Reviewed August 27, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Among the forest of Toshiba laptop models, the Toshiba Satellite U405 series is among their most lightweight and affordable class of notebooks. There are two flavors of the Satellite U405 series: the U405 that comes with Intel processors and the U405D series that comes with AMD mobile processors. For this review, we have the U405-S2830 notebook which runs on Intel Core 2 Duo processor on the Santa Rosa platform with 3GB of RAM and 250GB HDD. Throw in the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (integrated graphics), a SuperMulti (+/-R double Layer) DVD drive with Labelflash, WiFi 802.11a/g/n and Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, you’ve got a very decent 13.3-inch notebook for a good price. From the specs, the Satellite U405 series is comparable to the Toshiba Satellite Pro M300 series, for those of you who are doing some comparison shopping. It will come down to how big a screen you want (13.3 vs. 14.1 inches) and how much you want to haul (4.85 lbs. vs. 5.2 lbs at the starting point). The U405 comes with Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit) and even though the list price for the U405-S2830 model is set at $1,149.99 you can find some very good deals online and in stores.
While the new Dell lightweight notebooks feature more sharp edges and a brushed metal look, the HP and Toshiba notebooks remain curvy and shiny. The Toshiba Satellite U405 scores the fashionable fusion finish with their Horizon pattern on top of high gloss black, making the notebook look classier and more expensive than its price tag suggests. We only wish that the Toshiba logo on the lid were smaller—it’s much larger than other manufacturers’ branding and it interrupts the fusion finish. The shiny finish does show fingerprints and hand grease. White LED lights in the media touch controls and on top of the touch pad stand out and compliment the chrome-like mouse keys.
The power button and multimedia controls light up white.
The Toshiba has the standard 85-key US keyboard, and the keys are also high gloss but comfortable. There’s a web cam with built-in mic above the display. The touch multimedia controls and the power button sit above the keyboard and are flanked by stereo speakers that are not terribly loud. The TouchPad pointing system is quite flat but has some texture so that your finger won’t completely slip out of the TouchPad area when you work the cursor. The chromed left and right mouse buttons are large and easy to use, and the fingerprint reader sits in between the two mouse buttons. The system indicator LED lights are located on the front right edge and there’s a volume jog wheel on the front of the notebook. Those who like wireless on/off sliders should be happy to hear that the Toshiba has one on the front of the notebook next to the Consumer IR port.
The Toshiba U405 has a nice 13.3-inch widescreen display that features Toshiba’s TruBright TFT LCD technology running at 1280 x 800 WXGA resolution. It can’t compete with Sony’s XBRITE screens found higher end VAIO series, but it has good brightness, color saturation and a decent viewing angle.
There are two flavors of pre-configured Toshiba Satellite U405 series notebooks: the U405D running on an AMD Turion processor, and the U405 models running on Intel Core 2 Duo processors. Our Toshiba Satellite U405-S2830 comes with the Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor running at 2.10GHz. This CPU has 3MB L2 cache and an 800MHz front side bus. The notebook comes with 3GB memory (PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2) and the max is 4GB. All models in the U405 family have integrated graphics (not a surprise for notebooks in this price range). The U405 has the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 with 128MB-358MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory. The U405-S2830 comes with a 250GB Serial ATA hard drive (5400rpm speed) and if you need something larger, the U405-S2854 offers a 320 gig HDD. The Toshiba comes with a side-opening (right side) DVD SuperMulti (+/- double layer) drive with Labelflash supporting up to 11 formats.
The front volume control wheel and wireless switch.
How is the speed? For a notebook that’s small and affordable, the Satellite U405 performs well. We did benchmark tests with PCMark 05 on the U405 with the notebook plugged in and running on the Balanced power setting. Here are the numbers from the PCMark tests and Windows Vista Experience Index:
Total Rating: 3.4
Gaming graphics: 3.5
Primary hard disk: 5.3
We were actually quite impressed by the benchmark numbers. If you compare them with Toshiba’s multimedia line of notebooks like the Toshiba Qosmio F45, you will see that the performance of the U405 is comparable to or even faster than the Qosmio on all fronts except graphics (because the Qosmio F450AV425 has dedicated graphics while the Satellite U405 has only integrated graphics). Please note that the Windows Vista Experience Index rating uses the lowest number in the index for the overall score. We tested DVD watching, gaming and Internet content streaming, and the Satellite U405 did reasonably well in all tests. Games like Rise of Nations and Age of Empires III ran smoothly, but we couldn’t get Battlefield 2 to install and run (it wants dedicated graphics).
Like the Toshiba Qosmio F45, the Satellite U405-S2830 comes with the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965 AGN (802.11a/g/n) that has excellent performance. The notebook got a very strong signal from our N router, and streaming video/movie over WiFi was smooth and speedy. The range is also very good: we tested it from at least 30 feet away through several walls, and the reception still rated “Excellent”. The Toshiba also has built-in Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR which enhanced the speed of data transfer. The notebook has a standard set of ports including 3 USB 2.0 ports (two on the left side and one on the right side), 10/100 Ethernet LAN port and modem port on the right side, i.LINK IEEE-1394 port on the left, ExpressCard slot (ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54) and a security lock slot on the right. There is also a VGA monitor port on the left for plugging the notebook into an external monitor or projector. The cooling vent dispatches heat through the openings on the left of the notebook and keeps the bottom from heating up too much. Though when you play a DVD or a game, you definitely don’t want to put anything that’s heat sensitive next the cooling vent: it can make the desk surface feel a bit too hot to touch.
