Toshiba Satellite M205 Review

by Reads (80,435)

by Jerry Jackson

The Toshiba Satellite M200/M205 series is one of the newest lines of 14.1-inch notebooks from Toshiba. Packing a nice Core 2 Duo processor and plenty of multimedia functionality into a stylish case, the M205 is an attractive option for consumers looking for a 14-inch notebook for less than $1,000. While the design and features of the M200/M205 might seem like standard fanfare for a Toshiba notebook, the key factor that makes this laptop is the base MSRP of $899.99 (or less at some retail stores). With the holiday shopping season getting underway, is the M200/M205 the right choice for your next Christmas gift? Let’s take a look.

The M200/M205 is available in multiple configurations with a range of Intel processors (from the 1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 to the 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100) starting at $899. The only screen offering is the 14.1" WXGA but the notebook can take up to 4GB of RAM. Built-in wireless 802.11 a/b/g is standard.

We reviewed one of Toshiba’s preconfigured versions of the M200/M205 (M205-S7452), priced at $899.99. Following are the specs for the notebook as reviewed:

  • Screen: 14.4-inch Diagonal Widescreen WXGA TruBrite (glossy finish) Display (1280×800)
  • Processor: 1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250
  • Hard Drive: 160 GB hard drive (SATA, 5400RPM)
  • Memory: 1GB RAM (PC5300, 667 MHz, DDR2 SDRAM, 2 x 512 MB) — 4GB max memory
  • Optical Drive: DVD+-R Double layer / DVD+-RW Drive
  • Ports and Slots: Four USB 2.0, one FireWire 400 port, one Type II PC card slot, one VGA, one S-Video, one 5-in1 card reader, headphone / line-out, microphone-in, modem, 10/100 Ethernet
  • Webcam: 1.3MP
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g)
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (965 Express chipset with up to 251MB of shared RAM)
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • Dimensions: 13.5" x 9.53" x 1.33" (WxDxH without feet)
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds


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Build and Design

The overall first impression that one has when looking at the M200/M205 series is that this notebook was designed to look smooth and compact with a few touches of flare. In truth, it looks a bit like Toshiba engineers took the 13-inch Satellite U305 and stretched it out to fit a 14.1-inch screen. While the result isn’t jaw-dropping, this is a nice looking notebook. From the glossy Onyx Blue Metallic LCD cover to the silver palm rests and keyboard the M205 is a smooth yet simple design.

As mentioned above, the lid of the M205 is "Onyx Blue Metallic" which looks black unless light strikes the plastic at just the right angle. The lid’s colored plastic has a glossy coat with an almost mirror like shine. It certainly looks stylish but is a magnet for fingerprints.The rest of the case plastics are made of matte black plastic or beige plastic that is painted silver.


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The M205 lid does not have a latch to hold it closed, but the hinge mechanism works well and firmly holds the lid in place. There is some flex to the screen lid but it’s just enough to keep the LCD from being too rigid. There certainly isn’t enough screen flex to worry about.

Although the exterior is constructed of plastic it felt relatively solid. Some of the plastics in areas such as the palm rests and the LCD lid felt thin, but overall the build quality seems good. There is very little case flex and no audible creaks to the plastics.

Performance and Benchmarks

Toshiba chose to offer the M200/M205 series in a range of pre-configured systems with Intel Core 2 Duo processors. While the entry-level T5250 system with its 667MHz frontside bus still provides reasonable performance under Vista, it’s good to know that the T7100 (2MB L2, 800MHz FSB) is an option for people who need faster multimedia encoding or image editing.

That said, the integrated graphics processor and shared RAM is a far more limiting factor in terms of overall performance with the M205. While many 14.1" notebooks are now available with dedicated graphics as an option, Toshiba selected integrated Intel X3100 graphics as the only option for this notebook. Without a powerful GPU or dedicated video RAM the M205 simply cannot run most games at higher resolutions (if at all). Although the M205 is not a "gaming machine" it would have been nice to see an entry-level dedicated graphics card in this system.

One thing the M205 offers plenty of is storage space. The 160GB hard drive should provide more than enough storage space for your music library, encoded videos, and your family photos. Thankfully Toshiba included a 5400RPM Hard drive from Hitachi inside the M205 rather than one of Toshiba’s own (slower) 4200RPM hard drives … meaning you won’t have to wait long for files to read from or write to the disk.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Toshiba M205 (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 56.130s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s
Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz) 47.563s
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6GHz) 231.714s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Toshiba M205 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 3,356 PCMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 3,283 PCMarks
Sony VAIO CR (1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100, Intel X3100) 3,612 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks



3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Toshiba M205 (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 505 3DMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 504 3DMarks
Toshiba Tecra A9 (2.20GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 130M 256MB) 932 3DMarks
Toshiba Tecra M9 (2.20GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 130M 128MB) 1,115 3DMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB) 2,776 3DMarks
HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,055 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

HDTune results:


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Screen

The display panel itself is a 14.1" glossy screen with WXGA resolution (1280×800). There were absolutely no problems with the screen on our review unit: the refresh rate seems excellent when videos or games with fast motion are displayed and there are no stuck pixels. As is common with glossy screens, colors and contrast are quite good and both images and video "pop" off the screen. Brightness is quite impressive, though not quite as bright as some of the newer screens with LED backlights. When set to maximum brightness the screen is bright enough to cause some people to squint in a dark room.

