Toshiba mini NB305-N410 Review

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Editor's Choice

Pros: Sleeker design than predecessor; Comfortable keyboard; Best-in-class touchpad and buttons; Improved speakers; USB Sleep-and-Charge port

Cons: Sluggish boot time; Shorter battery life than previous model

Verdict: Toshiba has updated its stellar netbook with a sleeker design while still delivering 8.5 hours of battery life.

Editor's Note:Portions of this review were taken from our earlier review of the Toshiba mini NB205.

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The design of mini NB205 netbook was so good, from the overized touchpad and touchpad buttons to the metal keyboard and textured lid, that we wish Toshiba used it for many of its other laptops.The mini NB305 is even better than it's predecessor, sporting a sleeker chassis, louder speakers, and Intel's latest Atom N450 processor. Yes, the NB305's $399 price is a bit steep--and competing systems last longer on a charge--but we'll gladly take 8.5 hours of battery life when its paired with such a superior ergonomic experience.

Design

Toshiba trimmed down its netbook where it could: instead of the frame being uniform in thickness, as on the NB205, it tapers from 1.4 inches in the rear to approximately 0.5 inches in front, resulting in a svelte look. The front edge is also more beveled, so the system looks more rounded than before. The new screen bezel sports tapered edges; while it's the same thickness as on the NB205, it doesn't look as clunky.

The major aesthetic change from the NB205 and the NB305 is the battery. The former battery jutted out from the rear, but now it's tucked in underneath, trimming nearly an inch off the system (although the weight remains constant, at 2.8 pounds). The new position of the battery also adds the effect of slanting the keyboard towards the user; while this is supposedly more ergonomic, the change in angle is so slight that it's practically nonexistent.

Apparently pink wasn't a big seller, as Toshiba is no longer offering its mini in that color. The NB305 comes in blue, brown, or white.

Heat

Despite its smaller chassis, the NB305 didn't get appreciably warmer than the NB205. After playing a Hulu video at full-screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the space between the G and H keys reached 94 degrees, and the middle of the underside was 93 degrees. Those temperatures are all slightly lower than the NB205 (99, 98, and 96 degrees, respectively). However, the NB305 has a smaller air vent; this translated into a temperature of 100 degrees in that area, versus just 94 degrees on the NB205.

Keyboard and Touchpad

One thing that Toshiba (thankfully) left unchanged from the NB205 is the keyboard and touchpad. Like those before it, the metal island keyboard on the NB305 is still one of the best we've seen, and rivals that of the HP Mini 5102. The keyboard is sturdy and comfortable, and features Shift keys of respectable size. There are only two possible drawbacks, depending on your keyboard use: the Function keys are quite small (making them difficult to accurately press when speed typing), and the gray icons for shortcuts on those same function keys can be hard to see against the silver background.

The touchpad on the NB305 is the best we've used on a netbook. At 3.1 x 1.6 inches, it's still the largest we've seen in the 10-inch class, and the pad's smooth finish makes it easy to navigate the desktop. The two dedicated right and left mouse buttons are large and easy to press, making them best in class.

Display and Audio

The NB205's 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel LED-backlit display was bright and glossy, but it kicked back quite a few reflections when viewing content with dark backgrounds. An episode of Scrubs streamed from Hulu featured colorful, sharp visuals, but the horizontal viewing angles weren't as wide as we would've liked; moving left or right of center, once again, causes the screen to toss reflection back to you.

Another area of improvement is the mini NB305's integrated speakers, which are hidden below the front edge of the system. On the NB205 you had to strain to hear music and especially dialog when watching TV shows on Hulu. On the new model we could easily hear a Green Day track streaming on Slacker from across the room in a medium-size office. However, other netbooks, such as the ASUS 1005PE, offer more volume.

Ports and Webcam

All the requisite netbook ports are in place on the NB305: VGA, Ethernet, USB, and a three-in-one memory card reader are on the left, and two more USB ports, as well as headphone and mic ports and a lock slot, are on the right. The USB port on the left also features Toshiba's USB Sleep-and-Charge technology, so you can recharge connected accessories even if the system is turned off.

 


The 0.3-megapixel webcam provided decent, but not memorable visuals. Colors were pallid, and images blotchy. Toshiba includes their Web Camera Application, which pops up when you mouse over the left side of the screen; this utility can record video, snap still shots (in resolutions from 160 x 120 to 640 x 480), and add visual effects that border the image (such as raindrops and stars).

Performance

Like most newer netbooks, the NB305 utilizes Intel's new Pine Trail CPU, the 1.66-GHz Atom N450, which offers better power efficiency and a modest increase in performance over the NB205. On PCMark05, the difference was negligible: 1,383 vs. 1,341, respectively--and both scores are about 140 points south of the netbook average. There was more of a gap with Geekbench: The NB305 scored 925, 85 points higher than average, but the NB205-N330BL model reached just 805. Other Pine Trail systems were in the same ballpark: the HP Mini 5102 got 1,408 in PCMark05 and 896 in Geekbench, and the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P scored 1,410 and 918 on those same two tests, respectively.