There is also a 5-in-1 media card reader that reads SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MMC and xD Picture Cards. For higher end audio out, the Toshiba has an S/P DIF jack (shared with the 3.5mm analog stereo audio jack) next to the mic out jack.
The Toshiba U405 comes with Windows Vista Home Edition SP1 (32-bit) that’s upgradable to Windows Vista Ultimate if you wish. Toshiba is very good at bundling its own utility software and tools and the U405 benefits from that tradition. The notebook includes Toshiba’s own DVD Player, Disc Creator, Bluetooth stack, speech system and more. The Toshiba U405 comes with some free games and online games from WildTangent. Third-party software included are Microsoft Works 9.0, Sun Java 2 Runtime, Adobe Acrobat reader, Ulead DVD movieFactory and Google tools. There are also some useful trial software including MS Office Home and Student 2007 Edition (60-day trial) and a trial version Norton 360 All-In-One Security. All current Toshiba notebook models come with recovery discs to restore the notebook to factory settings, and there is no recovery partition on the hard drive of the U405.
In addition to a fingerprint scanner, the Toshiba U405 also comes with face recognition security that’s finding its way into several of today’s notebooks including the ASUS U6 series. The face recognition uses the web cam to capture your face and the notebook can use it as a “human password” to login. The technology worked very well on the Toshiba U405 in decently lit areas.
Is there bloatware on the Toshiba U405? You bet! From Napster to shutterfly photo print services, from eMusic Music download (can you say redundant?) to Vongo movie services, the Toshiba is loaded with bloatware and its desktop is cluttered with useless shortcut icons. We’ve run out words to describe our displeasure at spending hours upon hours to dispose of bloatware and their shortcut icons on today’s notebooks. Other manufacturers like Dell and Sony have responded to the wave of editorial and consumer revulsion and reduced the junk—follow suit soon, Toshiba!
The Toshiba U405 comes with a 4800mAh Li-Ion battery (6-cell), and if you need more power, you can get an extended battery (9-cell) or consider the U405-S2833 which has a 7200mAh battery. The notebook uses Vista’s three power settings: Balanced, Power Saving and High Performance. The Balanced setting is quite good and doesn’t reduce the display brightness and notebook’s speed by much from the high performance setting. The notebook lasted us about 3.5 hours when performing tasks such as working on documents and looking through photos with WiFi turned off. Watching a DVD, the battery lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes (Balanced power setting). Windows Vista behaves much better in dealing with hibernation than XP, and the Toshiba U405 went into and came out of hibernation gracefully. The notebook charges reasonably fast, and the power supply is a world AC adapter (100-240V/50-60Hz) that weighs 0.77 lbs.
The Toshiba U405 has the right balance between size and power, and has plenty of ports for working with various accessories. For the price, the Toshiba offers very good specs and the hardware benchmarks very well. If you’re a student who is looking for a notebook that can do your school work but is small enough to carry around the campus, the 13.3-inch size and the mid-level price are very attractive. It’s not as thin as the ultra-lights like the MacBook Air or the Sony Z series, but you are paying half of the price or even less.
Pro: The redesign gives the notebook a modern update. The shiny surface and the fusion cover look sleek. Bright display with good viewing angle. The notebook has plenty of horsepower, memory and a fast hard drive. Plenty of ports should handle most common (USB, external monitor). Good software bundle.
Con:The notebook surface shows fingerprints easily. With integrated graphics, some games might not play. Too much bloatware. No HDMI or FireWire for multimedia mavens.
Display:13.3” diagonal widescreen TruBrite TFT LCD display at 1280 x 800 native resolution (WXGA). Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 with 128MB-358MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory.
Battery:6-cell Lithium Ion battery pack, 4800mAh. 75W AC adapter with auto sensing,100-240V/50-60Hz.
Performance:Intel Core 2 Duo processors T8100 model at 2.10GHz, 3MB L2 cache, 800MHz front side bus. 3GB memory (PC2-5300) DDR2 with 667MHz SDRAM, 4GB max.
Size:12.4 x 9.02 x 1.08 /1.3 inches (without/with feet). Weight: 4.85 lbs.
Drives:250GB (5400 RPM) Serial ATA hard disk drive. DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) with Labelflash drive supporting 11 formats.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, built in mic, sound volume control dial, headphone and S/P DIF out put in one.
Networking: Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n). 10/100 gigabit Ethernet and 56k modem. RJ-45 LAN port. Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR.
Ports and Slots:3 USB 2.0 ports, 5-in-1 card reader, VGA monitor port, S/P DIF audio output, ExpressCard/54 slot and 3.5mm mic-in port. Also included a fingerprint reader and TPM.
Software: Windows Vista Home Edition (32-bit) Operating System. Microsoft Works 9, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Toshiba DVD Player and Disc Creator software, Ulead DVD MovieFactory and Google tools. Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer included. Also fingerprint and face recognition software for security. Recovery software included on recovery media. Trial software includes: Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 Edition (60-day trial) and Norton All-in-One security.