Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
Toshiba's Satellite E305-S1900X all-purpose laptop (available only at Best Buy) is a cut above average in styling, performance, and features. But you'd have to be an ardent fan of the latest, greatest technology to spend $1089 on a system with a 14-inch display. If you are, you'll find such advanced features as a 500GB hybrid hard drive with integrated 4GB solid-state drive, Blu-ray, USB 3.0, Intel Wireless display (WiDi), and WiMax.
Thanks to a Core i5-2410M CPU, 4GB of memory, and the trickster hybrid hard drive, the E305 turned in a very competent 117 on PCWorld's WorldBench 6. Battery life in our rundown tests was 5 hours, 35 minutes--about average for laptops in this class. The integrated Intel HD graphics managed playable gaming frame rates in older games, though it will struggle with the latest and greatest. It looks good, too: The E305's flawlessly backlit 14-inch, 1366-by-768-resolution display offers deep, rich colors.
Video performance is excellent. Blu-ray movies that we played via the internal Blu-ray drive/DVD burner rendered as smoothly as we could wish, as did high-bit-rate 1080p video files. That said, WinDVD's disabling of Aero for Blu-ray playback is a bit of a pain (it restores the feature when you're done watching) and Toshiba's webcam utility doesn't know enough to stay in the background--you can see the edge of it over the movie until you kill it. The latter problem has been around for a while now, and Toshiba ought to take care of it.
The E305 sports a silver textured case with black highlights. It's reasonably totable at 5.5 pounds (including the AC adapter). Ergonomically, though, it's less successful. I found the texture of the touchpad off-putting and insufficiently sensitive to movement. Also, with the buttons integrated into the pad, my habit of keeping my left forefinger on the left button resulted in numerous inadvertent clicks. By my lights, the button areas should be for pressing only--switching to a single-handed style is a must with this unit.
The backlit Chiclet-style keyboard (in the manner of a MacBook keyboard) has a nice layout, but the keys lack the usual concave sculpting, and this omission makes for insecure finger placement. Tastes vary, but a Lenovo this ain't. If you're fond of quiet laptops, you might find the fan disconcerting, too: It ran constantly on our test unit. And either the fan or the hard drive produced a slight, but palpable (and annoying) vibration.
The E305's features match up well with those of the best all-purpose laptops. Complementing the two standard USB 2.0 ports is a single USB 3.0 port, which remains powered while the unit's asleep so you can charge phones (for example). You may also play music through an external MP3 player connected to the input jack while the unit is asleep. WiDi lets you route the E305's video output (but not HDCP content) to an external display via a wireless adapter. The unit supports HDMI and VGA output, too, if you don't want to spring for the adapter.
Connectivity is a rare combination of older 10/100 ethernet and dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless. One very rare feature is the integrated WiMax--a wireless broadband service available in many metro areas. The E305 was set up for the Clear network, but it failed to connect in my testing.
The E350 ships with the usual array of software and utilities: Microsoft Office Starter 2010, a trial version of Norton Internet Security, the aforementioned WinDVD, and a Best Buy app. Toshiba supplies a fair number of branding apps and utilities as well, but you can save some memory and CPU cycles by reverting to the Windows Home 7 Premium utilities where possible. Intel's MyWiFi utility allows you to use the E305 as a hotspot.
Based on specs and speed, except for the 10/100 ethernet, the Satellite E305-S1900X is a killer all-purpose laptop. Ergonomically, it's not quite a slam dunk, though, so make sure you give it a thorough type-and-point test at the store before you buy.
Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
This good-performing all-purpose laptop has a lot of great features but is hobbled by some odd ergonomic issues.
- Good performance
- Subpar keyboard and touchpad
- Slight, constant vibration