capsule review

Toshiba Satellite U305-S5127 All-Purpose Laptop

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Toshiba Satellite U305-S5127 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    This retail-only portable slips easily into a backpack or briefcase and has a bright screen and fantastic battery life.

Store-bought fare doesn't get much better than the Toshiba Satellite U305-S5127. It's a preconfigured retail-only Windows Vista Home Premium laptop that hits all the right notes for good portable computing: light heft, bright screen, nice price, and great battery life. It's all there. Even so-so speed and a slightly imperfect keyboard do little to mar the gotta-have-it vibe.

This glossy black, $1350 (as of 10/24/07) all-purpose laptop weighs 4.9 pounds and has a small but very bright 13.3-inch 1280-by-800 screen. The display was so bright that I suspected new LED technology at work in the background, but it is in fact a 250-NIT LCD (an above-average brightness spec) combined with TruBrite technology.

The notebook's battery, a low-profile bar attached to the rear, lasted an incredible 6.1 hours on one charge in our tests--2.2 hours longer than the 3.9-hour average of 14 currently tested all-purpose laptops. In fact, only three ultraportable notebooks we've tested have done better, with the pricey $2558 Fujitsu LifeBook T2010 holding the record of 6 hours, 58 minutes. Costing $1208 less than the T2010, the U305-S5127 gives a huge bang for the buck.

As for speed, this 1.8-GHz Core 2 Duo T7100-equipped unit with 2GB of RAM and shared video memory could have done a tad better. It earned a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 68, six points lower than the average of 74 earned by 14 other currently tested all-purpose laptops. Still, it's plenty fast enough for word processing, e-mail, Internet browsing, light video and graphics editing, and movies.

The petite U305-S5127 comes fully equipped with many ports and connections, including a DVD burner and an ExpressCard slot smartly dovetailed on the sides, with a few others, such as an SD Card slot and a FireWire port, judiciously sprinkled on the front. Built-in antennas cover Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless communications, though not the wider-area mobile broadband. The U305-S5127 is not loaded with security features, but it does have a raised area on the bottom that helps protect the 200GB hard drive.

The matte-silver keyboard with its crisp black lettering is a standout both visually and functionally. Keys are slightly raised above the surface of the laptop so they don't touch one another, and they give the laptop an avant-garde look. At first, the tops felt too small to type on, but soon the keyboard's comfortable incline (thanks to the bar battery) and superb layout helped me adjust. Ctrl key freaks will love the fact that this key not only occupies the bottom-left corner spot but also is twice the usual size. If you rely on Ctrl to perform most combination-stroke shortcuts, this nicely designed key alone might be the deciding factor to buy the U305-S5127. Above the keyboard are a row of CD and DVD control buttons and a separate Internet launch button.

The speakers are too raspy to enjoy by themselves, but with headphones and play buttons at your fingertips, the U305-S5127 makes a decent DVD player for coast-to-coast-and-back-again entertainment. My only complaint is about the mouse buttons, which I found too small and forced too far apart by the fingerprint reader to be entirely comfortable. An external mouse handily fixes that problem, though. If you've been spoiled by business-level Microsoft Office applications, you might have to shell out a few more bucks to complete your purchase of the U305-S5127, since the notebook comes bundled with only Microsoft Works 8.5 applications.

Light, parsimonious in its battery consumption, and handsome to boot, the Toshiba Satellite U305-S5127 sells itself.

--Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This retail-only portable slips easily into a backpack or briefcase and has a bright screen and fantastic battery life.

    Pros

    • Bright screen
    • Fantastic battery life

    Cons

    • Small mouse buttons
    • Slow-working volume wheel
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