Toshiba A505D-S6987: A Look at Turion II Ultra M600 Performance

Our review of the Toshiba A505D-S6987 brings us to an interesting crossroads. In recent years Toshiba has made a habit of producing fairly well-rounded and inexpensive notebooks—good values overall. The A505D we have on hand adds an AMD Turion II Ultra to the equation, specifically the M600 that exists near the top of AMD's mobile line (or did until the Phenom II refresh that's starting to show up in the marketplace was announced). Ultimately, Toshiba means to bring a strong value-oriented mainstream notebook to market. Can it compete?

Toshiba A505D-S6987 Specifications
Processor AMD Turion II Ultra M600
(2x2.4GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880M Northbridge, AMD SB750 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-800 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200
(40 Stream Processors, 500MHz Core, Integrated)
Display 16" LED Glossy 16:9 720p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba 500GB 5400 RPM Hard Disk
Optical Drive Slot-loading DVD+/-RW Combo Drive with LabelFlash
Networking 10/100 Ethernet
Realtek 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
V.92 56K Modem
Audio HD Audio
Harmon Kardon stereo speakers
Headphone (shared with optical) and mic jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 12V, 44Wh battery
Front Side Wireless Switch
MMC/SD/MS Reader
Left Side USB 2.0
Exhaust vent
Ethernet jack
ExpressCard/54 slot
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port
Mic, headphones
Right Side Optical drive
2x USB 2.0
Modem jack
AC jack
Kensington lock
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.1" x 10.2" x 1.44-1.61" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.48 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
104-key LED backlit keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $654 Online [Note: Currently out of stock at most places.]

The AMD Turion II Ultra M600 humming at the core of the A505D-S6987 is a K10.5-based processor, a mobile derivative of the desktop Athlon II line. It runs at a 2.4 GHz clock speed and has a combined total of 2MB of L2 cache—1MB per core. The Turion II should perform more than adequately; AMD's refined K10.5 architecture is typically able to produce performance clock-for-clock equivalent with Intel's first generation Conroe-based Core 2 Duo architecture, slightly behind the second generation Penryns. It's not going to run with the Core i3/i5 processors, but it should get the job done for most users and offer a fine value proposition.

Attached to the Turion II's integrated memory controller is 4GB of DDR2-800 RAM. Consider this unit one of DDR2's last hurrahs; even Intel's Atom processors use DDR3 now, and AMD's most recent Danube/Nile refresh brings DDR3 support to the table as well. DDR2 and DDR3 have already reached price parity, and DDR3 is even starting to show up at slightly lower prices. Toshiba also packs a 500GB, 5400 RPM hard drive into the A505D—naturally, a Toshiba drive. The unit is rounded out by a Realtek wireless-n adapter and, as a nice value-add, a slot-loading DVD writer.

The last thing Toshiba brings to the table is one of the benefits of using an AMD CPU—AMD's Mobility Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics processor. While the Intel HD graphics embedded in Intel's dual-core i-Series Core processors has made great strides in bringing performance parity with AMD and NVIDIA (excepting NVIDIA's staggering GeForce 320M IGP in Apple's hardware), overall driver quality, stability, and performance is still largely in AMD's favor.

Note that like the Acer 5542 we looked at recently, the A505D is a slightly older design and it is nearing EOL. However, there are plenty of laptops sporting the now outdated M-series AMD processors, and we expect to see a lot of these laptops on sale in the coming months. The original $800 MSRP is far too much, and even $650 is more than most would be willing to pay, but forgetting price for a minute it's still useful to see what the M600 laptops have to offer. What's more, we just received the new Toshiba A665 for testing (literally—the FedEx guy came by 15 minutes ago!), and it updates the A505D in some interesting ways, so think of this review as a springboard into the A665 next week.

