A step up from the L505 series, the Toshiba Satellite A505-S6004 offers similar performance, but more style than its less expensive siblings. While it packs the same Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB hard drive, it packages them in a glossy black chassis highlighted by chrome accents and LED backlights. While we're fans of the A505's audio and video prowess, though, we can't help but feel that its $769 price tag is a bit high compared to the competition given this notebook's performance.
The A505's design is a departure from the blander (and cheaper) Satellite L505, but it lacks the ostentatiousness of a Qosmio system. Its styling is similar to that of the larger P505; the black lid is accented by Toshiba's Fusion Finish (a wave of thin lines) as well as the company's name splashed in chrome in the center. The deck, too, has the same finish, and while both are glossy, they do a fairly good job of hiding your fingerprints. The deck and lid are bordered with a silvery plastic trim, and the speakers above the keyboard are accented by chrome borders.
Above the keyboard are several touch-sensitive buttons: Eco Utility, Windows Media Player, Play/Pause, Back, Forward, Mute, and Volume. All are backlit, and responded quickly to our finger when we pressed them. On the less expensive L505, these are physical buttons, and the volume control is an old school wheel on the front edge.
Weighing 6.4 pounds and measuring 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.6 inches, the A505 isn't a notebook you'll be carrying around much. While its size and weight classify it as a mainstream system, it probably won't leave your desk often.
Like other notebooks in this line, the A505 stayed fairly cool during our testing. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the space between the G and H keys was 91 degrees, and the middle of the underside registered 100 degrees. We consider anything over 100 degrees to be too hot.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The A505's black, glossy keys provided very good feedback, and Toshiba was able to fit in a number pad without compromising the size of the layout.
Like the L505, the A505's touchpad is nicely sized, and its slightly gritty surface--a contrast to the glossy palm rests--enabled our fingers to move about with little friction. However, it blends almost too well into the deck; we often had to look down to locate it. The silver mouse buttons are positively huge; unlike the L505, they're not oval-shaped, and have a flat bottom edge that blends into the silvery accent around the edge.
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Display and Audio
While the glossy finish on the 15.6-inch display returned a fair number of reflections, we were impressed with the contrast and colors on the 1366 x 768-pixel screen. When watching a Saturday Night Live sketch on Hulu, there was little noise in darker areas. However, Tina Fey's red sweater really popped when she stood in front of a green chalkboard, and we could pick out individual strands of Justin Beiber's hair. (Not that we were necessarily looking.)
Audio, too, was well above average. While playing videos and listening to music, the Harman Kardon-powered speakers were able to fill a room easily at full volume without becoming distorted. When playing Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," we could clearly hear the guitar through the right speaker while the bass line thrummed along in the left; neither drowned the other out.
Ports and Webcam
On the right are two USB ports, modem, power, and a tray-loading DVD drive. On the left is a third USB port, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, eSATA, headphone and mic, and an ExpressCard/54 slot. Underneath the front lip is a 5-in-1 memory card reader.
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The A505's webcam recorded crisp video that displayed colors accurately in bright light, but struggled a bit when it had to rely just on fluorescent lighting; while colors were still decent, video became much grainier. Regardless, there was virtually no motion blur when we waved our hand in front of the camera, and the microphone (to the right of the webcam) picked up our voice clearly during a Skype call.
Click to enlargeA 2.13-GHz Intel Core i3-330M CPU and 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB) translated into a strong showing for the A505. The system scored 4,793 in PCMark Vantage, a benchmark that measures overall performance. That's about 900 points above the mainstream average, although the $749 Acer Aspire 5740G, which has a 2.26-GHZ Core i5-430M processor, scored 5,834. The L505, which has the same Core i3 processor and RAM as the A505, scored a slightly higher 4,918.
Not only is the 5,400-rpm, 500GB hard drive on the A505 spacious, it's also relatively speedy. We were able to duplicate a 4.97GB folder of multimedia in 3 minutes and 50 seconds, a rate of 22.1 MBps; that's a hair over the category average. However, the notebook booted to Windows 7 Home Premium in a molasses-slow 1:38, more than likely owing to the trialware installed on the system. The Core i3 CPU was able to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI in a time of 1:05, three seconds slower than average.
The A505 performed adequately for a system with integrated Intel GMA HD graphics, but a bit low when compared to other mainstream notebooks. On 3DMark06, which measures graphics performance, the A505 scored 1,745, nearly equal to the L505, but a little more than half the average of 3,360.
You can play World of Warcraft, but just barely: with the display set to 1024 x 768 and effects on default, we saw a frame rate of 30 frames per second; that's well below the average (50 fps), as well as the less expensive Acer 5740G (64 fps), which has a discrete ATI Radeon HD 5650 GPU and 1GB of RAM. At native resolution and effects bumped up to the max, the A505 mustered just 9 fps. Still, if watching videos or playing Farmville on Facebook is all you're after, the A505 should suit you well.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The A505 provided decent, but unspectacular endurance. In our LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi), the system saw a runtime of 3 hours and 17 minutes; that's 10 minutes longer than the L505 (3:07) and half an hour longer than the 5740G (2:48), but about 20 minutes less than the mainstream average.
The Realtek RTL8191SE wireless radio provided strong 802.11n throughput both near and far from our access point. At 15 feet from the router, we saw throughput of 46 Mbps, which dropped to 29.4 Mbps at 50 feet; both scores were slightly below the Acer 5740G (50.3 and 30.3 Mbps, respectively).
Click to enlargeThe A505 took 2 hours and 34 minutes to completely recharge; during that time, the notebook consumed an average of 50.9 watts. Its Laptop Battery Efficiency Rating of 39.8 is a hair over the mainstream average of 36.8 (lower is better), but another notebook with discrete ATI graphics, the Acer 5740G, scored a much more efficient 26.1.
We tested the base model A505; a $779 version (A505-S6005) comes wtih Dolby Surround Sound Audio; a $784 model, available exclusively at Costco, has the same specs as the one we tested.
Software and Warranty
Toshiba loads the A505 with a host of useful software such as its the Eco utility, Recovery Media Creator, PC Diagnostic Tool, and Toshiba Assist for quick access to tools for connecting, securing, optimizing, and fixing your notebook.
Toshiba's Bulletin Board provides a quick, easy way to create a virtual board for messages and notes, but is not as fun on a non-touchscreen system such as the A505. ReelTime is a handy Toshiba program that shows recently opened media in a chronological timeline so you can easily find documents, videos, and more based on the last time you accessed them.
In addition to Toshiba's utilities, the A505 includes a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. You also get Microsoft Works, and the WildTangent Orb game console. Additionally, there are shortcuts to NetZero, Amazon.com's online stores, and Intuit QuickBooks Financial Center.
Toshiba protects the A505 with a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with 24/7 toll-free tech support. To see how Toshiba fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown, click here.
If you're looking for a big-screen notebook with style and great sound, the Toshiba Satellite A505 fills the bill nicely. However, if you don't care about chrome accents, touch-sensitive buttons, or HDMI output, the Satellite L505-GS5035 costs $70 less and offers practically the same performance. If gaming is more of a priority, the Acer 5740G (6979) has a powerful ATI Radeon GPU and costs $20 less, but you lose about half an hour of battery life. Overall, we like the A505, but wish it cost less or delivered discrete graphics at this price.