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Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4 review: Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

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
5 min read

Toshiba impressed us late last year by putting dual SLI Nvidia GeForce 8600M GPUs in a standard 17-inch Satellite chassis for its inexpensive Satellite X205 series. But the computer market can change very quickly, and just a few months later, the new Satellite X205 SLi4 offers a better CPU (Intel's new Penryn-class T8100) for $200 less than the last model we looked at, the X205-SLi3. Despite the price drop, the X205-SLi4 looks positively pricey when compared with Gateway's budget P-6831FX gaming rig. For almost $1,000 less, the Gateway includes a single GeForce 8800 GPU, which offers superior gaming performance, though admittedly coupled with a slower CPU. We still like the design and multimedia features of the X205, but for now, it can't compete with either high-end gaming laptops such as the Alienware m15x, or budget options such as the Gateway.


Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

The Good

Better CPU for less money than its predecessor.

The Bad

Poor battery life; stuck with HD DVD drive; other systems offer more gaming muscle for less.

The Bottom Line

We've always appreciated the inexpensive SLI options offered by Toshiba's gaming-oriented X205 series, but it's hard to recommend the X205-SLi4 when other vendors offer better frame rates for almost $1,000 less.

Price as reviewed $2,299
Processor 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100
Memory 3GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 250GB 5,400 rpm
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics SLI Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT (x2)
Operating System Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WDH) 15.6x11.5x2.0 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.0 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 8.9/11.1 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

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 the same subtle red-on-black design, which Toshiba calls Flare Carmine, that we saw on the previous X205 model. At almost 9 pounds without the power adapter, it's a big, bulky machine, but still about two pounds lighter than the massive Dell XPS M1730.

Along with a full numeric keypad, Toshiba is great about including 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.

The 17-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,680 x 1,050 native resolution, which is common for a screen this size, but not as high as the 1,920x1,200 resolution found in higher-end 17-inch laptops such as the Dell XPS M1730.

  Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4 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 Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader
Expansion Express Card slot 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
Optical drive HD DVD-ROM/DVD burner DVD burner

Even if this system was built just before Toshiba threw the towel on HD DVD, the writing has been on the wall since the beginning of the year, and it's a shame that Toshiba is still only selling its SLI laptops bundled with HD DVD drives. We expect a non-HD DVD version once existing supplies are exhausted, but Toshiba says it has no current plans to offer Blu-ray drives. Aside from the unfortunate optical drive choice, the laptop packs in just about everything we'd want, including an HDMI output, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a basic external USB TV tuner.

The inclusion of Intel's Penryn-class 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo T8100 is a welcome upgrade over the last X205 we reviewed. It's a speedy CPU that offers fast performance in everyday multitasking and media apps. But Toshiba is selling the X205 as a mainstream gaming system, and that's where it falls flat.

Even though the DirectX 10 Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GT isn't the top of Nvidia's line, the dual chips provide decent frame rates that we considered acceptable a few months ago. But now Nvidia's GeForce 8800 card, which is faster than even two 8600s, is widely available. You'll find a single 8800 card in Gateway's P-6831FX 17-inch laptop, a tremendous bargain at only $1,349 (and occasionally on sale for less). The trade-off is that the Gateway has a much slower CPU, the 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo T5450, and you can clearly see the difference in our multitasking, Photoshop, and iTunes tests. For gaming, however, the Gateway is a much better choice for budget buyers.

Powering dual GPUs is no easy task, and the X205 struggles to do so, offering only 69 minutes of battery life on our DVD battery drain test. That's short, even for a desktop replacement; even the power-hungry Dell XPS M1730 managed to run for closer to 90 minutes.

Toshiba backs the Satellite X205 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-in and mail-in repair service.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1280x800, 4X AA, 8X AF  
1440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF  
Gateway P-6831FX
Dell XPS M1730
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4
Windows Vista Home Ultimate Edition; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB (x2) w/ SLi Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT; 160GB (x2) Hitachi 7,200 rpm

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

Gateway P-6831FX
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5450; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTS; 250GB Western Digital 5,400 rpm SATA/150

Alienware Area-51 m9750
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX; 300GB Seagate 7,200 rpm


Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6Battery 5Support 5