As tech geeks, we don’t like second best. When the time comes for a tech purchase, we do our research, so that we can be sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck. But sometimes it can be hard to determine what product is the best, as reviews don’t always anoint a clear winner.
Such was the case when I decided to jump on the netbook bandwagon. After much research, I had narrowed my choice down to either the Asus Eee PC 1005HA or the Toshiba mini NB205-N311/W netbook (the higher end of the two base choices in the NB205 line). The Asus had a large number of positive reviews, but the Toshiba’s reviews were more glowing, with publications saying it "manages to break the mold," and calling it the "one to get." How to decide? Hands on, that’s how. Read on for the factors that swayed me to purchase the NB205, and my impressions of the NB205 after a few weeks of use. When you’re done, let us know what you think of your netbook if you have one, or what is important to you if you are considering purchasing one.
Keyboard / Touchpad
The NB205 line contains more than one model. The more expensive models differ only in color, and have island keyboards. With an island keyboard, each key protrudes through its own opening in the case. The less expensive model has a traditional non-island keyboard. This review covers the NB205-N311/W, which has the island keyboard.
A keyboard and touchpad are a matter of personal preference. If you forget everything else in this review, remember this one tip: try out a netbook before purchasing it. You first need to find out if you can live with a netbook keyboard and screen at all. Then, you need to find a keyboard that is comfortable.
I found the NB205 island keyboard to be surprisingly comfortable. Just like in every netbook, some concessions are made with certain keys, such as the Backspace and Delete keys. But the main keys on the keyboard are very similar in size and placement to a standard laptop keyboard. The photo below isn’t a perfect comparison, due to the Toshiba being closer to the camera, but it should give you an idea of the keyboard size compared to my Asus C90S laptop keyboard.
The touchpad is good, if not great. It could have used a bit more texture, to make it more tactile. Again, this is personal preference (other reviews call it the best touchpad in the netbook market), and your mileage may vary. The touchpad is large, especially compared to other netbooks, and it has a left and right mouse button, which isn’t always the case among netbooks.
Before making my final purchasing decision, I decided to pay a visit to the local Best Buy. Upon checking out the netbooks there, I was surprised at just how cheap most of the netbooks felt, including an Asus similar to the 1005HA. The Toshiba NB205 stood head and shoulders above the others. It just looked and felt solid and professional. Part of it was the island keyboard, but it also felt sturdy, and had a nice cover with raised lines. The battery does jut out the back, but it is aesthetically designed. I haven’t tried the NB205 with a standard netbook sleeve, but have read elsewhere that it won’t fit into a standard sleeve. I’ve ordered a sleeve from Toshiba for $20.00. See the end of this post for more photos that demonstrate just how nice this netbook looks.
I haven’t done any scientific measure of the battery life of the NB205, but I’ve used it many nights in a row in bed between charges. Several other sites report battery life of about 9 hours, which is one of the features for which the NB205 has received rave reviews.
The 10.1 inch screen is plenty bright and clear, and sports a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. The colors were accurate, and the screen was sharp. The photo at the end of this review was actually taken with the netbook in battery mode, which mutes the screen, and it still looks good. The NB205 does have a glossy (as opposed to matted) screen, but I haven’t experienced any distracting glare. My usage has all been indoors, however.
Specifications / Performance
The dimensions of the NB205 are 10.4 x 7.6 x 1.3 inches. It is small and light enough to tote around easily, and could easily be tossed into a suitcase.
The NB205 sports the Intel Atom N280 1.66GHz Processor, which is the higher-end of the two Atom processors most often found in netbooks. The NB205 comes equipped with 1 GB of RAM, and can be upgraded to 2GB. The hard drive is a 160 GB SATA drive, at 5400 RPM, and the graphics are powered by an integrated Intel GMA 950. The netbook also features Bluetooth, Windows XP Home, 802.11b/g WIFI, and a built-in web cam.
I’ve found the NB205’s speed to be acceptable with word processing and surfing the internet, if not as speedy as my desktop. There is no noticeable slowness, but it doesn’t have that "zippy" feel that my desktop has. But I didn’t really expect it to be as fast as my desktop. I do plan to upgrade the RAM to 2 GB. You won’t find any Windows XP netbooks equipped with more than 1 GB of RAM out of the box, due to licensing issues. Evidently, this is Microsoft’s way of making sure that netbooks don’t cannibalize traditional computer sales.
After extended use, the underside of the NB205 does get warm to the touch, but not to the point that I ever felt the need to move it.
With any netbook, you’re making concessions in keyboard size, screen size, and horsepower. For that reason, check out any potential purchase in person if possible. For me, there was no comparison. The Toshiba NB205 was the one netbook that didn’t feel chintzy, and was easy to type on. So far, I’ve been very pleased with my purchase. I think you will, too, if the keyboard suits your tastes.
The NB205 currently lists for $399, although you can get if for a couple of dollars less at Amazon. The links in this article are the 40Tech affiliate links, which means that I get a small percentage of any sale. We reserve this for products that we’ve personally used, and that we’re willing to put our credibility behind.
If you have the NB205, we’d love to hear what you think in the comments. If you have another netbook, or are thinking of getting one, we’d love to hear your thoughts as well.