As one of two notebooks launching Best Buy’s Blue Label program, the Toshiba E105-S1402 incorporates a number of features and design elements based on customer research by the big-box retailer. The $1,199 E105, with a backlit keyboard and Toshiba’s funky Fusion Finish, certainly looks different from other notebooks from the company. Although we don’t love the design or the feel of the keyboard, this notebook will meet the needs of consumers looking for a thin and light system with long battery life and good overall performance.
The E105’s footprint has a unique squarish build with rounded edges that’s reminiscent of the old MacBook Pro, and at 13.4 x 9.7 x 1.2 inches and a shade under 5 pounds, this notebook slips easily into a bag and can be comfortably carried around.
The E105 sports Toshiba’s high-gloss Fusion Finish—a series of lines that intersect to create geometric patterns—that extend from the lid to inside the notebook. The pattern on the outside is subtle, but on the inside the lines are brighter and louder, which some onlookers found more distracting than stylish.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard, done in a solid mocha color that matches the lid, was comfortable to type on, but we were a bit disturbed with the amount of flex. Pressing a single key caused a large portion of the layout to cave in temporarily, and keys made a sound as if they were sticking when depressed. We like that the keyboard is backlit, which can be activated by pressing Fn+Z; it would be nicer if the backlighting activated automatically in low light.
The grid pattern also appears on the touchpad, where it is raised to provide a tactile feel, and helps distinguish the pad from the glossy palm rests. The ridges are just enough to notice, but not so much that they slow finger movements. Below, a fingerprint reader separates two mouse buttons, which while a bit noisy provided good feedback.
To the right are backlit multimedia touch controls that were very responsive. When a user presses the Function key, a list of all of the available options appear as a row of icons on the top of the screen. It saved us from having to hunch over and squint at the top row of keys to find the command we were looking for.
Display and Webcam
The 14.1 inch, 1280 x 800-pixel display was very crisp. While it had excellent viewing angles—nearly 180 degrees side to side—the image quickly deteriorated when we tilted the screen forward or backwards. When we watched a DVD of Master and Commander, the screen reproduced the blue of the ocean and the red of the British uniforms fairly well, and action sequences showed no lag. However, in full-screen mode, the movie appeared a little washed out, and we also noticed light seeping in at the bottom of the screen. We went to a local Best Buy to determine if this display issue was an isolated case, and did not notice any light seepage on a floor model.
The E105’s speakers, on the front corners of the notebook, were sufficiently loud for one or two people but, as expected, lacked bass. A fusillade of cannons during a climatic battle scene sounded no more imposing than a bunch of cap guns.
Above the display, the E105’s 1.3-MP webcam produced grainy and washed-out video both with the included webcam software and during a Skype call with a colleague.
On the front of the E105, right below the mouse buttons, is a 5-in-1 card reader; to its right are headphone and mic ports. Also included is a jack for an included FM radio antenna, which despite its small size was able to pick up radio stations clearly, even from inside an office building. Considering that the E105 also has an HDMI port, we wish that the notebook—which came with an 8X DVD burner—was also offered with Blu-ray as an option.
The notebook has three USB ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA port, which is great for using with high-speed external hard drives. Plus, the USB ports feature Toshiba’s Sleep and Charge technology, which lets users recharge connected devices even when the system is turned off.
Toshiba equipped the E105 with a very spacious 5,400-rpm, 320GB hard drive that will no doubt see plenty of use from consumers who fill it up with photos and music. While it’s not the fastest, the drive still managed a just-below-average score of 14.0 MBps when copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. The system was able to boot to Windows Vista Home Premium in 58 seconds, 13 seconds faster than the thin-and-light average.
The E105 comes with a 2.26-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and 4GB of RAM, which powered the system to a PCMark Vantage score of 2,936—about 200 points higher than the category average. The E105 was able to rip 43.2 minutes of music from a CD in 3 minutes and 30 seconds; it converted those same tracks from AAC to MP3 (at 192 Kbps) in 1 minute and 41 seconds while simultaneously watching a DVD; video playback was not affected.
As part of the Centrino 2 platfrom, the E105 also uses Intel’s integrated GMA 4500MHD graphics, which produced mediocre 3DMark03 and 3DMark06 scores of 2,662 and 1,006, respectively. While the 3DMark03 score is about 50 points higher than the thin-and-light average, the E105’s 3DMark06 score is about 300 points shy of the category average. Not surprisingly, the E105 did not fare well when we ran F.E.A.R in autodetect mode (23 fps at 800 x 600 pixels) or with the screen set to its native resolution (6 fps). Both scores were roughly half the category average.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
Using Intel’s 5100 WiFi Link, the E105 managed slightly above-average throughput of 18.4 Mbps from 15 feet, but at 50 feet the 802.11a/g/n radio notched just 11.4 Mbps—about 3 Mbps less than the category average.
Despite claims by Toshiba and Best Buy that the E105 could last up to 5.5 hours on a charge, the model we tested fell about an hour short, at 4 hours 36 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi). Nevertheless, that figure is on a par with the recently released Apple MacBook, and about half an hour longer than the category average.
The E105 comes loaded with a 15-month trial of Norton AntiVirus, Toshiba HDD Protection (3D Sensor), Computrace LoJack for Laptops (BIOS Enabled), PowerCinema, Toshiba Disc Creator, a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Professional 2007, and Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5. In addition to a relatively generous two-year warranty from Toshiba, the E105 also comes with 30 days of free Geek Squad support, courtesy of Best Buy.
We generally like the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1402, and it’s a good first step for Best Buy’s Blue Label program. You get good battery life without having an awkward extended battery hanging off the back of the system, the backlit keyboard is a nice touch, and there’s plenty of horsepower for running Vista. However, the design isn’t for everyone, and the quality of the keyboard isn’t top-notch. For a sleeker design and better graphics performance, you might want to take a look at the baseline 13.1-inch MacBook ($1,299). Or you could opt for a similarly configured HP Pavilion dv4t with a 12-cell battery. But the E105 is a pretty good choice for shoppers looking for a full-featured mobile system.