Toshiba Portege A605 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (37,883)
  • Pros

    • Light weight and runs cool
    • Good battery life
    • Very small power adapter
  • Cons

    • Slow battery charging rate
    • Flexible chassis

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:

  • Processor: 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 (800MHz FSB, 3MB Cache)
  • Graphics: Intel X4500 Integrated Graphics
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium with SP 1 (32-bit)
  • Screen: 12.1″ diagonal WXGA LED-Backlit Display (1280×800)  
  • Memory: 3GB PC6400 DDR2 (1GB onboard, 2GB in slot, 5GB Max)
  • Storage: 320GB Hitachi SATA HDD (5400rpm)
  • Optical Drive: LabelFlash SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
  • Intel 5100AGN WLAN with Bluetooth 2.1 w/ EDR
  • Power: 6-cell Li-Ion 5800mAh battery, 45W AC adapter
  • Dimensions: 11.3″ x 8.8″ x 1.2″
  • Weight: 3lbs 1.8oz (3lbs 11.9oz travel weight)
  • Warranty: 1-year
  • Price as configured: $1,399.99

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.

Display
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.


Front view

Rear view

Left view

Right view

Performance
System performance of the Toshiba Portege A605 falls somewhere between a full-size notebook and a netbook. The ultra-low voltage SU9400 processor sacrifices speed at the cost of performance to gain battery life. For normal system activities such as typing documents, working on spreadsheets, surfing the Web, or even watching SD video the system shows no signs of lagging. Light gaming or HD movies will stress the system, pegging the processor and drastically increasing power consumption. HD movies were very playable, with most 720P and 1080P content putting the processor under a 45-60% load depending on the amount of motion on screen. Games are limited to older things such as the original Half-Life.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 32.119 seconds
HP EliteBook 2530p (Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 @ 1.86GHz) 41.263 seconds
Toshiba Portege A605 (Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 @ 1.4GHz) 54.458 seconds
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.2GHz) 76.240 seconds
HP Pavilion dv2 (AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 @ 1.6GHz)
103.521 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 114.749 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.406 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP EliteBook 2530p (1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, Intel 4500MHD) 5,787 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, Intel X4500) 4,298 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege A605 (1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400, Intel GMA X4500) 3,459 PCMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 2,446 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB) 2,191 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 1,839 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,535 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (1.6GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,478 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 comparison results against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP TouchSmart tx2 (2.4GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-86, ATI Radeon HD 3200) 1,685 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB) 1,355 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet (Intel Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz, GMA X4500) 921 3DMarks
HP EliteBook 2530p (1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, Intel 4500MHD) 898 3DMarks
Toshiba Portege A605 (1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400, Intel GMA X4500) 617 3DMarks
Apple MacBook Air (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7500, Intel X3100) 502 3DMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks

 

HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

 

Speaker
The Portege A605 is equipped with a single mono speaker that was surprisingly loud … even when compared to other low-end notebooks with stereo speakers. It lacks bass and midrange, but considering how bad it could have been, it surprised us in the office during our music test. For listening to music, viewing YouTube clips, or watching a movie it would probably work fine, but as always, headphones are one of the best accessories for notebook users.

Battery
Toshiba includes an ultra-low voltage Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside the A605 Portege, which we thought would help in the battery life department. Under normal operating conditions the notebook floats around 9 to 11 watts of power consumption, which sounds low, but not as low as some larger notebooks. The Lenovo ThinkPad T400 for example consumes only 8.5 watts of power when under light processor loads, and that specific configuration had the high performance T9600 processor. In our battery test with the screen at 70% backlight, wireless active, and Vista set to the “Balanced” profile, the A605 stayed on for 5 hours and 27 minutes. While this is still a respectable figure, we think it could have reach a much greater time with better power management.

One stand-out feature of the A605 is the super small 45W power adapter. It is great for traveling, since it doesn’t add that much weight to your bag, and if you get a different power cord for it, takes up very little space. The downside to such a small power adapter though is the very slow charge rate on the notebook, taking hours to complete a charge if the notebook is on.

Heat and Noise
Overall the Portege A605 doesn’t get that hot under normal use, and only develops hot spots under prolonged benchmarks. The Intel Core 2 Dup SU9400 helps keep processor heat output to a minimum, with a 10 watt maximum consumption rate. Under normal use the palm rests stay relatively cool, about 4 to 10 degrees above our room temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit. The one hotspot we found is located at the top left of the keyboard, near the power jack. Fan noise is minimal, with the fan actually being off under most of the time. When the fan is on the only time you notice it is running is when you feel hot air blowing on your arm from the vent on the side.

Conclusion
The Toshiba Portege A605 offers good looks and a small form factor, but compromises build quality to achieve its very low weight. The palm rest, keyboard, and screen all exhibit a good amount of flex, which doesn’t bode well for thoughts of durability. Looking past the flexible chassis, the notebook does offer a built-in optical drive, and still keeps the overall weight to just above 3lbs. For a business traveler who only cares about that, this notebook falls right in the weight range of most netbooks. With the current list price of $1,399 it is priced against the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 or about double the price of an HP Pavilion dv2. Overall I think the Portege A605 offers a lot potential for a customer interested in a good looking business notebook, but it has a few areas that could see some improvement.

Pros:

  • Weighs in at 3lbs, even with built-in optical drive
  • Good battery life
  • Cool operation
  • Very small power adapter

Cons:

  • Slow charging rate while the notebook is powered on and charging at the same time
  • Flexible chassis


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