Toshiba Mini NB305-N310: A Nice Keyboard and a Low Price Make This Netbook a Bargain
At a Glance
Toshiba mini NB305-N310
The Toshiba Mini NB305-N310 is a professional-looking netbook with a comfortable keyboard and a huge touchpad, but it's not great for watching Web videos on.
The Toshiba Mini NB305-N310 is the slightly lower-end version of Toshiba's Mini NB305-N410 netbook, but design differences and the NB305-N310's ability to run Windows XP make this Mini a better choice than the NB305-N410.
Our review model, priced at $349, features a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor with integrated GMA3150 graphics processor, a 160GB hard drive, and 1GB of RAM. It also has a built in Webcam-and-mic combination, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi (but no Bluetooth), and a one-year limited warranty.
The netbook has the same weight and physical dimensions as the NB305-N410: 2.9 pounds (including battery), and 10.5 inches wide by 7.6 inches tall by 1.4 inches thick. It comes with a six-cell lithium ion battery that managed about 9.5 hours of battery life in PCWorld's tests. The battery, which sits beneath the chassis, is fairly discreet--though it does make the back of the netbook a bit thicker than the front.
Whereas the NB305-N410 comes in blue, brown, or white, the NB305-N310 comes in only one color: black onyx. The cover and the trackpad are shiny and faintly patterned, while the interior surfaces are a slick, slightly sparkly black; and overall, its color choices make the NB305-N310 look more professional and more expensive. The netbook features three USB 2.0 ports (including a "sleep and charge" port that you can use to charge USB devices even while the computer is in sleep mode), an ethernet port, an SD Card slot, a VGA-out port, and microphone and headphone jacks.
Unlike the higher-end version's keyboard, with its tiny, oddly shaped Chiclet-style keys, the NB305-N310's keyboard has a comfortable, regular keyboard. Its flat, black keys are all more than full-size, the Space bar is reasonably wide, the Shift keys are respectably large, and the Tab key--though small--is easy to hit (on the NB305-N410's keyboard, I missed the Tab key every time I tried to use it. The Function buttons at the top are tiny, but the extra attention given to the letter keys more than makes up for that.
The NB305-N310's trackpad is bigger than the ones on most netbooks, and comes with two large, easy-to-press mouse buttons. The trackpad is smoother and, therefore, easier to use than the higher-end model's trackpad, and it supports multitouch gestures such as pinching to zoom and two fingers for scrolling.
The new Mini has a 10.1-inch glossy LED-backlit widescreen with a native resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. If you can get past the low-resolution, this is actually a great screen--the colors are bright and crisp, the images are sharp and easy to see, even in bright sunlight. If you move too much to the left or the right, there's a bit of reflection--especially on pages with dark backgrounds.
Though this netbook offers stereo sound, the speakers are located underneath the chassis, which makes them a bit hard to hear, especially when the unit is on your lap. Video playback is pretty good if you're viewing at standard definition and not at full screen, but the Atom N450 processor lacks the power to deliver high-definition, full-screen video. A standard-definition episode of House on Hulu in flew by without problems, but when I switched to full screen or high def, I immediately encountered significant stuttering. If you're looking for a netbook that can play full-screen Flash video, this is not the model for you.
The NB305-N310 comes with Windows XP, Skype, and Microsoft Works 9.0 preinstalled, along with trialware versions of Microsoft Office 2007 and Norton Internet Security 2010. Windows XP is a better deal than Windows 7 Starter Edition (included on the higher-end version), since Windows 7 Starter Edition doesn't allow personalization--such as changing the desktop background--or support Windows Media Center. Upgrading from Windows 7 Starter Edition to a higher-level version of the OS costs an extra $80, whereas you get the full version of Windows XP preinstalled on the NB305-N310. Toshiba includes some of its own apps, such as Toshiba Bulletin Board (which allows you to "stick" things to the desktop--much as Apple's widget screen does) and Toshiba PC Health Monitor (which keeps track of your PC's health).
The Toshiba Mini NB305-N310 costs $50 less than the higher-end Mini NB305-N410 and is actually a better deal. Sure, the hard drive is smaller (160GB vs. 250GB), but that's about it. The full version of Windows XP beats the starter version of Windows 7, the keyboard is much easier to type on, and the design is sleeker and more professional looking.