Consumers on a budget have to be careful where they spend their cash when buying a new notebook. The Toshiba Satellite L505-ES5018 isn't going to dazzle you by any means, but for those whose needs are basic, this $587 mainstream system ($529 through Best Buy) gets the job done with a modicum of style. However, a last-generation processor and poor battery life means that your money can be better spent elsewhere, even if you want to stick with Toshiba.
Editors' Note:Portions of this review were taken from our earlier review of the Toshiba Satellite L505-S5966.
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 fingerprints. The design is carried across the touchpad, making it all but invisible when viewed from certain angles. While this is 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. Still, the HP G62t is a svelter 5.4 pounds.
Unlike the L505-S5966, there are no media playback buttons above the keyboard; a power button is all you get. Toshiba continues to use an old-school volume wheel, which in this case is on the front edge of the chassis.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The gritty matte silver keyboard on the L505 matches the deck, and provided very good feedback, although we did notice it had a bit of flex. 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 generously 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 sometimes made it difficult to locate. The silver mouse buttons below were huge and crisp.
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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 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. When watching clips from Saturday Night Live, colors were bright and crisp, and blacks were deep.
The stereo speakers on the top of the deck were moderately loud and had decent separation while watching movies. As we expected in this price range, bass was virtually nonexistent on Notorious B.I.G's "Big Poppa."
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 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 is far from a deal-breaker, but can be found on such competitors as the HP G62t.
A 1.3-megapixel webcam and microphone above the display provided passable 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.
Click to enlargeWhile having a Pentium processor wasn't a problem when we reviewed the L505-S5966 last July, that CPU is seriously outdated now that Core i3 systems can be purchased for the same price. The L505-ES5018's 2.0-GHz Intel Pentium T4400 processor and 3GB of RAM eked out a score of 3,531 on PCMark Vantage; that's 300 points less than the mainstream average, 600 points below the MSI A6200, and almost 1,800 points below the HP G62t. Still, the L505 had enough power for us to surf the web, stream music via Pandora, and write documents in Microsoft Word simultaneously without any hiccups.
We like that the L505's hard drive is a relatively spacious 320GB, but it took the notebook a pokey 4 minutes and 32 seconds to duplicate a 4.97GB folder of multimedia, a rate of 18.7 MBps. That's slower than the category average of 22.1 MBps, and well below the G62t's 31.8 MBps; the HP machine's hard drive is both larger (500GB) and faster (7,200 rpm). Still, the L505 booted to Windows 7 Home Premium in a relatively quick 58 seconds.
The Satellite L505 took 1 minute and 14 seconds to transcode a 114 MPEG-4 file to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder--about 5 seconds longer than the category average, as well as Core i3 systems like the Gateway NV5934u (1:04) and the MSI A6200 (1:08).
Not surprisingly, the Satellite L505's Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics weren't the best when it came to our tests; its score of 722 in 3DMark06 was about 2,600 points below the mainstream notebook average, and 1,000 points below the NV5934u (1,736) and A6200 (1,726). In World of Warcraft, the L505 mustered just 21 frames per second with the resolution set to 1024 x 768; notebooks with Intel GMA HD graphics were able to score twice that--the HP G62t notched 42 fps, the NV5934u scored 46 fps, and the MSI A6200 achieved 53 fps.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The six-cell battery on the Satellite L505 lasted a meager 2 hours and 53 minutes; that's about 50 minutes less than the mainstream notebook average, and about an hour less than the HP G62t (4:03). The L505 has Toshiba's new Eco utility, accessible through the Power Options menu, which enables such power-saving features as dimming the display and turning off the hard disk after 5 minutes of inactivity.
One area where the L505 performed up to par with other sub-$600 notebooks was wireless throughput. The laptop's Realtek RTL8191SE 802.11n Wi-Fi radio delivered data rates of 50.7 Mbps from 15 feet and 32.8 Mbps from 50 feet; that's right in between the Gateway NV5934u (53.3/29.7 Mbps) and the HP G62t (45.8/30.2 Mbps).
Click to enlargeThe L505 is not the most efficient of notebooks. It took a rather quick 2 hours and 5 minutes to completely recharge; during that time, it used an average of 54 watts. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency rating of 39, while just a few points higher than the category average (36.8), is well above contemporary Core i3-powered budget notebooks; the G62t, for example, has a rating of just 20.2, and the NV5934u has a rating of 21.4--and lower scores are better. On the other hand, EPEAT gave the L505 a Gold rating of 21 (out of 27).
Toshiba offers many different configurations of the L500 series, which can become confusing depending on whether you're buying it directly from the manufacturer or a retailer. On Toshiba's site, the least expensive option is the $399 L500D-ST2543, which has an AMD Sempron M100 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and ATI integrated graphics. At the top end is the L500-ST5507 ($799), which has an Intel Core i5-430M CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive. Users can also configure the L505 with up to a 2.4-GHz Core i5-520M processor ($200), a 500GB hard drive ($75), and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145 graphics with 512MB of video memory ($95).
If you want to spend less than $600, the best configuration is the $579 L505-GS6002, available through Best Buy, which features an Intel Core i3-330M processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive. This model also has a darker Midnight Breeze chassis and media control buttons.
Software and Warranty
This notebook is sold through Best Buy; it comes with that retailer's Software Installer, which helps guide novice users through adding the programs they find useful. Apps (both free and paid) are divided into 11 categories such as Family, Gaming, Money Management, and Pictures and Video. Users can also purchase Geek Squad support and service from this interface. We like the idea behind this, particularly for the less tech-savvy. However, many of the free applications listed weren't software at all. When we "installed" Netflix and eMusic, the SI added icons to the desktop that launched the browser, not desktop apps. This can be confusing for the very audience the Software Installer is meant to help.
The L505 also comes with 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 and Toshiba's Bulletin Board and Reeltime apps.
Toshiba covers the L505 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.
Even for users with basic needs, the Toshiba Satellite L505-ES5018 is a little too basic. Yes, it costs just $529 through Best Buy, but for just a bit more you can get the $599 HP G62t or Gateway NV5934u, both of which offer much better performance and battery life. If you like the Toshiba brand, spend the extra $50 to get the Core i3 version of this notebook (the L505-GS6002), which will future-proof your investment.