I was looking for a small laptop recently. I had several requirements like, it had to have a full size keyboard, and it had to be as small as possible. I picked up the Toshiba U305-S5097 because it fits both those requirements and it was on sale.
- 4.6 pounds
- 160 GB hard drive
- 13.3-inch LCD
- 1.86 GHz Core Duo T2130
- 1 GB installed RAM (4 GB max)
The small size was the biggest factor that drew me to this laptop. I was after a very portable computer that was small, but not so small that it was hard to see or use. The U305-S5097 is just the right size, I get a small size and I still get a full size keyboard.
The U305-S5097 comes with a 1.86 GHz Core Duo T2130, 1 GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 667MHz SDRAM and a 160 GB 5400 RPM Serial ATA hard drive. The RAM is upgradeable and I choose to upgrade the RAM to 2 GB. Unfortunately, the 1 GB of RAM that was already installed was 2 x 512 MB DIMMS. Because there are only two slots for RAM I had to remove both DIMMS and replace them with the new RAM.
The 13.3-inch WXGA display has a resolution of 1280 x 800 and a widescreen aspect ratio which is great for watching letterboxed DVDs. All this is powered by an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 and it uses between 8MB and 251MB of dynamically allocated shared graphics memory. This means it does not have its own memory, but it uses system memory. If you plan on using programs that use both system RAM and video RAM you need to make sure you have enough system RAM for both.
The U305-S5097 also includes both Wireless 802.11b/g and Wired LAN.
The battery that is included is a 5200 mAh lithium-ion battery pack. This battery should be big enough for most uses, but there is a bigger battery available if you need it.
The laptop also comes preloaded with tons of software. In addition to the operating system, which is Windows Vista Home Premium, it also includes Microsoft Works 8.5, InterVideo WinDVD 8, Google Desktop and Picasa, Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5, McAfee Internet Security Suite (30-day trial), and Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition (60-day trial). Those are only some of the programs that come installed. There are also several Toshiba programs, including one that slows down the DVD drive so that it makes less noise, and one that will protect the hard drive in case it gets jarred. As you can see from the images below there are lots of programs for you to try out.
The design is the best thing about this laptop. It is small, has a bunch of great features, and it is extremely light weight.
On the outside there are all sorts of other connectors and slots. The front of the laptop has a WiFi switch, a 5-in-1 memory card reader and a FireWire port. The card reader supports Secure Digital, MultiMedia, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, and xD Picture Card
The left side of the laptop has a VGA port, 2 USB ports, stereo headphone/line-out, and microphone/line-in ports and a volume switch. The VGA out port also support S-Video, but you need an adapter for it. I do not particularly like the volume switch because it does not seem to be very accurate. When using media center the volume would change in increments of 3. The Windows volume meter changes by 6. I ended up using the on-screen volume controls if I need to fine tune the volume. I would have preferred the standard volume up and down buttons most laptops have. This is definitely something Toshiba needs to fix.
The right side has a modem, network and USB port. The rest of the space is taken up by the DVD drive. Above the DVD drive on the far left is an ExpressCard 54/34 slot. The dual-layer DVD drive is compatible with a wide range of formats, including both DVD+RW and DVD-RW discs, CD-RW discs, and dual-layer (DL) DVD+/-R discs, which can hold up to 8.5 GB of data–great for backing up your MP3 collection or your most important documents. It features the following speeds: 4x DVD+R DL, 4x DVD-R DL, 8x for both single-layer DVD+R/-R, 4x DVD+RW, 4x DVD-RW, 5x DVD-RAM, and 24x/16x for CD-R/RW. It reads DVD-ROM discs at 8x and CD-ROMs at 24x.
There is a bit of a design flaw in the DVD drive. Because the laptop is so small and light I am often tempted to pick it up with just one hand. I am right handed so I tend to pick it up by the front right side. I found that if you have a CD or DVD in the drive when you pick up the laptop on the front right corner it will cause whole corner to compress and rub against the DVD. This could cause damage to your CDs and DVDs. I would recommend to Toshiba that they reinforce that corner so that it does not compress so easily.
