Mobility doesn't come cheap, so at just $899, the 14.1-inch Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452 seems like a bargain. There are some trade-offs: The notebook's performance scores are low compared with similar thin-and-lights, and its battery life is mediocre. But there's enough horsepower here for productivity chores, and its wireless scores are strong. This system is worth considering as a budget thin-and-light.
Satellite M205 Design
In size and finish, the M205 reminds us of the glossy 14.1-inch Sony VAIO VGN-CR190E. At 5 pounds, the M205 weighs half a pound less and its rounded 13.5 x 9.5 x 1.3-inch frame is slightly slimmer. Like the Satellite U305, the M205 has a rounded Onyx Blue lid with a silver keyboard underneath.
The large keys are comfortable to type on, but we were disappointed to see that the touchpad is still placed left of center, occasionally making it awkward to use. Above the keys and in between the two speakers lie seven buttons: Power, launch keys for the Internet and Windows Media Player, as well as Play, Stop, and Search buttons. Like other Satellite notebooks, it has a Wi-Fi switch and volume scroll in the front.
Display and Audio Quality
Also like other Satellite notebooks, the M205's 14.1-inch display uses Toshiba's TruBrite technology, whose colorful, high-gloss format and 1280 x 800-pixel resolution is easy on the eyes. We were able to work comfortably under fluorescent lights after we lowered the screen angle. When watching Bend it Like Beckham colors seemed slightly washed out, and the volume from the speakers was on the weak side. The display was bright, though, and we had no problem watching a movie in the dark and from several feet away.
Satellite M205 Features
The M205 has a 4X SuperMulti drive, four evenly spaced USB 2.0 ports, and FireWire, Ethernet, modem, S-Video, RGB, headphone, and microphone ports. It also has a Type I and II PC Card slot and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. The 160GB hard drive provides plenty of storage, and you can increase the RAM from 1GB to 4GB. The 1.3-megapixel webcam produced slightly grainy images even in a small window, but it delivered accurate color and brightness.
Performance and Battery Life
For a sub-$1,000 notebook, the components are decent: An Intel Core 2 Duo T5250--albeit running at a fairly slow 1.5-GHz. The M205 garnered below-average scores of 3,234 on PCMark05 and 1,447 on 3DMark03, but both scores are on target for integrated graphics and shouldn't affect speed for everyday tasks. Its MobileMark 2007 score was slightly more disappointing, at just 100, about 50 points below average, and its battery lasted only 2 hours and 50 minutes, about 1 hour and 20 minutes below average for a thin-and-light. The M205's wireless scores were superb, however: Even fifty feet away from the router, it exceeded 19 Mbps.
If your needs are basic, however, you might not notice--or care about--the M205's lackluster benchmark scores. We were able to install iTunes, download Windows updates, and surf the Web without pause. It took a reasonable 10 seconds to launch Microsoft Word 2007 and 8 seconds to launch McAfee Security Center
Beware of Crapware
On the other hand, the M205 took 1 minute and 15 seconds to start up; that's 15 to 20 seconds longer than most Vista computers. We blame the bundled crapware, which includes, among others, Google Desktop, Napster, Picasa, and Vongo. We'd suggest upgrading to 2GB RAM for just $54 and then deleting the extra software immediately to boost performance: Then you should still be able pat yourself on the back for paying less than a grand for a Core 2 Duo thin-and-light. The notebook comes with a one-year limited warranty, which includes online troubleshooting and toll-free, 24/7 phone support.
If you're concerned about endurance, we'd suggest looking toward Acer's Windows XP-powered TravelMate 6292, which manages nearly 6.5 hours of battery life but costs about $200 more. But if every penny counts and you want to run Vista, the M205 is a decent bargain.
Sony VAIO VGN-CR190E Review
A stylish, full-featured notebook that's reasonably priced.
Toshiba Satellite U305 Review
This stylish 13.3-inch notebook boasts extra-long battery life and plenty of features for an affordable price. So what's not to like?