Toshiba Satellite U305 Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (167,310)

by Jerry Jackson

The Toshiba Satellite U300/U305 series is a new 13.3" widescreen notebook that weighs in at just 4.6 pounds and packs solid Intel Core 2 Duo performance and big hard drives with plenty of storage space. Add to that a thin integrated DVD SuperMulti drive, webcam, and fingerprint reader and this notebook starts looking even better. Is Toshiba justified in calling the U305 "the ideal concentration of performance and design?" Let’s take a look.

Although the U300/U305 series is available with configurable options starting at $854.10 our pre-configured U305-S5127 is priced at $1,349.99 and features the following specs:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7100 (1.80GHz, 2MB L2, 800MHz FSB)
  • Mobile Intel GM965 Express Chipset
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (maximum capacity 4GB)
  • 200GB Serial ATA hard disk drive (4200RPM)
  • 8x DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive
  • 13.3" diagonal widescreen TruBrite TFT LCD display at 1280×800 (WXGA)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 with 8MB-251MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory
  • 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • Bluetooth version 2.0 plus Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)
  • ExpressCard slot (ExpressCard/34 and Express Card/54)
  • 5-in-1 media card reader
  • RGB out
  • Microphone input port
  • Headphone output port
  • IEEE-1394 (FireWire)
  • Three USB 2.0 ports
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Dimensions (WxDxH Front/H Rear): 12.2" x 8.9" x 1.19" /1.33" without feet
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs
  • 75W (19V x 3.95A) 100-240V AC Adapter (5.04" x 1.20" x 2.01" and weighs 0.77 lb)
  • 9-cell (7800mAh) Lithium Ion battery (1.09 lbs)
  • 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty

Build and Design

Like most notebooks with a 13.3" widescreen display the U305 is on the border of the thin-and-light and ultra-portable categories. With a weight of more than four and a half pounds it isn’t the lightest notebook in its class. Likewise, since the notebook is 1.2 inches thick at its thinnest point the U305 falls in the "middle of the pack" among recent 13.3" systems. Nevertheless, Toshiba has successfully engineered a stylish and compact frame with some unique elements that make it attractive to everyone from students to business professionals.

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.

The optical drive in particular is quite thin yet still remains very sturdy. The optical drive (manufactured by LG and similar to drives used in some Lenovo notebooks) is actually as good or better in terms of build quality than some drives we’ve seen in larger budget notebooks. The optical drive was relatively quiet during operation and drive noise was not an issue while viewing DVDs.


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Our review U305 came with a "Onyx Blue Metallic" lid 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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Screen

The LCD lid on the U305 doesn’t use a latch mechanism and instead relies on resistance from the hinge … or dual hinges in the case of the U300/U305 series.

The display panel itself is a 13.3" 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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Speakers

The audio performance on the U305 was average for a thin and light 13.3" notebook, but it was far from impressive. Both of the small speakers located above the keyboard produce a "tin can" sound quality with plenty of highs but almost no mid range and absolutely no bass. On the bright side, the speakers are located in a good position to direct sound up and toward the user. Unfortunately, you will still want to use headphones or external speakers if you care about sound quality.

On that note it’s worthwhile to mention that the audio out port on the U305 is located on the left side (a good location for an external speaker connection) and audio output was clean (there was no static or cracking in the sound coming from the headphone jack).


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Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the U305 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 don’t like to see this much flex on a notebook that costs more than $1,000.


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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. Unfortuantely, the touchpad buttons on the U305 are quite bad. The buttons have almost no feedback and are not responsive at all. Not only are they uncomfortable to press because of the shallow feedback but I often had to press the touchpad buttons several times before a click was registered.

On a positive note, the one-touch fingerprint reader does a wonderful job reading fingerprints without accidentally being triggered when you use the touchpad buttons.


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The U305 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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Performance and Benchmarks

Toshiba chose to offer the U300/U305 series in a range of configurations starting with the Intel Pentium Dual-core T2130 (1.86GHz) and up to the Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 (1.8GHz) processor for pre-configured systems. While the entry-level Pentium dual core system with its 1MB of L2 cache and 533MHz 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. The Intel T7700 processor (2.4GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB) is also an option for customized systems.

That said, the integrated graphics processor and shared RAM is a far more limiting factor in terms of overall performance with the U305. While many 13.3" notebooks are now available with dedicated graphics, Toshiba selected integrated Intel X3100 graphics for this notebook. Without a powerful GPU or dedicated video RAM the U305 simply cannot run most games at higher resolutions (if at all). Although the U305 is not a "gaming machine" it would have been nice to see an entry-level dedicated graphics card in this system.