The NB305's 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive performed well, copying a 4.97GB folder of multimedia files at a rate of 20.6 MBps, 4.8 MBps faster than average. It booted into Windows 7 Starter Edition in 1 minute and 9 seconds, which is 10 seconds longer than average.

When converting a 114MB, 5-minute-and-5-second MPEG-4 video into AVI using HandBrake, the NB305 took 28 minutes and 26 seconds, about 1 minute faster than average, and approximately 2 minutes faster than the NB205. However, when performing the same task using Oxelon Media Converter, the NB305 took 6:03, about 15 seconds longer than the NB205.

We also saw a greater difference between the two systems when it came to graphics tests. While its 3DMark06 score of 159 is about 70 points below the netbook average, it's still about 50 points greater than the NB205-N330BL. Still, this system is unsuited for gaming. When playing World of Warcraft with the resolution at 800 x 600 and the effects set to default, we only averaged 19 frames per second. If you want to game on a netbook, you're better off buying an Ion-based system, such as the HP Mini 311, which saw 35 fps at a resolution of 1024 x 768.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

Aside from its design, the one thing that initially impressed us with Toshiba's netbooks was their endurance. The NB205 lasted 8 hours and 51 minutes in Windows 7 Starter Edition, and 9:41 when running XP. Those times were topped recently by the Pine Trail-based Eee PC 1005PE-P, which got 10:36--the new high-water mark for six-cell netbooks. While we were hoping that Toshiba would try to reclaim the crown with the NB305, its endurance actually regressed slightly, notching just 8:37. Nevertheless, this runtime is more than sufficient for most users.

At 15 feet from our access point, the NB305's 802.11n Wi-Fi card saw throughput of 19.9 Mbps. That's 1.2 Mbps slower than average, but not terrible. At 50 feet, the NB305 performed slightly better than average; its throughput of 18.6 Mbps is 1.3 Mbps faster than the typical netbook.

Configurations

As with its previous netbooks, Toshiba is offering a less stylish NB305 for $349. That model features a simpler black lid and a non-chiclet keyboard, but otherwise has all the amenities of its more expensive sibling. A forthcoming Best Buy exclusive (NB305-N410-G) will boast all of the N410's features plus 3G connectivity, and retail for $499.

Green Testing

It took the mini NB305's six-cell battery 2 hours and 34 minutes to charge up to 80 percent, and 3:38 to reach 100 percent. During this time the netbook consumed 6627.2 watts, for an average of 30.4 per minute. When you divide this number into the total time, you get our Battery Efficiency Rating of 12.8. That's better than the category average of 18.1.

The NB305 is not rated by EPEAT.

Software and Warranty

Like the second-generation Toshiba mini NB205, the NB305 comes with Windows 7 Starter Edition, which doesn't include the slick Aero Glass interface (meaning Aero Peek and Taskbar Preview aren't available), the ability to personalize the PC (desktop wallpaper, window colors, or sound schemes), DVD playback, Windows Media Center, remote media streaming, domain support for businesses, or XP mode (for those who want to run XP programs in Windows 7).

Aside from the standard trialware (60 days for Microsoft Office 2007, Norton Internet Security), the NB305 comes with Microsoft Works and Skype preinstalled. Additionally, Toshiba packs in a good number of its own apps, including ReelTime and Bulletin Board, first seen on its touch-enabled Satellite U505. ReelTime is kind of like the poor man's time machine; it lets you scroll back in time to find previously opened documents and files. Bulletin Board lets you place photos and notes on a black board in the middle of the screen. When we tried both on the 10-inch NB305, they were more cute than useful. Also included is Toshiba's PC Health Monitor and its Eco Utility, which helps you manage the power consumption of your system.

The NB305 comes with a one-year international limited warranty and 24/7 toll-free phone support. To see how Toshiba fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown, click here.

Verdict

Now that we've tested a fair number of netbooks with Intel's new Atom N450 (Pine Trail) processor, it's easy to see that there is a lot of good competition. The ASUS Eee PC 1005PE lasts two hours longer on a charge than the $399 Toshiba mini NB305 and offers better speakers for $20 less. And the Acer Aspire One 532h offers comparable performance and endurance to the Toshiba for $50 less. However, the mini NB305 is still our top pick among consumer netbooks because it's so comfortable to use that you almost forget that it's a netbook. It's keyboard and especially its touchpad are second to none, and to us that's worth the premium.

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Author Bio
Michael A. Prospero
Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor
Michael A. Prospero has overseen reviews on Laptopmag.com since 2007, focusing on producing the most thorough and authoritative mobile product reviews. After receiving his Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia in 2003, Mike worked at Fast Company. Prior to that, he worked at The Times of Trenton, George and AlleyCat News.
Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450
Operating System MS Windows 7 Starter Edition
RAM 1GB
RAM Upgradable to 2GB
Hard Drive Size 250GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type
Display Size 10.1
Native Resolution 1024x600
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel GMA 3150
Video Memory Shared
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
USB Ports 3
Warranty/Support One-year international limited/24/7 toll-free phone
Size 10.5 x 7.6 x 1.2 inches
Weight 2.8 pounds
Company Website http://www.toshibadirect.com