Toshiba Satellite X205 Review

by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (126,654)

by Charles P. Jefferies

Overview


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The Toshiba Satellite X205 is a high-end multimedia notebook from Toshiba featuring the latest and greatest in mobile technology. It is based on the Intel Santa Rosa platform and has the Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT DirectX 10 video card.

Our review unit came with the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 (1.80GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 2MB L2 cache)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • 2GB DDR2-667 dual-channel RAM
  • 1GB Intel Turbo Memory module
  • 17.0” WXGA+ (1440×900) display with TruBrite technology
  • Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT graphics card with 256MB dedicated memory (511MB  total with TurboCache shared memory)
  • 240GB hard drive space (120GB 5400RPM x2)
  • HD DVD-ROM/DVD Super Multi (+/- double layer)
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
  • Fingerprint reader

There are two configurations of the X205 available at the time of writing this review – the X205-S9349 and the X205-S9359. We have the former and it retails for $1,999. The higher-end S9359 retails for $2,499 and ups the ante with a T7300 processor, Vista Ultimate 32-bit, a WSXGA+ resolution display, a 512MB dedicated video card, 320GB of hard drive space, and an external HDTV TV tuner.

Reasons to Buy

The Satellite X205 is suited for both home multimedia entertainment and gaming. At $1,999, I believe the S9349 is more than reasonably priced as it has the Nvidia 8700M-GT graphics card, 240GB of hard drive space, and more importantly an HD DVD-ROM drive. Other notebooks with similar specifications cannot compete with the X205 at this price point at the time of writing.

Build & Design


Toshiba Satellite X205 (view large image)

I immediately noticed how large and how different-looking the Satellite X205 was after taking it out of the box. This notebook is a behemoth, weighing in at 9.37 pounds and having a chassis over 2” thick. The X205 surprisingly does not feel that heavy because the weight is spread out over the chassis.

The X205 is constructed out of bright silver and black plastic. The lid has a “Flare Carmine” design, which looks like waves of crimson red and black. It gives the X205 a striking look and it differentiates the X205 from the mainstream Satellite P200 series which the X205 is based off of. The color changes depending on the light – in a darker room the lid will appear almost a solid black; however, in a brightly lit area or outdoors the red is beautifully pronounced. For kicks I took the X205 to a local WiFi hotspot and it received more than a few looks – many people turned to look at this machine on their way by. Even though the X205 is a behemoth, I imagine the attention-seekers will be taking this machine with them more often than not.

The surface of the silver plastic and the black plastic that surrounds the LCD is matte/non-glossy. It is durable enough and as long as it is should not get scratched that easily. The black plastic surrounding the top of the chassis and the back of the lid have glossy surfaces. I found that the glossy lid needed extra special attention because it is easy to scratch/blemish. Getting a notebook sleeve is essential to keeping the lid in pristine condition, or at least a soft bag. The glossy surfaces of this computer including the display itself should only be cleaned with a microfiber cloth.


The glossy lid of the X205 with a red and black design. (view large image)

The build materials used are about average. The plastic is rather thin but sturdy enough. In some places it sounded cheap when I tapped it. Fortunately all parts of the system are firmly secured to the chassis. The chassis will flex in most places when pushed, however more than average pressure needs to be applied in order for this to happen. When I tried to twist the chassis I noticed very little flex so that is a plus.

I did notice rippling on the display when I pushed in from behind the lid. The display flexed an average amount when twisted from side to side.

Overall I am neither impressed nor disappointed with the build quality of the X205. At the $2,000 price point I believe the chassis should not flex as much. The lid is not durable at all because of the glossy plastic exterior so extra care must be taken to keep the machine looking new. A microfiber cloth is an essential extra to carry with this machine.

Screen


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The X205-S9349 comes with a 17” WXGA+ display. It has a glossy surface and employs Toshiba’s TruBrite screen technology. While the display is bright and sharp enough, I believe it could use a contrast boost. The colors are not as vibrant as I would expect them to be. I was able to compensate for this by increasing the contrast but in my opinion it should not be necessary to do that.

Viewing angles are average at best – from above the colors are almost completely washed out and from below everything is too dark. Side to side angles are satisfactory.

