a subtle red-on-black design, which Toshiba calls Flare Carmine. As a fixed configuration, the color scheme and components cannot be customized. At almost 9 pounds without the A/C adapter, it's a big, bulky machine, but still about 2 pounds lighter than the massive Dell XPS M1730. Our main gripe is the giant "TOSHIBA" emblazoned in 1-inch silver letters across the laptop's lid and the backlit Satellite logo on the front edge. A little branding is fine, but it makes you feel like a walking billboard.

The X205's keyboard has a somewhat uncomfortably shortened space bar, but at least it also manages to fit in a full numeric keypad. Since it's a Toshiba, we know that there will be separate page-up and page-down keys, which is usually the first thing other laptop makers cut. Above the keyboard sits a row of basic media controls and quick-launch buttons for your media player and Web browser, as well as Toshiba's standard Harman-Kardon speakers, giving you four speakers plus a subwoofer, and excellent (for a laptop) sound. For a more multimedia experience, with better media controls but without the SLI graphics, Toshiba's Qosmio line is a longtime favorite.

The 17-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,680 x 1,050 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size, but not as high as the 1,920 x 1,200 resolution found in higher-end 17-inch laptops such as the Dell XPS M1730. The display is clear and bright, but slightly too glossy for our tastes, picking up a lot of light reflections from the room.

  Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3 Average for category [desktop replacement]
Video VGA-out, S-video, HDMI VGA-out, S-video, DVI or HDMI
Audio Four-way speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader 4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader
Expansion Express Card slot PC Card or ExpressCard
Networking modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

By offering inexpensive SLI, we suspected that the X205 might skimp on other ports and connections, but the laptop packs in just about everything we'd want, including an HDMI output, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a bundled external USB TV tuner and Media Center remote control. The cheaper $1,999 version (called the X205-SLi1) includes these extras, but drops the screen resolution to 1,440x900, the hard drive from 320GB to 240GB, and the CPU from an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 to a slower T7250.

In our performance benchmarks, the X205 was a strong performer, only marginally slower than systems with faster processors--the Voodoo Envy (T7700) and the Dell XPS M1730 (X7900). At these speeds, the minor performance differences in most applications will be transparent to users. With dual GPUs as its main selling point, it's theX205's gaming performance that's important. Even though the DirectX 10 Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GT isn't the top of Nvidia's line, the dual chips provided decent frame rates, even if it couldn't touch the faster (and much more expensive) SLI Nvidia 8700 GPUs found in the Dell XPS M1730. The system easily beat Voodoo's recent 15-inch gaming laptop, the Voodoo Envy M:152. In anecdotal testing, we loaded up EA's Crysis, a challenging, resource-hungry game for any PC to run. After struggling to run the game on several laptops, we were pleasantly surprised to find it working well on the X205 at a reasonable 1,024x768 resolution, with the visual options all set to medium.

Unfortunately, battery life is the Achilles' heel of this otherwise impressive system. At only 65 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, this was one of the shortest-lived laptops, desktop replacement or otherwise, we've seen. Even the XPS M1730, with more powerful components (and more flashing lights), managed to run for closer to 90 minutes.

Toshiba backs the Satellite P205-S6237 with an industry-standard one-year warranty; extending the warranty to three years costs $134, with express and onsite upgrades available for an additional fee. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and both a carry- and mail-in repair service.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1024x768, HQ, 4xAA, 8X AF  
1280x1024, HQ, 4xAA, 8X AF  
Dell XPS M1730
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3
HP Voodoo Envy

F.E.A.R. performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1024x768, SS:on, AA:off, 8X AF  
1280x1024, SS:off, 4X AA, 8X AF  
Dell XPS M1730
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3
HP Voodoo Envy

DVD Battery Drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System Configurations:

Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GT; 160GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Voodoo Envy M:152
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT; 160GB Seagate Momentus 7,200rpm

Dell XPS M1730
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; SLI 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8700M GT (x2); 200GB(x2) RAID 0 7,200rpm

Alienware Area-51 m9750 Special Edition
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon x1900; (2x)100GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; SLI 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GT (x2); 160GB Hitachi 5,400rpm (x2)