by Kevin O'Brien
The Toshiba Portege A605 is a 12.1" ultra-portable notebook designed for business travelers who want something small and lightweight, but don’t want to make any compromises when it comes to features. The A600 series notebooks offer an on-board optical drive so users can enjoy movies or install applications on the road, eSATA to expand storage, and a power saving Intel Centrino 2 platform to squeeze out as much battery life as possible. In this review we find out how well the A605 stands up to the rigors of day-to-day use, and if it is worth purchasing this notebook over a netbook or other ultra-portable notebooks.
Toshiba Portege A605-P210 Specifications:
Build and Design
The Portege looks very classy for a business notebook, with glossy piano black keyboard bezel and screen cover along with a matte silver base. The port and button layout appears to be very well thought out with effort put into things as simple as the power and activity indicators. The silver keyboard contrasts the black finish, with a nice matte finish with black lettering that is easy to read.
Build quality is hit or miss depending on what part of the notebook you are looking at. The quality of the finish is excellent, with a thick layer of glossy black paint that appears to be scratch resistant. On the flip side, the plastic used to construct the notebook suffers from abnormal amounts of flex--a side effect of its lightweight construction. The palm rest and lower half of the case flex inward when you grip the notebook to carry it around, and even resting your palms on the palm rest makes them bend in slightly. The screen cover shows similar flex and when gripped firmly makes the display show signs of color distortion around the edges and center. The screen itself also has some issues in how it is mounted, showing a pressure spot in the bottom corner that "flashes" when the screen jiggles on your lap or desk surface.
Upgrading the components on the A605 is more difficult that the average notebook, with half of the RAM soldered to the motherboard and no access panel for the hard drive. While most business users probably won’t be modifying company issued hardware, regular users who buy this notebook might be upset.
The 12.1" display is average compared to other business ultra-portable notebooks, but below average if you compare it to the screens on larger notebooks. Colors are bright and vibrant thanks to some help from the LED-backlighting. Overall brightness is adequate for viewing in an office setting but not bright enough for using the notebook outside under direct sunlight. The screen is evenly lit across the entire surface, with the only hotspot showing near the screen hinge attachment points ... which pinch the screen slightly. Vertical viewing angles are average, with colors quickly washing out or distorting outside of the viewing sweet spot. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, staying accurate at steep angles, only dimming as it rotates further away from you.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The A605 features a nearly full-size keyboard with the primary keys being the same size as on a larger notebook, but the surrounding keys are condensed to fit inside the frame of the Portege. The keyboard is comfortable to type on, but suffers from the same flex issue as the palm rest and notebook bottom. Under moderate pressure the entire keyboard surface will sink in, giving you a trampoline feeling as you type. Individual key action is smooth, giving off a very mild click noise when pressed.
Toshiba includes an ALPS touchpad on the A605, which is quite large for a 12” notebook. It is quick and responsive, with very little lag noticed during our tests. Fingertip sensitivity is much better than older ALPS touchpads we have seen, is slightly under a Synaptics model. The touchpad surface has a rough matte finish, which is easily to slide across even if your finger is slightly moist from sweat. The touchpad buttons were disappointing, being very small and having shallow feedback when pressed. The buttons are mounted flush with the chrome trim under the touchpad and are so tightly fit that they rub against the edges when pressed.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the A605 is good for an ultra-portable notebook, including three USB ports, VGA, LAN, audio jacks, and eSATA through a combo port. While HDMI or DisplayPort might be handy, many business users still use VGA for projectors and it is more than capable for connecting the notebook to a secondary monitor. The bottom of the notebook also features a docking connector, for further port expansion.
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