New Toshiba Satellite Laptops: 3D, Thin-and-Lights, and a $300 Netbook

Toshiba announced new notebooks today–a bevy of updates to its consumery Satellite line, which encompasses everything from basic low-cost laptops to powerful entertainment machines. Laptopmag.com has a nice summary. Herewith, notes on a few models I found particularly interesting when Toshiba briefed me on them recently.

The Satellite A665 is an entertainment-focused system with a 16-inch screen, available in versions with Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs, as well as AMD’s quad-core Phenom II. It starts at $799.99 and has Dolby Advanced Audio, DVD upconversion for a sort of simulated HD effect, and Sleep-and-Music, which lets you plug an external music source such as your MP3 player or phone into the Harmon Kardon speakers even when the computer isn’t powered up. And some versions have Nvidia’s Optimus graphics system, which automatically switches between integrated and discrete graphics on the fly to either conserve power or boost performance as appropriate.

Then there’s the A665 3D Edition, a $1599.99 variant which packs a slightly smaller screen (15.6?) but which is one of the first notebooks that does 3D.

The 3D A665 uses Nvidia’s active-shutter 3D glasses and requires an external USB base station to communicate with them. (Nvidia has told me that there will eventually be notebooks with built-in transmitters.) 3D Blu-ray just barely exists, so right now, the feature’s really only relevant for games. I wonder how the skeptical consumers we showed 3D TV to would react to PC-based 3D; judging from my chat with a Toshiba executive, I think the company sees 3D as a specialty item for now rather than the Next Big Thing.

I’m also intrigued by the new Satellite T200 line–an update to the T100 models which the company introduced last Fall. These are economical, reasonably powerful, reasonably thin-and-light models with good battery life of the sort that some folks predicted would crush netbooks. They haven’t, but they’re a good choice for lots of folks.

The T215 starts at $469.99 and has an 11.6? screen; the T235 starts at $549.99 has a 13.3? inch screen. Various Intel and AMD processors are available. The new designs sport “Chiclet”-style tile keyboards and wider touchpads, and are definitely larger cousins of Toshiba’s excellent netbooks from a design standpoint.

Speaking of netbooks, Toshiba isn’t giving up on ‘em–instead, it’s making them even more economical. Its line now starts with the NB255, which, at $299.99, is the company’s cheapest netbook to date. It’s got an Intel Atom N455 CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and a six-cell battery. It looks like a worthy contender among low-end netbooks, but I’d spring for the $379.99 NB305, which has a nicer tile keyboard and a battery that’s flush with the case so it doesn’t jut out in back.

All these new Toshibas are due to go on sale next Sunday, June 20th.

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