I did find that the WXGA+ 1440×900 resolution of our test unit was very easy on the eyes for Internet surfing and reading text. For gaming it is a solid resolution because the 8700M-GT has no problem handling most games at this resolution. For those wishing for a higher-resolution display, the higher-end X205-S9359 offers a WSXGA+ 1680×1050 display.

Overall I am slightly disappointed with the display. While the resolution is very comfortable for general tasks and gaming, it could use a contrast boost and the viewing angles need to be improved, especially from above and below.

Webcam

The X205 has a built-in 1.3 megapixel web camera located at the top of the display. When turned on, a blue LED light illuminates next to it. I found the image quality to be more than usable – it will not rival a standalone web camera but for being built-in, it is hard to complain. Those who like to video conference/chat should be happy with the built-in camera.

Speakers


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WOW was the first thought that came to my mind when I started playing music. The four harman/kardon speakers and integrated subwoofer in the X205 deliver fantastic sound. They could replace a low-end desktop 2.1 system. Even at maximum volume, there is essentially no distortion which is unheard of on a notebook. The speakers are arranged along the top of the chassis and push sound straight up. Inside the speakers there are decent-sized cones which visibly pulse when the volume is turned up. Everyone who I played music for was completely blown away by the sound. For music, gaming, and movies these speakers deliver. I would consider the speakers as a selling point for this notebook.

Along the front edge of the notebook, the X205 has a variety of audio input/output ports. It even has a volume dial for raising/lowering sound.

Processor & Performance

The Satellite X205 is based on the latest Intel Santa Rosa platform and features the Intel Core 2 Duo processor. The X205-S9349 is equipped with the lowest T7000 series processor, the T7100. It has a 1.8GHz clockspeed, 800MHz front side bus, and 2MB L2 cache. The higher end X205-S9359’s T7300 has a faster 2.0GHz clockspeed and 4MB L2 cache. Other specifications of our test unit include 2GB of DDR2-667 memory and two 120GB 5400RPM hard drives. On the whole, the X205-S9349 has mid-range specifications and should have performance to match.

Overall System Performance

PCMark05

PCMark05 Comparison Results

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Toshiba Satellite X205 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 1.80GHz, Nvidia 8700M-GT graphics card) 4,793 PCMarks
Alienware M9750 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 2.33GHz, Nvidia go 7950 GTX video cards with 512MB) 6,243 PCMarks
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 6,871 PCMarks
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 4,411 PCMarks
Fujtisu Siemens Amilo Xi1554 Review (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1900, Windows XP) 5,066 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks

 

Processor Performance

Processor Specifications


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Super Pi

wPrime

Please see the Measure your Dual/Multi Core Notebook CPU Speed – Bye Bye to SuperPI in the forums for comparisons.

Cinebench 9.5

Cinebench is a rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found here: http://www.cinebench.com/

CPU Rendering Benchmark

  • 1 CPU: 312 CB-CPU
  • X CPU: 557 CB-CPU
  • Multiprocessor Speedup: 1.79x

SiSandra Arithmetic


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SiSandra Multimedia


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Hard Drive Performance

Our review unit has two 120GB 5400RPM hard drives – one is a Fujitsu (primary) and the second one is a Toshiba. Below are the results for both.

HDTune 2.53


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Synthetic Gaming Performance

3DMark06

3DMark06 Results and Comparison:

Notebook 3D Mark 06 Results
Toshiba Satellite X205 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 1.80GHz, Nvidia 8700M-GT graphics card) 4,734
Alienware M9750 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 2.33GHz, Nvidia go 7950 GTX video cards with 512MB) 7,308
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 9,097
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 2,625
WidowPC Sting D517D (Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz, Nvidia 7900GTX 512MB) 4,833
Apple MacBook Pro (2.00GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128MB) 1,528
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB) 2,183
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 512MB) 1,973
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744

3DMark05

Real World Gaming Performance

I did a number of game tests on the X205-S9349. Please see the results below. FPS = Frames per second


Counter-Strike: Source Video Stress Test

Resolution: 1440×900 – All settings at maximum – Color correction disabled

FPS chart

Settings 0X AA 2X MSAA 4X MSAA 8X MSAA 8X CSAA 16X CSAA 16XQ CSAA
0X AF 155.03 115.14 89.70 58.27 83.68 82.34 52.77
16X AF 154.09 107.44 87.01 56.82 79.04 80.03 50.90

 

Counter-Strike: Source was playable at any setting.


