capsule review

Toshiba Satellite A305-S6864 All-Purpose Laptop

At a Glance
  • Toshiba Satellite A305-S6864

    PCWorld Rating

    Budget minders will like this sleek unit with good built-in speakers, but make sure an outlet's close by.

Toshiba's Satellite A305-S6864 may not have a name that rolls off the tongue. When you combine its handsome looks with its great sound and reasonable $1149 price tag, however, it quickly becomes a tasty-looking budget laptop choice. Even so, one major shortcoming will turn off frequent travelers--but I'll get to that soon enough.

With its 2.26-GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and 4GB of RAM, the A305-S6864 achieved a WorldBench 6 score of 90--very reasonable for an all-purpose laptop. The machine that scored closest to the A305-S6864 is Sony's VAIO VGN-SZ791N; the only difference is that Sony's sexy laptop goes for about $2200, depending on where you look.

In our tests the A305-S6864 handled mainstream applications well. It isn't the best gaming laptop you can buy, but its ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 256MB graphics card did turn in decent frame rates in our 3D tests, topping out at 65 frames per second in Far Cry with antialiasing turned off.

An attractive, dark unit, the A305-S6864 has a sporty design on the upper casing that Toshiba calls a "fusion finish with horizon pattern." (We just call it a cool wavy stripe.) The keyboard's shiny, heavily lacquered black keys feel smooth and depress deeply enough for satisfying feedback. It doesn't match the silky action of a ThinkPad, but that's okay. Bright white status lights, a responsive touch-sensitive media panel, a borderless touchpad, and big, comfy chrome mouse buttons complement this laptop's pleasing design.

Add a bright 15.4-inch screen that's just a tad reflective (not enough to be a distraction) to sweeten the deal, and the machine starts feeling like a premium laptop despite the reasonable price. Another nice surprise, beyond the usual compliment of ports: FireWire and eSATA ports to attach one of the latest fast external hard drives. It even has room inside for you to add a second hard drive later on if you want to expand storage beyond the included 320GB hard drive.

Usually we keep audio expectations low for laptops, but the A305-S6864 sounds awesome. Thank the built-in Harman/Kardon speakers, supported by a downward-firing subwoofer. Even movies, whose sound often washes out on laptops, were rich and loud. Too bad the DVD drive is an older plain-vanilla model that won't play Blu-ray movies.

So where does Toshiba go wrong? For all the A305-S6864's multimedia glory, you won't be able to appreciate it on your next trip, because this laptop has a woefully short battery life. The 4000-MAh battery might keep the weight down to 6.3 pounds, but it will barely last 2 hours. Don't leave home without the power cord, even for short afternoons down at the coffeehouse.

If pocketbook concerns are paramount, the A305-S6864 is a great choice, especially for audiophiles. But it isn't the laptop for long work stints away from an outlet, and Blu-ray movie fans won't be happy with it.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Budget minders will like this sleek unit with good built-in speakers, but make sure an outlet's close by.

    Pros

    • Slick exterior and cool keyboard
    • Good value machine

    Cons

    • Brief battery life
    • No fingerprint reader
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