Entertainment seekers looking for a big-screen notebook without an accompanying big-ticket price will find a lot to like in the Toshiba Satellite P505-S8010, an 18.4-inch system featuring Intel's new Core i3 processor, touch-sensitive controls, excellent audio, and enough graphics muscle to handle mainstream games. At $949, the system packs a significant amount of features for its price, but film buffs may lament the lack of a full HD screen and a Blu-ray drive with the standard configuration.
Design and Aesthetics
Measuring 17.4 x 11.6 x 1.6 inches and weighing a hefty 8.6 pounds, the P505 isn't a notebook designed for the coffee shop. However, this attractive machine will look great sitting on a desktop or entertainment center thanks to the Fusion Finish in Sonic Black design. The system features an eye-catching glossy coating that extends from the lid to the bezel, keyboard, and base (the latter incorporates subtle arcing white lines that cut through the black).
After playing a Hulu video for 15 minutes at full screen, the P505 remained relatively cool. The touchpad measured 89 degrees Fahrenheit, the space between the G and H keys was 89 degrees, and the bottom reached 94 degrees. However, the back vent soared to 112 degrees. We consider anything higher than 100 degrees to be unpleasant.
Keyboard and Touchpad
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The keyboard on the P505 is wide and spacious, but the individual keys lack a certain amount of tactile feedback that touch typists may enjoy. Still, you have a full number pad and nicely sized Shift keys. To the left of the keyboard is a responsive touch-sensitive media control panel that allowed us to easily play, pause, and skip tracks while listening to music files.
South of the keyboard is a smallish 3.3 x 1.6-inch touchpad that could have benefited from additional horizontal and vertical space. Its texture invites a bit of friction, but not enough to interfere with cursor movements. The ample mouse buttons were easy to press, but some might find them too mushy.
Display and Audio
Our Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street DVD displayed rich blacks and vibrant colors on the 18.4-inch display, which sports an unusual 1680 x 945-pixel resolution. Toshiba says this "HD+" resolution is designed to show sharper images than 720p while keeping costs down. Film buffs may lament the lack of a full HD display (a feature more expensive machines such as the Sony VAIO F Series have), but the image quality was excellent. While the picture held up from all but the most extreme angles, the screen's glossy coating kicked back plenty of reflections.
Twin Harmon Kardon speakers produced excellent audio when we fired up some James Brown tracks on Slacker. The Dolby-powered speakers separated high- and low-end sounds rather nicely, which opened up the soundscape and allowed us to appreciate both the treble and bass. The speakers also produce enough volume to fill a medium-sized room; the P505-S8010 would make an excellent addition to your media center.
Ports and Webcam
The perimeter of the P505 is packed with ports for connecting gear: arrayed around the chassis you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, FireWire 400, ExpressCard/54, eSATA/USB, VGA, Ethernet, and modem ports, along with a Kensington lock slot and 5-in-1 memory card reader.
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Above the display is a webcam that served up somewhat murky visuals when we chatted with Meebo friends. Moving into brighter light helped, but skin tones became a bit washed out.
Under the hood runs Intel's new 2.13-GHz Core i3-330M processor. Although it doesn't possess Intel's Turbo Boost technology for dynamically increasing CPU clock speed when needed (that's reserved for Core i5 and Core i7 notebooks), the P505-S8010 demonstrated very good performance in our benchmarks.
Combined with 4GB of RAM and a 5,400-rpm, 500GB hard drive, the P505 produced a solid PCMark Vantage score of 4,997, a tally that was over 450 points higher than the desktop replacement category average. This score trailed the Acer Aspire 8940G (which also has an 18.4-inch screen but a faster 1.6-GHz Intel Core i7-720QM GPU) by nearly 1,000 points. However, the Acer notebook has a much higher price tag of $1,349. In our day-to-day use of the P505, windows opened swiftly (even with multiple applications open), and there were very few instances of Windows' spinning blue swirl.
When we used the P505 to transcode a 114MB, 5-minute-and-5-second video using Oxelon Media Converter, it took 1 minute and 12 seconds (just 10 seconds longer than the 1:02 desktop replacement average). The hard drive copied a 4.97GB folder of mixed media at a rate of 22.8 MBps, which is 4.7 MBps slower than the 27.5 MBps average and even further behind the Sony VAIO F Series' 29.2 MBps. The lengthy 1 minute and 18 second boot time into Windows 7 Home Premium exceeds the 1:06 category average.
The Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics card enabled the P505 to achieve a 3DMark06 score of 3,652, which is approximately half the 7,142 desktop replacement average. That's also less GPU muscle than the Acer Aspire 8940G's score of 4,261 (which has Nvidia GeForce GTS 250M graphics) as well as the Sony VAIO F Series' 6,577 (which has more powerful Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics).
Despite its low benchmark score, the P505 was able to plow through World of Warcraft at 60 frames per second using the 1024 x 768 auto-detect resolution, and a still-playable 23 fps using the 1680 x 945 maximum resolution. The graphics-intensive Far Cry 2 proved a tougher challenge; the system pushed polygons at a rate of 44 fps at 1024 x 768, dropping to just 12 fps at 1680 x 945.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
The P505's battery lasted just 1 hour and 54 minutes when Web surfing over Wi-Fi, which is about 30 minutes shorter than the desktop replacement category average of 2:28. Given that this 18.4-inch machine isn't intended to be left unplugged for very long, this endurance shouldn't be a concern.
The 802.11b/g/n radio saw data throughput of 24.6 Mbps and 16.7 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively. Both scores fall below the desktop replacement category averages of 19.9 Mbps and 16.6 Mbps.
The P505 took 2 hours to fully recharge, and used an average of 41.9 watts during that time. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency rating of 44.1 is better than the 79.0 category average.
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Toshiba offers a multitude of options for the P505. Preconfigured models include the P500-ST5806 ($949, Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GT 230M GPU, 320GB HDD), and the P500-ST5807 ($1,099, Intel Core i7-720QM CPU, Nvidia GeForce 310M GPU, 320GB HD).
Consumers can also configure their own P500 (referred to as the P500-ST6844) with a choice of Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 CPUs, integrated Intel or discrete Nvidia GPUs, 320GB to 640GB HDDs, a 64GB SSD, Blu-ray drive, and more.
Software and Warranty
Preinstalled on the P505-S8010 is a slew of applications, trials, and special offers. You get a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2010, 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Corel DVD MovieFactory, Intuit QuickBooks Financial Center, and Skype. Toshiba also includes a number of its own utilities, including Bulletin Board, Face Recognition, Media Controller, and ReelTime.
Click to enlargeToshiba covers the P505 with a one-year warranty with 24/7 toll-free tech support. To see how Toshiba fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown, click here.
It's not a gaming powerhouse by any stretch, but those looking for a rock solid multimedia machine with punchy speakers for an affordable price will enjoy the $949 Toshiba Satellite P505-S8010. In short, shoppers desirous of a big-screen notebook that won't break the break will find a lot to like.