The Toshiba Satellite A305 is a redesign of the older A205, vastly improving the look and feel of the notebook, as well as adding the incredibly durable Fusion finish. While some of the lower body looks similar to the older notebook, everything from the waistline up has changed to a sleeker, softer, and glossier feel. Read on to see how well this notebook stacks up against its older brother, and find out if this notebook is worthy of a spot on your lap.
Our review unit of the Toshiba Satellite A305 features the following specs:
Build and Design
The first thing you will notice is every part of this notebook is glossy, from the screen cover to the palm rest, and even the keyboard keys. Toshiba is really showing off their new durable Fusion finish on every part of the notebook that they can, and in some ways it is a very good thing. Durability is a big thing with notebook finishes, as many glossy finishes will dull and scratch over time. The new Toshiba Fusion finish on this notebook is incredibly durable, and has yet to actually scratch throughout my testing. With multiple trips in my backpack, I can't find any visible scuffs on the cover, where other notebooks would show fine scratches almost out of the wrapper.
So what does this Fusion finish mean to you? Your keys will not go from matte to glossy over time as they wear down (they are already glossy). Every part of the notebook will get full of smudges and fingerprints, but you can always wipe it down in a couple of minutes to make it look brand new. On other notebooks you get all the smudges, but it would take some hard work with some plastic polish before you ever got it looking new again.
Build quality is excellent in most areas, giving the notebook a very solid feel. Squeaks and creaks are not present, and panel flex is at a minimum. The only areas that stand out as needing some improvement are the wobbly battery, and rough edges around the screen frame where the two plastic pieces meet.
The new Satellite A305 changes quite a bit of its design, while still retaining some resemblance of its older A205 brother. The biggest change is the use of the new durable Fusion finish, which can be found on practically every surface of the notebook, from the top cover to the individual keyboard keys. Unlike the older glossy surface that would scuff with minimal effort, the Fusion finish holds up very well, and I have yet to find any fine scratches or other wear on it.
The keyboard and surrounding area has changed quite a bit form the older A205, including touch sensitive multimedia keys, which are all the rage these days on most notebooks. Another change is the flush touchpad area, which is surprisingly slick with its textured surface. It is almost too easy to slide your finger around on it, and slip off onto the palm rest. The touchpad buttons have also changed quite a bit, going from rectangular slabs to chromed ovals which are easier to trigger, as well as being more comfortable to use.
The screen quality is above average for glossy screens, with an evenly bright backlight and vibrant colors. Backlight bleed is minimal, meaning better game play in dark scenes without areas getting washed out. Viewing angles are adequate, with a wide horizontal range, but shallow vertical range. When tilting the screen back, you will have to find a sweet spot, and going out of that means washed out or inverted colors.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Satellite A305 is made up of high gloss painted keys, which is fairly unique as far as mainstream notebooks go. The look is excellent, and goes very well with the silver striped glossy notebook. The feel is even better. There is just something about typing on a soft glossy surface that makes long typing very comfortable. Even things like gaming seem to work better, letting you easily slide from one key to the next with minimal drag.
One disappointing aspect of the keyboard is that it is not backlit, as that could be the only possible way to make it even more awesome. Hopefully this keyboard stays the same in the Qosmio, and gets some special backlit treatment. Below are some images showing how the backlights look in a dark room (the Satellite logo, media button and touchpad backlights can be disabled).
The touchpad is mounted flush with the palm rest, with the only indication of it being a touchpad at all is a semi-smooth textured overlay. I don't know what the surface is made out of, but it is oddly slippery. No matter if your fingertip is mildly sweaty or perfectly dry, it doesn't stick to the surface. For anyone who has used a notebook for hours on end, you know that eventually your fingers start to stick on some touchpad surfaces, this surface somehow prevents that. In use the sensitivity is excellent, with a wide range of adjustment offered through the Synaptics driver control panel.
The touchpad buttons are very nice, reminding me of the chrome bumpers on older cars. They feel soft to the touch without any hard defined edges, and even though they have very shallow feedback, they are probably some of the best touchpad buttons I have used.
For a notebook that costs $1,250 retail, you get a nicely equipped gaming rig that is hard to beat in performance or build quality. Mating the Penryn based Intel T8100 with the ATI Radeon 3650 gives outstanding overall performance, and easily copes with most modern games. The dual hard drive setup lets users gain additional space, as well as opens up the door for future expansion for even greater storage space without replacing the main system drive.
The Harmon/Kardon speakers included on the A305 were excellent for gaming and watching movies. Unlike many normal notebook speakers, you can actually hear a hint of bass, which is welcome for speakers of this size. Volume levels that would easily annoy those around you could be reached without distortion.
Headphone performance was also very nice, providing clear, static-free audio.
Ports and Features
When it comes to ports Toshiba didn't hold anything back from the A305; packing every square inch of this notebook with a wide array of ports all around the sides.
Left: VGA, S-Video, HDMI, LAN, 2 USB, Firewire, Expresscard/54.
Front: Wireless On/Off, SD-Card Reader, Mic/Headphone, Volume.
Right: 2 USB, Optical Drve, AC Power, Kensington Lock Slot.
Rear view: No ports on this side.
Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of the Toshiba A305 was above average, with mild fan noise at low and high speeds, and the notebook staying relativity cool during game play. One area that did get kind of warm that is worth mentioning is the touchpad, which would reach almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit after the notebook had been on for a while.
Our review unit came with the larger 9-cell extended battery, which ended up not performing as well as we would have hoped because of constant background processes. With the notebook on the balanced power profile, and brightness to 50 percent, the notebook managed 2 hours and 50 minutes before it had to be shut down.
The Toshiba Satellite A305 is an excellent upgrade and overhaul to the older lackluster A205 notebook. The design looks great, the finish is awesome, the performance is outstanding, and the price is much lower than expected. I would have no problem recommending this notebook to friends and family, and right now it is almost too tempting to go out and buy one for myself.
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. (Lower numbers mean better performance.)
PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance (higher scores mean better performance):
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