What's hot: The look is hot! Good performance on video playback, stellar battery life.
What's not: Poor speaker location.
Reviewed August 2, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
As if there is a “no PC maker left behind” program running for the Netbook market, Toshiba has finally joined the fray. The Toshiba mini NB205, Toshiba’s first Netbook, makes a statement with its good looks. On the inside, the NB05 is competitive with the second generation Intel Atom N280 processor running at 1.66GHz. The netbook has 1GB of DDR2 memory, a 160GB hard drive and a good number of ports as well as built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. The Toshiba mini NB205 comes pre-installed with Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Works and Toshiba’s user-friendly utilities. The machine has fantastic battery life and very good video streaming performance over the Internet. As with all Netbooks, the Toshiba doesn’t have a built-in optical drive, and gamers who venture beyond casual gaming should look elsewhere.
As the Netbook market gets more crowded, the Toshiba mini NB205 stands out with its good looks and slim body. It’s not as thin as the Sony VAIO P (but then again the VAIO P is really a different animal) but it’s thinner than the HP Mini 2140. Since Netbooks are budget creations, it’s nice to see a reasonably priced model that doesn’t look Fisher Price. The Toshiba mini NB205 has a very clean and modern look with a fingerprint resistant diagonal pinstripe cover, sleek keyboard with discrete keys and a shiny chrome hinge. The power button sits right in the middle of the robust hinge with its LED shinning through it. The 6-cell battery plugs into the back of the Toshiba mini NB205, and it creates not only a “handle” but also tips the netbook slightly forward which makes typing more comfortable. The hump created by the battery does break the clean lines of the notebook but it’s the trade off for longer battery life that most notebook users covet.
The 85-key US keyboard is very useable. The keys are discrete and large enough for most hands and they have good travel. The 6-row keyboard is very easy to type on; and we like that it has a normal layout with larger shift keys, enter and backspace keys. The top row function keys along with the page up/down and arrow keys on the right bottom corner are reduced in size. The discrete-style keyboard reminds us of the keyboard on Apple MacBook Pro and higher-end Sony Vaio notebooks, but the Toshiba mini NB205 has something that the Sony Vaio P doesn’t: a good size wrist rest and a large, very useable touchpad with vertical scroll function and large mouse buttons.
We like everything about the look except that the display bezel has too big of a presence. The VAIO P and the HP mini 2140 look better with their displays stretched more toward the edges, giving the notebooks a sleeker look. Unlike the VAIO P with its webcam on the right side of the display, the Toshiba has enough space on top of the display for the built-in webcam. The 10.1-inch widescreen display has 1024 x 600 native resolution with Toshiba’s TruBrite Backlit technology. The screen is reasonably bright but has a limited viewing angle. Toshiba includes a very user-friendly power management tool that lets you set screen brightness, CPU speed and cooling level.
One design decision didn’t impress us: the built-in stereo speakers live underneath the notebook. Naturally the volume is low and audio sounds muffled since the speakers are firing at your desk. Volume controls are integrated into the function keys on the keyboard, and the mic input and headphone jack live on the left side of the netbook.
As the second generation Intel Atom N280 processor (1.66 GHz) Netbooks roll out in the U.S. this summer, the first gen N270 processor (1.60 GHz) powered Netbooks are largely heading for the discount bin. The Toshiba mini NB205 runs on the N280 at 1.66 GHz and it’s in the same price-range as Netbooks like the HP Mini 5101 featuring the same processor. The Toshiba mini NB205-N311 series has 1GB DDR2 533MHz memory and you can upgrade it to 2GB RAM. The netbook has Intel’s integrated graphics GMA950 with 64MB – 251MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory. The Toshiba has a 160GB SATA hard drive (5400rpm) and no optical drive built-in. The mini notebook comes with Windows XP Home SP3. We put the Toshiba mini NB205 through PCMark05 benchmark tests, and the scores are below. We set the Toshiba mini NB205 to Full Power mode with the CPU processing speed at max (level 5) and cooling at max. We used an external monitor (setting at 1280 x 1024 resolution) for the benchmark tests as the netbook’s display resolution is too low to meet PCMark’s resolution requirements.
The CPU score is on par with other Netbooks running the N280, and the memory and hard drive scores are very good. The very low graphics score means you won’t use this netbook to play serious games, but casual games should do just fine. We ran IE, Microsoft Works and Windows Media Player 11 on the Toshiba, and all worked smoothly. Hulu video playback streamed via the Toshiba’s built-in Wi-Fi at 480p in full screen mode was very watchable and reasonably smooth with occasional frame drops. It did better than our Acer Aspire One and Sony Vaio P for streaming Flash video. Skype calls were smooth via Wi-Fi 802.11g (you won’t commonly find 802.11n on Netbooks).