Half-Life 2: Lost Coast Video Stress Test

Resolution: 1440×900 – All settings at maximum – Color correction disabled

FPS Chart:

Settings 0X AA 2X MSAA 4X MSAA
0X AF 98.05 80.93 58.48
16X AF 90.06 77.93 53.11

 

The results speak for themselves. Even with 4X Multisampling AA enabled, the game ran well.


Star Wars: Battlefront II

Resolution: 1440×900 – All settings at maximum – Light Bloom ON

FPS Chart:

Level: 0X AA 2X AA 4X AA
Jabba’s Palace 56 42 41
Kamino 58 43 40
Death Star 52 46 38

 

Battlefront II was more than playable on the 8700M-GT; I was impressed with the game’s performance because it still ran quite well with anti-aliasing enabled. Note that this game is capped at 80 frames per second.


F.E.A.R Combat Online Multiplayer

Resolution: 1440×900 – All settings at maximum – 4X antistrophic filtering – Soft shadows off

FPS Chart:

Level/Settings 0X AA 2X AA
Campus 98 61
High Tech 87 66
Stockpile 79 70

 

The game was very playable, even with anti-aliasing enabled. I experienced lows in the high 30s/low 40s with anti aliasing enabled.

Overall the performance of the 8700M-GT is very impressive. The 8700M-GT is considered a high-end midrange card and not a high-end card like the Go7900GTX because it has a 128-bit wide memory bus; true high-end cards have a 256-bit. Despite having a 128-bit bus, the 8700M-GT performs very well – even in FEAR Combat with anti aliasing enabled, I had no problem getting more than playable framerates. The Satellite X205 is a powerful gaming machine and will not disappoint gamers.

Heat & Noise

The Satellite X205 is cooled by two large diameter fans; the CPU fan exhaust is on the left and the GPU fan exhaust is on the right. The CPU fan vent is about 2.75” long and the GPU vent is larger at 3”. The fans are visible through the intake vents on the bottom of the chassis. The cooling system Toshiba engineered works extremely well – the notebook itself stays quite cool and the noise level is commendably low. All exterior surfaces of the chassis are barely warmer than air temperature. The air coming out of the fans is warm but not hot. In order to hear the fans I had to really listen close to the chassis. They are but a muted whirr. At higher speeds the only noticeable difference is the faster rush of air.

The cooling of the X205 is no doubt helped by the large chassis, which is quite thick as I noted earlier. Personally I would prefer to have a thick notebook that runs cool than a thin one that runs hot.

Keyboard & Touchpad

Keyboard


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  1. Speakers
  2. Power
  3. Launch Internet browser
  4. Launch Media Center
  5. Multimedia buttons
  6. Fingerprint reader

The X205 has a full-size 104 key keyboard with a separate number pad. It is all silver with black letters. There is some flex evident when typing although it only is visibly noticeable when typing harder than usual. When pushed down the keys do not make much noise at all and the sound is pleasing. The keys are rather large and completely flat; there are no raised edges on the end to make them feel individual. The key travel is a bit shallower than on a typical notebook keyboard, and the key action is very light. It does not take much pressure at all to push down the keys. Typing can feel vague – because the keys are hard to define by feel, I found myself blindly reaching sometimes. When I first started typing on the X205’s keyboard I was making a lot of mistakes. However after four days of use I am accustomed to its feel and I find it enjoyable to use for the most part. Because the key action is so light and the travel is short it is easy to type extraordinarily fast. My overall impression of the keyboard is positive but I wish the keys had a more defined feel.

Touchpad


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The touchpad in the X205 looks ordinary at first sight and functions as expected. The buttons are quiet although they could use a bit more feel. However, there is more to this touchpad than meets the eye.

Toshiba calls this touchpad “dual action” because it can be used as a regular touchpad and as a shortcut pad. By pressing the darkened square in the top right-hand corner of it, the touchpad illuminates a cool blue color and changes function – the mouse function is disabled and it functions as the shortcut pad. The scroll pad turns into a touch-sensitive volume control wheel and there are six touch buttons along the top and bottom of the touchpad. The bottom three can be user programmed. I found the touchpad to be innovative and useful. I presume most owners of this notebook will use an external mouse so the shortcut pad can be enabled all the time.

