Toshiba Satellite L505-S5966 Review

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Pros: Attractive Fusion Finish; Comfortable keyboard and number pad; Dedicated media control buttons; eSATA port for fast backups

Cons: Poor battery life; Display has limited viewing angles; Mediocre benchmark scores; Lacks HDMI port

Verdict: This budget notebook gets the job done for under $600, as long as you don't don't need long battery life.

The Toshiba Satellite L505-S5966 proves that consumers can get much, if not all of what they need in a system that costs less than $600. Priced at $549, this mainstream notebook features a 15.6-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio--ideal for watching widescreen movies. While those looking to play the latest 3D games or do serious multitasking will be disappointed, consumers who need a notebook for simply surfing the Web, running Microsoft Office, and listening to music should be more than satisfied with the L505.

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Design

For a sub-$600 system, the Satellite L505 is attractive but not exactly striking. Its lid and keyboard deck sport Toshiba's Fusion Finish with a grey Breeze pattern--essentially, lines running diagonally across the system. Both the lid and deck are glossy, but the neutral color hides any fingerprints. The design carries across the touchpad, making it all but invisible when viewed from certain angles. While a clever touch, the fact that it is also flush with the deck had us looking for it a little harder than we should have. The keyboard and bezel are a matte black that contrasts nicely with the rest of the chassis.

At 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.6 inches and an even 6 pounds, the Satellite L505 isn't exactly travel friendly, but it's a reasonable size and weight for a 15.6-inch system.

Above the keyboard is the power button, plus four media playback buttons: Play/pause, reverse, forward, and mute. Unfortunately, there are no volume buttons; Toshiba continues to use an old-school volume wheel, which in this case is on the front edge of the L505.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The black keyboard on the L505 provided very good feedback, although we did notice it had a bit more flex than we would have liked. Thanks to the wide 15.6-inch screen, Toshiba was also able to cram a full number pad to the right without sacrificing the size of the keyboard.

The touchpad is decently sized, and its slightly rough surface resulted in almost no friction when moving our finger across it. As we mentioned previously, however, its nearly seamless blending with the surrounding deck made it difficult to locate peripherally. The silver mouse buttons below were huge, and were decently crisp, too.

Display and Audio

The 15.6-inch screen on the L505 was suitably bright, and its resolution of 1366 x 768 is more than adequate for its size. However, the viewing angles of the glossy screen could have been better; we had to tilt the display back further than we normally do in order for it not to appear washed out. When set at the ideal angle, though, watching movies on the 16:9 aspect ratio display was enjoyable. During an explosion in a clip from The Hurt Locker, we could make out the individual bits of gravel and dust stirred up by the IEDs.

The stereo speakers on the top of the deck were decently loud, but, as is to be expected, lacked a low end; we could easily hear Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" from across a room, but missed the bass line.

Ports and Webcam

Arrayed along the right side of the Satellite L505 are two USB ports, modem, and a Kensington lock slot; on the left is a VGA out, Ethernet, headphone and mic, and an eSATA port that doubles as USB; unfortunately, this port doesn't include Toshiba's Sleep-and-Charge technology. Also lacking is an HDMI port, which, while disappointing, is far from a dealbreaker in this price range.

A 1.3-megapixel webcam and microphone above the display provided decent images in a video chat over Skype; while a little drab, a caller could make out the color of our eyes. However, there was a bit of motion blur when we waved our hand about two feet away from the webcam.

Performance

For a system with a last-generation 2.0-GHz Intel Pentium T4200 processor, the Satellite L505 performed adequately on our benchmarks. Its PCMark Vantage score of 2,791 was about 400 points below the category average, but still bested the $499Dell Inspiron 15by 100 points and the $599Lenovo IdeaPad Y450by about 50 points--both of which have the same processor and amount of RAM (3GB).

You should have no problem using the L505 for everyday tasks. We surfed the Web, streamed music via Pandora, and wrote this review in Microsoft Word simultaneously without any hiccups.

The L505's 320GB, 5,400-rpm drive is excellent, as it notched a throughput of 23.6 MBps on the LAPTOP Transfer Test (duplicating 4.97 GB of mixed media files); that's 5 MBps faster than the category average, and almost identical to the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450. The L505 booted into Windows in just 50 seconds, about 10 seconds better than average.

When it came to multitasking, the Satellite L505's mettle was tested; while it took just 7 minutes and 56 seconds to transcode a 5:05 MPEG-4 file to AVI using Handbrake--about 3 minutes longer than the category average--it took 26:14 to finish the same task while compressing a 4.97GB folder in the background. While that second time is nearly 4 minutes faster than the Dell Inspiron 15, it's still almost three times as long as the mainstream notebook average, although just one minute longer than the Lenovo Y450.

Graphics

Not surprisingly, the Satellite L505's integrated graphics weren't the best when it came to our tests; its score of 715 in 3DMark06 was about 2,600 points below the mainstream notebook average, and even sank below the Dell Inspiron 15 (767) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Y450 (774). Still, the L505 performed well enough during less graphically demanding activities; in Google Earth, it was able to fully render the skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan in about 10 seconds, and we were able to fly smoothly over the city.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

The 6-cell battery on the Satellite L505 lasted a meager 2 hours and 14 minutes; that's more than an hour less than the mainstream notebook average, and one hour less than the Dell Inspiron 15. The L505 has Toshiba's new eco utility, accessible through the Power Options menu, which, when activated, enables power-saving features such as dimming the display and turning off the hard disk after 5 minutes of inactivity.

This laptop's Wi-Fi throughput of 18.7 Mbps from 15 feet and 16.8 Mbps from 50 feet was right in line with the category averages of 19.0 Mbps and 15.6 Mbps from those respective distances.



Software and Warranty

In addition to Toshiba's utilities, the L505 comes with a fair amount of trialware, including a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2009, and a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. You also get Microsoft Works, Skype, Google Desktop, and WildTangent Orb Game Console. Additionally, there are shortcuts to NetZero, Amazon.com's online stores, and Intuit Quickbooks Financial Center 2009.

Configurations

Toshiba offers many different configurations of the L500 series. The base model (L505D-S5965, $504) features an AMD Athlon X2 QL-65 CPU, 3GB of RAM, a 250GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, and lacks a webcam. The top-of-the-line model, the L505-S6959 ($699), comes with a 2.1-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 5,400 rpm, 320GB hard drive, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Verdict

The Toshiba Satellite L505-S5966 should fit most users' basic needs, and at $549, it represents a pretty good bargain. Some may prefer the $499 Dell Inspiron 15, which lasts an hour longer on a charge. But the L505 delvers a more stylish design and a larger hard drive (320GB vs. 250GB) for just a bit more money.

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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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CPU 2.0-GHz Intel Pentium T4200
Operating System MS Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
RAM 3GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 320GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 15.6
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive DVD RW
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Intel GMA 4500M
Video Memory 128MB
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
Bluetooth
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) USB/eSATA
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
USB Ports 2
Card Slots 5-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year limited/24/7 toll-free phone
Size 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.6 inches
Weight 6.0 pounds
Company Website http://www.toshibadirect.com