One thing the U305 offers plenty of is storage space. The 200GB hard drive should provide more than enough storage space for your music library, encoded videos, and your family photos. Of course, since the hard drive speed is limited to 4200RPM you may find yourself waiting for files to read from or write to the disk, but the storage space is there. If hard disk speed is important to you then you’ll be happy to know Toshiba offers configurations with faster drives (with slightly less storage space).

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
Toshiba Satellite U305 (1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100) 1m 07s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 1m 01s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 0m 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Toshiba Satellite U305 (1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100, Intel X3100) 2,972 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 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

3DMark05 comparison results:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Toshiba Satellite U305 (1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100, Intel X3100) 876 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 3,116 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100) 916 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 871 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 2,013 3D Marks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

HDTune results:


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Heat and Noise

The U305 does an excellent job of controlling heat thanks in no small part to the massive copper heatsink visible through the air vent on the left side of the notebook. CPU temperatures peaked at no more than 55 degrees Celsius during benchmarks and hard drive temperatures averaged around 43 degrees Celsius. The palm rests never became too hot during our tests and the bottom of the notebook remained reasonably cool despite the large warning sticker on the bottom of the notebook advising you to use caution when keeping the notebook on your lap. Although the bottom did become warm during benchmarks it was never too hot to keep on the lap.


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Fan noise, on the other hand, was not something that the U305 managed well. Although the U305 remained relatively cool, the cooling fan remained on a low setting almost all the time unless the system was idle or hibernating. When the fan turns on maximum it sounds like a weak hair dryer and puts out enough hot air from the left side that you could probably dry your hair with it after a shower.

Bottom line, the U305 keeps heat under control at the expense of noise.

Input and Output Ports

We were pleased to see an impressive number of ports on this notebook despite its smaller form factor. While many notebooks in the 13.3" class have only two USB ports and some have no FireWire port, Toshiba managed to include three USB ports and even squeezed in a FireWire port by moving it to the front of the notebook.

Let’s take a closer look at the ports:


Left side: VGA out, two USB ports, headphone out, microphone in, and volume control wheel. (view large image)


Front side: FireWire port, 5-in-1 card reader, and wireless on/off switch. (view large image)


Right side: Optical drive, ExpressCard slot, USB port, Ethernet, modem, and security lock slot. (view large image)


Rear view: Nothing here except hinges, the battery, and the DC power jack. (view large image)

Software

Unfortunately, Toshiba includes an almost overwhelming about of bloatware on the U305. There are so many applications pre-installed on the notebook that startup took much longer than it should. 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" on this machine. The list of pre-installed software includes (but is not limited to):

  • Bluetooth Stack for Windows by Toshiba
  • TOSHIBA ConfigFree
  • TOSHIBA Assist
  • TOSHIBA Security Assist
  • TOSHIBA Disc Creator
  • TOSHIBA Extended Tiles for Windows Mobility Center
  • TOSHIBA Speech System
  • TOSHIBA Game Console
  • Microsoft Works Version 8.5
  • Sun Java 2 Runtime Environment
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 8.0
  • InterVideo WinDVD 8
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Toolbar
  • Google Picasa
  • Yahoo! Music Jukebox
  • Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5 for TOSHIBA
  • Microsoft Office Trial Home and Student 2007 Edition (60-day trial)
  • McAfee Internet Security Suite (30-day trial)
  • Microsoft Office Live
  • Shutterfly digital photo service
  • Napster music subscription service
  • eMusic MP3 music subscription service
  • VONGO internet video download service
  • CNN Pipeline
  • Skype internet communications

Battery

Our U305 came with the 9-cell extended life battery (10.8V, 7800mAh) but a standard 6-cell battery (10.8V, 5200mAh) is also available. With power management set to "High Performance" and screen brightness set to maximum while wirelessly browsing the web the battery lasted 3 hours and 02 minutes. With power management set to "Power Saver" and screen at half brightness the battery lasted 4 hours and 24 minutes while browsing the web. The battery lasted an impressive 5 hours and 41 minutes with the notebook set to "Power Saver" with half screen brightness and letting the system idle without any activity and without letting the screen turn off.

Clearly the U305 does a reasonably job with battery life when using the 9-cell extended life battery.

Conclusion

The Toshiba U305 is an impressive portable notebook that is handicapped by a few minor issues. The quality 13.3" glossy display, thin and light lines, sizeable hard drive, good battery life 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 U300 and U305 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 U300/U305 is an excellent notebook in the 13.3" 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 budget portables of 2007.

Pros:

  • Reasonably thin and light for a 13.3" notebook.
  • Nice screen
  • Solid selection of ports
  • Thin yet durable optical drive
  • Plenty of storage space for media files

Cons:

  • Way too much keyboard flex
  • Bad touchpad buttons
  • Average performance
  • Plastics used in construction feel thin in some places
  • Poor speakers for a compact media notebook


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