The touchpad can be easily turned off by pressing the Function + F9 keys.

The X205 has a fingerprint reader located on the right palm rest. It works well for password submission – I find fingerprint readers to be convenient and they offer an extra measure of security.

Input & Output ports

The Toshiba X205 is loaded with a variety of different ports. This is best shown using pictures:

Left Side


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  1. Power
  2. VGA
  3. Vent
  4. Ethernet
  5. 2x USB 2.0
  6. S-Video Out
  7. HDMI
  8. IEEE 1394 (mini Firewire)
  9. ExpressCard 34/54

Right Side


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  1. 4x USB 2.0
  2. 56k modem
  3. HD DVD-ROM drive
  4. Vent
  5. Kensington lock slot

Front


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  1. Wireless on/off
  2. S/P DIF out
  3. Microphone
  4. Line-in
  5. Headphone
  6. Volume dial
  7. Media card reader

Back


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  1. Vents

Bottom


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  1. Vents
  2. RAM compartment
  3. Hard drive compartments
  4. Subwoofer
  5. Battery pack

Wireless

The Satellite X205 comes with the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN card which supports 802.11a, g, and n bands. I had no issue connecting and maintaining a connection to a variety of secured 802.11g networks. I could not test the N wireless functionality since I do not have access to an N router.

The X205 also includes built-in Bluetooth v2.0+EDR. I connected to my Bluetooth-enabled Lenovo ThinkPad without an issue and was able to transfer files back and forth.

Battery

I tested the battery life with Vista’s power settings set to “Power Saver” with the display at 3/7 brightness and while surfing the Internet the entire time. The X205-S9349 held out for a rather amazing two hours and forty-two minutesbefore giving the ten percent warning. I think that for a machine that is running a powerful graphics card, 17” display, and two hard drives, this is a very impressive result.  I was not expecting more than two hours. Needless to say, I am more than pleased with the battery life.

Operating System & Software

Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit is the preinstalled operating system for the X205-S9349; the higher-end X205-S9359 comes with Vista Ultimate 32-bit.

The amount of pre-installed software is astounding. I worked for over an hour to fully uninstall all of the junk software, consisting of trials, games, free offers, and other useless items. There were three columns of shortcut icons on the desktop for the pre-installed programs. I must say I am disappointed with the amount of pre-installed software. For $2,000 I would rather not have my desktop as an advertising space. I recommend that those who buy this machine do a full format of the primary hard drive to start off fresh.

Customer Support

The Satellite X205-S9349 comes with a standard one-year parts and labor warranty as well as a one-year on the battery. A Toshiba 3-Year SystemGuard + 2nd/3rd Year Extended Service Plan can be had for $269.10 when purchased with the notebook as of writing, which is a reasonable price for accidental damage coverage.

During my time with the X205 I did not have to contact customer service. I encourage those interested in impressions to search inour Toshiba forum.

Conclusion

The Toshiba Satellite X205 is a high-end multimedia notebook designed for enthusiasts wanting the best of both the high-definition and gaming worlds. Despite being larger than a typical 17” notebook, the X205 looks modern and visually refreshing. It runs cool and quiet and is a great overall performer. A fabulous set of harman/kardon speakers, an HD DVD-ROM drive, a plethora of multimedia ports, and the latest and greatest Nvidia DirectX 10 graphics card make the X205 a very complete package, especially at the $1,999 price point. The X205-S9349 is a well-rounded entertainment system with all the bells and whistles, and I do not hesitate to give it my full recommendation.

Pros:

  • Great graphics performance
  • Phenomenal sound system
  • Runs extra cool & quiet
  • Surprisingly good battery life
  • HD DVD-ROM drive
  • Abundance of ports (HDMI)
  • Pleasing design
  • Good feeling keyboard
  • Good value

Cons:

  • Display needs a contrast boost & better viewing angles
  • Glossy lid may scratch if not taken care of
  • Keyboard feel needs to be more defined
  • Thick and heavy, even for a 17”
  • Not configurable


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