Horizontal viewing angles are better than average. Colors are good and the backlight brightness remains even across the screen while viewing at extreme horizontal angles. There is some minor color inversion when you view the screen from sharp vertical angles (such as standing above the notebook or looking up at the screen from the floor. Of course, as with any glossy screen reflection from room lights can become a problem … depending on the room and the lights.


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Keyboard, Touchpad and Other Input Buttons

The keyboard on the M205 is a mixed bag. On one hand the keys have a good texture with excellent cushion and travel. The keys are very silent in operation and there are dedicated page up and page down keys (nice to have on a compact keyboard). That said, there is a significant degree of keyboard flex across the board. The flex seems most severe around the J, K, U, and I keys. While keyboard flex isn’t the end of the world, we’ve seen better keyboards on cheaper notebooks.

The M205 includes six dedicated media buttons located above the keyboard. The media buttons include an Internet button to launch the default browser and CD/DVD control buttons (Play/Pause, Stop, Prev Track, and Next Track). While we’re glad to see these media buttons it would have been nice to have LED backlights so it would be easier to see the buttons when playing DVDs in a dark room.


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The touchpad was responsive and felt durable, but the recessed edges actually made the touchpad feel smaller than it already is. Unfortunately, the touchpad buttons on the M205 are not very good. The buttons have very shallow feedback but are responsive most of the time. The touchpad buttons worked, but they are uncomfortable to press because of the shallow feedback.

Input and Output Ports

Let’s take a quick tour around the port offerings of the Toshiba Satellite M205:


Front side: WiFi on/off switch, 5-in-1 card reader, microphone-in, headphone-out, volume control wheel. (view large image)


Back side: Nothing except the battery. (view large image)


Left side: Power jack, heat vent, Ethernet, modem, two USB 2.0 ports, Firewire port, and Type II PC card slot. (view large image)


Right side: Optical drive, two USB 2.0 ports, S-Video out, VGA out, and Kensington lock slot. (view large image)

Audio

The M205 has stereo sound via speakers located above the keyboard. With the speakers located on the top of the interior in this way they tend to direct the sound at you and make for a surprisingly enjoyable listening experience. While the built-in speakers aren’t the best that I’ve heard in a notebook of this size, they are certainly better than most notebooks of this size. The headphone jack is located on the front (a less than ideal location for people who like to plug in external speakers but a perfect location for people who use headphones of earbuds).

Heat and Noise

The M205 runs reasonably quiet with the 1.5GHz Core 2 Duo processor. The bottom side gets a bit warm next to the RAM and hard drive, but temperatures remained comfortable enough to keep the M205 on the lap. Temperatures are likely kept within acceptable limits thanks to a rather large heatsink visible through the vent on the left side of the M205. Below is an image with the temperatures listed in degrees Fahrenheit.


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The system fan is mostly quiet when running. That said, in a quiet room you can hear the fan pushing hot air out of the notebook when the M205 is idle … which makes it a little louder than similarly configured notebooks from some other manufacturers such as Sony or Asus. The fan noise increased considerably during benchmarking, but nothing out of the ordinary for a notebook.

Battery

Our M205 came with the standard 6-cell (4000mAh) battery but an extended life 9-cell battery (6000mAh) is also available. With power management set to "High Performance" and screen brightness set to maximum while wirelessly browsing the web the battery lasted 2 hours and 44 minutes. With power management set to "Power Saver" and screen at half brightness the battery lasted 3 hours and 39 minutes while browsing the web. The battery lasted an impressive 4 hours and 11 minutes with the notebook set to "Power Saver" with half screen brightness, wireless off, and letting the system idle without any activity and without letting the screen turn off.

Clearly the M205 does an acceptable job with battery life when using the standard 6-cell battery.

Software

Unfortunately, Toshiba includes an almost overwhelming about of bloatware on the M205. There are so many applications pre-installed on the notebook that startup took much longer than it should. To give you an idea of just how much stuff is running on the M205 when you first turn it on, there were 85 processes running after startup … a typical notebook has somewhere between 45 and 60. Several useful applications like Internet Explorer and Adobe Acrobat Reader actually suffered through serious delays because the notebook’s resources were being used by numerous applications that didn’t need to be running.

Of course, customers can always uninstall this bloatware when they start using the notebook … it’s just unfortunate that Toshiba includes this much "junk" (including 18 proprietary "Toshiba" branded applications) on this machine.

Conclusion

The Toshiba M205 is an impressive 14-inch budget notebook that is handicapped by a few minor issues. The quality 14.1" glossy display, thin and light lines, sizable hard drive,and a good selection of ports help provide a solid foundation for a portable powerhouse. The Core 2 Duo processor and plenty of available RAM likewise give the system an impressive backbone for performance. However, integrated graphics, limited selection of processors, and too much bloatware prevent the M200 and M205 notebooks from offering jaw-dropping performance. The keyboard and touchpad issues also make the notebook feel less refined than it could be.

Bottom line, the Toshiba Satellite M200/M205 is an excellent notebook in the 14.1" display class. Although it lacks the horsepower for serious gaming and might not have the best keyboard and touchpad it is one of the nicer 14-inch notebooks of 2007.

Pros:

  • Reasonably thin and light for a 14.1" notebook.
  • Nice screen
  • Solid selection of ports
  • Plenty of storage space for media files

Cons:

  • Way too much keyboard flex
  • Average performance
  • Plastics used in construction feel thin in some places
  • Way too much bloatware


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