Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452 REVIEW

I'm part of the awesome writing team over at GearDiary lead by my friend Judie Lipsett.

The goal with Gear Diary and our writing team is to write about what's on our mind in addition to the reviews that will be done. We do not want to emulate other sites - rather we want to forge something unique, something that isn't easily pigeonholed. Yes, we cover mobility devices, but we will also cover off the wall topics, toys, appliances, watches, knives, tools - whatever we are interested in - our GEAR. The thought is that if it interests one of us, someone else will find it interesting, too.

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Here's a recent review that I wrote over at

The Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452 REVIEW

Several year ago, one of my Sunday morning rituals was relaxing on the couch, kicking back with a cup of coffee and reviewing the big box circulars from Staples, Circuit City or Best Buy. I would flip through and fantasize about the expensive laptops pictured in the ads, thinking that one day in the far off future that prices have got to fall. Thankfully today, it’s not uncommon to find budget-based laptops starting at $499 and up.

Fast forward to the holiday season of 07-08 and there are some good mid-priced mainstream models available including the Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452.

Let’s unbox this Toshiba laptop and see what is included…

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Generally if I was in the market for a new laptop, it is a given that today’s PC models offer the Vista OS, Wi-Fi, capacity to burn and play DVDs, and have expandable memory starting at 1GB (does it void the manufacturer's warranty to add more memory?) The variables include the processor, a good size hard drive, and screen size. From that point forward, I hate paying full retail price, so I always zero in on a competitive price among name brand laptops, while upping the feature sets among the various models on sale. In my book, one would be foolish not to purchase at the minimum, an accidental damage coverage warranty and a good spyware and virus protection program.

With those parameters in mind, is the Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452 a contender?

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Let’s look at the specs:

Processor: 1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250
Memory: 1GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive: 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset: Intel 965GM
Graphics: Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
Operating system: Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions: (WDH) 13.0 x 9.5 x 1.5 inches
Screen size: (diagonal) 14.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter: 5.1 / 6.0 pounds

(additional specs available at the Toshiba website)

With these specifications at a list price of $849.00 USD, it’s not a bad deal. Not having the extras that Toshiba offers on higher priced laptops such as 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Harman Kardon speakers is acceptable to keep the price or a set budget below $1000. I would rather spend the additional dollars to add more memory, which is expandable to 4GB. These days, DDR2 sticks can be found as low as $29.95 in the Sunday circular ads.

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The silver finish keyboard is easy to type on and has a firm clack – clack tactile touch.

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What is interesting is that the touch pad is 1 ½” offset to the left. I’m not sure why that is, unless it is a preventative design to ward off carpel tunnel. Nonetheless, the surface area to rest the hands on was comfortable.

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Below the 14.1-inch screen and between the two speakers are buttons for the power, launch key for the web, and Windows Media Player with Play, Stop, and Search buttons.

At the top of the screen is a 1.3-megapixel-web cam, which was more than adequate with good color and brightness while using Skype. Most mid range laptops don't even come with a web cam! Considering that my family and friends are scattered around the world, having a web cam is a differentator when selecting a laptop.

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I really like having the Wi-Fi switch and volume scroll wheel in the front along with the inputs for headphones and microphone. Since I listen to a lot of music, having the excess wire from the headphone in front of me and in my lap is preferable. To the left is the 5-in-1 memory card reader, which again gives good visual access especially aiding in proper insertion and accuracy of the various memory cards - Memory Stick, Multimedia Card, SD Memory Card, XD-Picture Card, and Memory Stick Pro.

Along the front is the Satellite branding in blue LED lights that also show the battery status and hard drive activity. From an aesthetic stand point, the design and placement of all of the front controls and LED lights eliminate any distractions from focusing on the task at hand on the good size 14.1 screen.

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The speakers are ok; while not producing any spectacular bass, it is good for background music. The front volume knob has an incremental volume gain for playback.

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As for the screen, the M205 features Toshiba’s TruBrite technology which is a anti-reflective LCD screen technology. The 14.1-inch display high-gloss format was easy on the eyes and made the colors sharp with the 1280 x 800-pixel resolution.

The lid is rounded with the TOSHIBA logo branded in the Onyx Blue glossy finish which is a fingerprint catcher.

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Along the sides are plenty of ports and slots.

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They include a Type I and II PC Card slot, 4 USB 2.0 ports, Firewire, Ethernet, modem, S-Video, RGB port. The drive is a 4X SuperMulti DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM – Integrated that burns DVDs with ease.

CD / DVD read speed: 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
CD / DVD write speed: 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD±R) / 4x (DVD±R DL)
CD / DVD rewrite speed: 16x (CD) / 4x (DVD±RW) / 5x (DVD-RAM)

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The Toshiba M205 offers a generous 160 Serial ATA/IDE hard drive, which nets out at 124 GB free of 147 GB with the configuration I had.

The only shortcomings that I had with the Toshiba M205 was the battery life. I generally got a little over 2 to 2 hours 30 minutes life before the warning came on. It’s not that big of deal for me in day-to-day use with laptops as I prefer being plugged in at a desk as I keep several Internet windows open, Word, Excel, Outlook and iTunes or IM open along with a bright screen setting. However, when flying cross country, being able to view a complete movie on DVD without the battery fizzing out would be nice.

Since the Toshiba M205 runs on Vista Home Premium, I would highly recommend adding more memory. While not noticing much performance issues, I could have used a little more zip in memory.

The Toshiba M205 comes preloaded with a bunch of software including Google Picasa, Google Desktop, Google Toolbar, Toshiba Assist, Toshiba ConfigFree, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Toshiba Disc Creator, Yahoo! Music Jukebox, Toshiba Speech System, Toshiba Bluetooth Stack, Toshiba Management Console, Toshiba Value Added Package, Sun Java 2 Runtime Environment, Microsoft Office Ready 2007 (Trial), Ulead DVD MovieFactory 5 for Toshiba, McAfee Internet Security Suite (Trial), and Toshiba Extended Tiles for Windows Mobility Center.

The McAfee Internet Security Suite (Trial) will absolutely nag you to death for installs and updates, so it was pretty irritating. But to be fair, having virus and spyware protection especially in a PC environment is a must.

The other big plus is the supplied Recovery and Applications/Drivers by Toshiba. Most manufacturers will give you the option to create a recovery disk, but the general populace forgets or isn’t aware of the necessity of having one on hand. Having Toshiba supply one in the box is a big win for the consumer.

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Overall, I was pretty please with the loaner version of this Toshiba M205. (I'm going to hate parting with it!) Considering it had all of the basic features of a mid range laptop backed by a manufacturer’s one year warranty, it’s a good choice for a college student or someone’s first laptop with the expansion of additional memory. The Toshiba M205 certainly doesn't give the appearance of a budget or mid-range laptop, as it shares the same attractive design of the higher priced Toshiba Satellite series.

If you’re considering a laptop with 1GB of memory, good size 14.1 screen with a built in web cam, 160 GB hard drive (5400 RPM) with Vista Home Premium for under a $1000 budget, then it’s very possible that the Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452 is a contender for your budget at $849 list. I'm sure that there are available discounts or packages that will lower the selling price, which is even a better value.

The Toshiba Satellite M205-S7452 is available at various resellers.

MSRP: $849.00

What I Like: Good balance of features such as the web cam, non glare 14.1 screen, placement of controls and non skimping on the available ports and slots. Good value for the money with the features.

What Needs Improvement: Addition of slightly better sounding speakers and Bluetooth.

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