Speaking of Wi-Fi, the netbook has Toshiba’s own ConfigFree connections manager, a cool application that lets you manage your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other connections in one place. In addition to the built-in 802.11b/g Atheros Wi-Fi, the Toshiba mini NB205 also has Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. Other ports include 3 USB 2.0 (one of them is Toshiba’s Sleep and Charge USB that can charge your mobile devices), 10/100 Ethernet LAN port, RGB monitor port and Bridge Media card reader slot. The Netbook does not have a modem port or a PC Express slot, but it does have a security cable lock slot. Overall, the Toshiba offers better than average wireless thanks to Bluetooth being standard, and more USB ports than the norm.
The Toshiba mini NB205 has Windows XP Home Edition 2002 SP3 preinstalled along with Microsoft Works 9 (Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Database, Calendar and more), MS Office PowerPoint Viewer 2007, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player, IE, Messenger and Movie Maker. Toshiba usually installs proprietary software and utilities on their notebooks (not bloatware), and we’re glad to see many of them made to the Toshiba mini NB205. Besides the ConfigFree connections manager, the Toshiba also has Toshiba’s Bluetooth Stack, DVD writer, recovery Disc Creator and Camera assist software for the webcam. Adobe Reader 9 is also included. The Toshiba mini NB205 comes with a 30-day trial version of Norton Internet Security 2009. The netbook has a restore partition that allows you to restore the system back to the factory state.
The Toshiba mini NB205 has a beefy 6-cell Li-Ion battery that’s 5800mAh in capacity. The netbook has very aggressive power-saving settings out of the box (putting the notebook to sleep the minute you turn your head away), and the battery runtime is stellar even if you adjust power settings to something more reasonable. With Wi-Fi turned on, if you only work on your documents, spreadsheets, email and surfing the web, the Toshiba mini NB205 can last you up to a full working day. In hibernation, the netbook can last you 4-5 days. We managed 5 hours of Hulu streaming video playback (more convenient since there is no built-in DVD drive) via Wi-Fi with screen brightness set to level 4 out of 5 (it’s very watchable at level 4) and the CPU speed set to max. The NB205's world charger is very compact, in keeping with the Netbooks' small size and light weight.
Being late to the game has its advantages; you learn from other companies’ experiences and make yours better. Toshiba did a good job at that with its first Netbook. The Toshiba mini NB205 has good processing power for a Netbook thanks to the N280 processor, solid Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a good software bundle and ample ports including a Sleep and Charge USB port. But it’s the Toshiba mini NB205’s design that screams for attention, especially the white one (the Frost White casing is the best selling mini NB205 so far). We love the keyboard and the touchpad, the long battery life and the capable video playback. The downward-firing speaker is a mistake and while the Toshiba does a good job with Hulu and YouTube video playback, that old integrated GMA950 still isn’t up to more than casual gaming. At $399, the Toshiba is competitive with a 1.66GHz processor and a 160GB hard drive, but 1GB RAM is on the low side.
Pro: Awesome looking netbook with very useable keyboard. Good performance in most tasks including video playback. Solid Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Great battery life.
Con: Speaker is muffled, lacks graphics power for gaming.
Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, 5800mAh. Ships with a small 100-240V AC charger.
Performance: Intel Atom N280 processor running at 1.66GHz. 1GB DDR2 533MHz RAM with 2GB max in 1 slot.
Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with volume control keys. Has mic input and headphone output.
Communications: Atheros 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, gigabit Ethernet but no modem. 3 USB v2.0 ports (1 of them is USB Sleep and Charge port).
Drive: 160GB 5400rpm Serial ATA hard drive. No optical drive built-in.
Camera: 1.3 megapixel camera with built-in mic.
Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot that works with SDHC cards and MMC cards.
Size: 10.4 x 8.3 x 1.0/1.27 inches. Weight: 2.93 lbs.
Software: Windows XP Home Edition SP3. Microsoft Works 9, IE, Windows Media Player, Office PowerPoint Viewer 2007 and Microsoft Movie Maker included. Toshiba software includes ConfigFree, PC Health Monitor, and Hard Disc Drive Recovery. Adobe Reader 9 included. 30-day Norton Internet Security 2009 included.