The Toshiba Satellite P505 is a multimedia powerhouse that packs an ATI Radeon HD 4650 and a massive 18.4" display. Offering dual drives for optimal performance and storage, this notebook handle all your multimedia needs, while still being able to power through games. In this review of the Toshiba P505-S8950 we find out how well it performs in daily activities, and if 18.4" is really too big to still be considered portable.
Toshiba Satellite P505-S8950 Specifications:
Build and Design
The Satellite P505 is a massive notebook, dwarfing even large 17" gaming systems. Combine that with a heavy body and you are left not wanting to stick it in a backpack; and good luck finding a slip case big enough. The exterior appearance is classy with a glossy black pinstripe finish and chrome trim around all the edges. Inside the color scheme stays the same, with chrome speaker grills, screen hinge, and touchpad buttons. The matching keyboard does a good job of blending in, with glossy black keys and white characters with white backlighting. While its size might make people turn their heads and stare, the tasteful color scheme does a good job of helping the notebook blend into the background. If you are using this as a multimedia hub for a bedroom or dorm, this is exactly what you want, as you aren't distracted by flashy colors or lots of LEDs.
Build quality is above average, although with the high weight and long width, you will see some mild flex if you try to carry the notebook by a corner. Plastic creaking is minimal and the chassis as a whole feels very strong. The keyboard area and palmrest show no signs of flex, even under very strong pressure. The glossy plastic finish seems to resist minor scratching, keeping a clean look even after wiping the body down multiple times for fingerprints. The screen has excellent protection from the backside, as well as the front thanks to the all-glass panel covering the LCD. Even with strong taps to the front and back of the display, there are no signs of color distortion. The only downside to the massive screen is its weight seems to act against the screen hinges, giving it some wiggle when in an open viewing position. You don't notice this unless you are constantly shifting around with the laptop on your lap though.
Users looking to upgrade components will enjoy the easy access to both hard drive bays and memory slots. Each hard drive is located in its own individual bay, with a third panel giving you access to the RAM. With the middle panel off you also get a glimpse at the graphics card, but the opening is not large enough to remove the card through. No "warranty void if removed" stickers were found anywhere on our review unit.
Screen and Speakers
The 18.4" panel on the Satellite P505 has a resolution of 1680x945, which seems lacking for something this large. Most high-end multimedia notebooks of this size usually offer a 1080P display, which takes more advantage of the greater surface area. That said, the panel still looks very nice for viewing games, images, or HD video. Colors appear bright and vibrant, thanks in part to the glossy surface. Depending on the viewing situations, reflections can play a huge role in what you are viewing on the display at any given time. While using this notebook at my kitchen table in front of a window, all I saw was the bright sunlight and slates to the shade reflecting off the screen. You can alleviate this by rotating the notebook or tilting the screen, but it is still quite annoying. Vertical viewing angles are average with colors starting to shift or distort as soon as 15 degrees forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles were better, staying true until roughly 50 degrees where reflections on the screen started to overpower the screen itself. Backlight bleed was minimal at the highest brightness setting, and never noticeable in normal viewing conditions.
The last notebook that really impressed me with the onboard speaker system was the Toshiba Satellite A305, giving rich audio from oversized flush-mounted speakers. The P505 continues that trend with an impressive harman/kardon sound system. Unlike the majority of notebook speakers, you can actually hear bass and midrange, although not enough to shake picture frames off walls or annoy neighbors. For a small room the sound system is more than adequate for watching a movie or just playing music in the background. For larger areas, headphones or a stereo system would still be preferred.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard was very comfortable and responsive while typing and the backlight helped greatly with low-light visibility. The 18.4" frame gave ample room for a full-size keyboard and keypad, with enough room left over for a 1" wide touch sensitive multimedia key section. Individual key action was springy, with a soft click when fully pressed. The layout was easy to follow, but the tight key spacing did take some getting used to. The top of each key was slightly larger than normal beveled-edge keys, giving less buffer space between each of them. The LED-backlighting was clean and just the right brightness to not be overpowering when typing in dark rooms. With the backlight on you could see some light shining through the edges of keys at a certain angle, but it was not overly apparent.
Toshiba incorporates a large flush-mount Synaptics touchpad into the palmrest of the P505. While we normally praise most Synaptics touchpads, this specific model had inconsistent lag and was frustrating to use. No amount of adjustment in the control panel would help it, since it seemed to be tied directly to its slower refresh rate. Movement across the surface felt inconsistent, and took a bit to get used to. This may be entirely related to buggy drivers or a faulty touchpad on our review unit though. The touchpad buttons were large and easy to trigger with the side of your thumb, giving off a mild click when pressed.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the P505 was good, with three dedicated USB ports, one eSATA/USB combo port, a FireWire connection, LAN, VGA-out, HDMI, and audio jacks. Our model also included a legacy modem port. The notebook could have fit a few extra USB connections, but four should suffice for most people.
Right: Audio jacks, two USB, modem, VGA, AC-power, Kensington Lock slot
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