Friday, April 8, 2011

Toshiba mini NB205 (NB205-N210) Notebook Review

Toshiba mini NB205 (NB205-N210) Notebook Review
Toshiba’s mini NB205-N310 netbook struck a chord with its snazzy design, comfortable island keyboard, and stellar battery life, but realizing that $50 can make a difference in today’s economy—not to mention the competitive netbook market—the company opted to create a budget version, the $349 mini NB205-N210. While it lacks the silver island-style keyboard, ribbed lid, and Bluetooth of the $399 mini NB205-310, the NB205-N210 has the same internal specs. So while you lose the flair of the more premium version, you still get a snappy netbook whose high-capacity battery provides more than 9 hours of endurance for $50 less.

Design :

The major change between the NB205-N210 and the NB205-N310 is aesthetics. Where the NB205-N310 had a Sable Brown lid (also available in Royal Blue, Posh Pink, and Frost White) with raised diagonal lines, the more affordable version only comes in a glossy Fusion Finish in Black Onyx; while the lid has a similar pinstriped look, the lines are not raised, and it is much more fingerprint-prone. Also gone is the shiny bronze hinge; however, the glossy black hinge (with a glowing power button at the center) is attractive in its own way.

At 10.4 x 7.6 x 1.3 inches, the NB205 is fairly compact, although not as slim as the ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (10.3 x 7.0 x 1.0) or the Acer Aspire One AOD250 (10.2 x 7.2 x 1.0). Additionally, this netbook’s standard six-cell battery juts out from the back of the system. Weighing 2.8 pounds by itself, the NB205 and its AC adapter came in at 3.4 pounds, and didn’t put much strain on our shoulder as we walked around New York City.

Basic Keyboard, Solid Touchpad :

Aside from the chassis, the most obvious difference between the NB205-N210 and the N310 is the keyboard. While the N310 has a metal island keyboard, the N210 has a plastic panel with more traditional keys. Though not as attractive, the keyboard remains comfortable and sturdy; we achieved the same typing score as that on the N310—a strong 80 words per minute with a one percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs typing test ( Comparatively, we had a two percent error rate on the Samsung N120.

On the other hand, we prefer the layout on the Toshiba mini NB205-N310 to the N210. Certain keys that typists use most often—like the right Shift key—are larger on the former system.

The touchpad continues to be one of the best we have used on a netbook. At 3.1 x 1.6-inches, it’s the largest we’ve seen in the 10-inch class, and its smooth finish makes it easy to navigate the desktop. The two dedicated right and left mouse buttons are comfortable and far from stiff.

Display and Audio :

The NB205’s 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel resolution LED-backlit display is just the right amount of glossy. Watching a Daily Show clip on was bright, and colors were not at all muted. Tilting the screen back to its 45-degree maximum didn’t cause too much distracting glare, and we had no problem positioning the notebook in bed to watch a YouTube clip.

We were somewhat distracted by the almost one-inch thick bezel that surrounds the display—it seems like there’s enough room to fit an even larger screen. But, because you have to live with 10 inches, Toshiba thankfully includes a zooming utility that enlarges text and icons within certain programs, including Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader, by pressing number shortcuts.

Dual stereo speakers, hidden below the front edge of the system, were a bit weak compared to other netbooks we have tested. When playing The Shins over, we had to crank up the volume to hear the lyrics. Similarly, on a Skype call we couldn’t make out our callers’ voice as clearly as we would have liked. Plugging in a headset solved these problems.

Webcam :

Above the display is a 0.3-megapixel webcam, which provided extremely clear images in a video chat over Skype. When we waved to our friend with whom we frequently test webcams, he had no complaints of motion blur or problems with the lighting. Toshiba also includes Camera Assistant Software (which pops up when you mouse over the left side of the screen) that can record videos, snap still shots, and lets you create some neat effects.

Ports :

The Toshiba mini NB205 has the standard set of ports we’ve come to expect from netbooks: two USB ports and a Kensington lock slot adorn the right side; a VGA-out, audio in/out, Ethernet, and third USB port are mounted on the left. That third USB port is enabled with Toshiba’s Sleep-and-Charge technology, which provides power to connected devices (such as smart phones) when the system is off. A 3-in-1 memory card reader sits along the front lip.