Editors' note: This review is part of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
When Best Buy announced its new Blue Label program for laptops, in which the company partners with manufacturers to develop products based on customer-requested features, we were skeptical. The criteria for Blue Label laptops sounded good--longer battery life, thin and lightweight design, an illuminated keyboard, and better warranty support--but would the new laptops be able to deliver on that promise?
If the Toshiba Satellite E105 is any indication, the answer is yes. The 14.1-inch laptop costs just $1,099, yet offers a full selection of features, a two-year warranty, and 4 hours of battery life. The biggest caveat with the Satellite E105 applies to casual gamers only: the laptop's integrated graphics, while sufficient for basic computing, won't have enough oomph for even basic 3D games. If you like to unwind with a few rounds of a first-person shooter or other game, you'll be better served by the 13.3-inch HP Pavilion dv3510nr, which also sports Best Buy's Blue Label.
|Processor||2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400|
|Memory||4GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.4 x 9.7 x 1.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.1 / 6 pounds|
The Toshiba Satellite E105 hardly looks like other Satellites. Instead of a glossy black case, the laptop features a subdued gray-and-copper color scheme (the copper is far more muted than the fiery HP Pavilion dv6985se). The E105 is also boxier than other Satellites, bypassing tapered edges in favor of a rectangular shape. What the Satellite E105 does have in common with its corporate siblings: the "Fusion" finish, which embeds a subtle pattern--in this case, pin stripes and narrow-lined curves--into the lid, keyboard deck, and even the touch pad.
Perhaps because of its boxy shape, the Satellite E105 feels solid and ready to take the bumps and knocks of everyday use. We're impressed that, even with the standard eight-cell battery, the E105's weight is lighter than not only the 15.4-inch laptops that dominate the marketplace but also other 14-inch systems, such as the Gateway T-6330u. In fact the Satellite E105 weighs just 0.2 pound more than Best Buy's other Blue Label laptop, the HP Pavilion dv3510nr, which has a smaller, 13.3-inch screen and smaller, six-cell battery.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen display on the Satellite E105 features a typical 1,280x800 native resolution. Its glossy finish does produce some reflections, but overall it strikes a comfortable balance for the full range of home computer use, from surfing the Web to watching movies. (Because this is a fixed configuration for sale in retail stores, there is no matte-screen finish option.) A Webcam and built-in microphone for video chats sit above the screen.
The keyboard, too, proved comfortable for typing everything from a URL to a lengthy e-mail; we appreciate the keyboard's backlighting, which is handy for use in dark environments (namely: bed). While the touch pad is adequately sized, the mouse buttons are a bit small, because of the fingerprint reader squeezed between them. A row of LED light-touch buttons to the right of the keyboard provide easy access to basic media playback and volume controls.
|Toshiba Satellite E105||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Video||HDMI, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks, FM antenna jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, eSATA/USB port, mulitformat memory card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Satellite E105 is one of the first non-Apple laptops we've seen in a while to omit both a VGA connection and a modem jack, which are arguably legacy ports for many home users. Some might be more upset about the laptop's lack of both a mini-FireWire port, which could be used to transfer video from a camcorder, and an ExpressCard or PC Card slot, which could be used to add such functionality as a WWAN card or TV tuner. However, the Satellite E105 does offer an HDMI-out port so you can hook it up to your HDTV, and one of the USB ports doubles as an eSATA port for a high-speed connection to an external hard drive. In a curious touch, Toshiba has included a jack for a mini-FM radio antenna (included). In the era of MP3s and streaming radio we're not sure how much use this feature will get, especially considering the miserably tinny sound produced by the Satellite E105's poor speakers, placed on the laptop's front edge.
The retail-only Satellite E105 is available in a single fixed configuration, with such Centrino 2 components as a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and integrated Intel graphics. Toshiba includes 4GB of 800MHz RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista to take advantage of it. There's also a 320GB hard drive--ample enough for plenty of music and photos--spinning at 5,400rpm. All these added up to decent performance on CNET Labs' benchmarks, where the Satellite E105 performed on a par with other laptops in our group of high-end retail models. The only real disparity among this evenly matched group of laptops came on the Photoshop test, where the Satellite E105 easily outperformed its fellow Best Buy Blue Label laptop, the HP Pavilion dv3510nr. It's also worth noting that the Satellite E105 relies on integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics, while the Pavilion dv3510nr incorporates a budget graphics card with 512MB of video memory that provided consistently smooth frame rates for World of Warcraft.
One of the key characteristics behind the Blue Label laptop initiative is lengthy battery life, and on this front the Satellite E105 delivers. It held on for just over 4 hours on our video playback drain test, thanks to its standard eight-cell battery. That's well above average for a laptop of this size.