When you open up the laptop you are greeted with a full-size keyboard, a 13 inch screen. Above the keyboard are several buttons. Starting on the left is the power, web browser, media player, play/pause, stop, rewind/skip back, fast forward/skip forward buttons. Above the screen is a 1.3 megapixel digital web camera. The web camera is great for quick photos and live video chats.
Because of the specifications for this laptop I don’t expect it to break any speed records. With an integrated graphics card and a 5400 RPM hard drive you are almost guaranteed slow performance. I decided to put it through the paces anyways. The test I performed are PCMark05, 3DMark06, and playing a DVD.
The laptop comes loaded with a ton of fairly useless software. The first thing I did was reformat the hard drive and start with a clean install of the operating system. Then I could test the true performance of the machine unhindered by a bunch of software.
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the machine was just 3.0. The lowest score on the WEI is the Gaming graphics. This tells me I cannot expect very much from graphics intensive programs.
The PCMark05 score was 1821. When compared to similar systems it scores almost at the bottom, when compared to all systems it is still low, just not at the bottom.
The 3DMark06 score was 168. When compared to similar and all systems it scores very much the same as PCMark05, at the very bottom.
Fortunately, I did not buy this laptop for playing games on. I needed something to take on trips and to write reviews with. In fact, I am writing this review on this laptop. It is very comfortable to use and because of the full size keyboard it is easy to type on.
DVD playing was a bit more successful than PCMark05, 3DMark06. To test the DVD I played a movie over and over until the battery died. I tried it with each of the three power settings, High Performance, Balanced, and Power saver. High Performance playback lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes. Balanced lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes. Finally, Power Saver lasted 2 hours 35 minutes. I would not call these results spectacular; however, there is enough battery to watch most movies and still have a little to spare. It was interesting that switching power options did not have more of an affect on the battery life.
The 13 inch screen is very nice. The 1200 x 800 resolution is very easy to work with. Text shows up nicely and pictures are bright and vibrant. With the help of TruBrite Technology you are given a bright and crisp picture, even outside. However, I did find that in direct sunlight it was very hard to read the screen, even at full brightness.
The web camera worked ok. It comes with a toolbar for accessing different features. The software works ok also. It is full-featured and provides a decent picture. The web camera also works well with instant messaging clients and other programs.
Toshiba does a good job of loading up the laptop with software. As you can see from the initial desktop there are lots of programs waiting for you to use. One of the programs that is included is called Flashcards. This program provides a toolbar that goes across the top of the desktop. From this toolbar you can get access to the functionality of the F keys and their alternate functionality.
These programs don’t come cheap. They require quite a bit of resources. As you can see from the screenshot, the default amount of RAM used by the default system is 587 MB. The next screenshot is the resources used by a clean install of the operating system. As you can see it uses about 100 MB of RAM less.
In case you lose any of the software or your operating system gets corrupted Toshiba provides a restore cd which can be used to either restore an individual program, or restore the entire disk back to factory defaults, which includes all the extra software. If you want to do a clean install you cannot use this disk. You need to get another disk and use the key that is on the bottom of the laptop; fortunately, the key works with retail copies of Vista. Unfortunately, you will have to call Microsoft to activate the operating system if you use this method. One thing I like about Dell is that they supply a restore disk that is just the operating system and nothing else.
Warranty and Support
The Toshiba U305-S5097 comes with only a 1 year warranty. This can be upgraded to a two year warranty at purchase time, if the store you buy it from supports it. You can get support on the Toshiba website. On the website they have a place where you can download the latest drivers and search through FAQs. There are support forums, but they are not maintained by Toshiba.
I am really happy with the laptop. I have had it for about a month and it has been great. If you are looking for a very portable laptop that has a lot of great features you will not go wrong with this. I managed to pick mine up for $699. Be sure to look around to make sure you get the best deal. As always compare prices before purchasing.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|