Toshiba A505D-S6987 in Greater Detail
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  • jaydee - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    On the Quad-core P920, HD 4200 + HD 5650, could you please include the 3D CAD benchmark? That would be awesome.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Not sure which benchmark you want... link please?
  • Hrel - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    so were you guys ever able to talk to Cyberpower and get ahold of that Compal notebook I keep pestering you to review?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    No response from them. :-(
  • Hrel - Sunday, June 27, 2010 - link

    darn, at least you tried. Maybe I'll go pester them for a while:)
  • seagull7 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Awhile back I didn't have a lot of money and needed a laptop that was powerful enough to do sql server and Visual studio c# development on. I bought a 15.6" Turion powered, 3200 graphics laptop off Toshibas refurb site. It was cheap, and it works perfectly for what I need it for.

    While very inexpensive, it has stood up to daily use for a year now and I tote it home from work everyday. I sometimes hook it up to the LCD TV at home to play netflix movies.

    My only gripe is that Toshiba laptops can't use AMD's driver releases. You are stuck with Toshiba's version of AMD drivers. While I have no problems with Toshiba's drivers for 90% of what I use the laptop for, it would be nice If I had AMD's more full featured drivers. Toshiba's driver has no driver control panel so I can't set anything manually. My next laptop will not be a Toshiba for this reason alone.
  • Slaimus - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    These older AMD chips (M3xx/M600) are really completing against the older Intel T4xxx and T6xxx chips which are in the same price range. Against those the results will probably look less grim.
  • blackshard - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Well, as you see in this review, from a performance standpoint, the M600 competes well against a P8600.
    One of the biggest problem here is that this Toshiba is really low-end: low-end battery (worst 6 cell battery even seen), low-end display. Maybe low-end motherboard and low-end components.

    The fact it is has significant less battery life than a M300 processor when idling means that there's something wrong in the toshiba platform, even since M600 processor is supposed to have a bit more refined power management (more power states) and also because usually M300 and M600 idles at a very close frequency and voltage.

    In my opinion a similar notebook not coming from toshiba, but with similar specs has to be tested to really understand AMD chips power usage.
  • Hrel - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian
  • Penti - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Really do the costumers a disservice offering only this poor AMD models to the customers.

    I don't except Nile and Danube to bring any kind of parity though, they could compete with C2D hardware at best, however you should be able to build a few decent ultraportables out of Nile-platform.

    I've long missed any decent AMD models from the manufacturers, they skimp too much on the battery and quality. I've seen no business laptops other then semi-business ultraportables with AMD chips. AMD really needs something like a good 14-15.4" business laptop with a decent AMD CPU, DASH support and integrated plus switchable graphics and DP plus dock station support. Otherwise it's not really interesting at all. You can get a Core i3 laptop for 600 dollars, a business Intel laptop for like 800 dollars with Core i5, 4GB and docking support. Also upgradeable battery, or battery choices. Something like 50 USD for a larger battery is well worth it. Why would you buy an AMD in that climate. I would consider it if they just built the best they could on the AMD platform, but they don't. For a consumer laptop switchable graphics is really needed, a small chipset update (well really Hybrid Crossfire X is there, so it's really there already, but shut off in mobile version) would accommodate that. Otherwise they would have to compete in the 400 dollar range. I'm glad AMD takes laptops more seriously with Liano, and Ontario/Bobcat though. But in a 350-400 dollar device only the OS stands for 120-150 USD. It doesn't leave enough room, and they need to be able to compete against Core i3 ULV processors by then.

    Hopefully manufacturers seize the moment when AMD starts getting real laptop-chips out. Bobcat need to be able to compete with Atom. A good graphics/chipset solution would accommodate that though. Danube is just a stop gap which brings the K10 core in all it's glory to notebooks. I would really like DisplayPort on cheap laptops too. Displays are starting to creep above 1920x1200 more and more which is the limit for todays HDMI 1.3 graphics cards. DP is no problem with RS880m or Core i3/5 with HM55/QM57.

    I thought they did a good job creating a complete server platform with SR5690 and SP5100. But they should put AMD-Vi/IOMMU into the desktop and notebook chipset too. Too bad they kinda loose out there too. But they need to do the same with the mobile platform and get manufacturers on board. A 48-50Wh battery is no longer accepted. 60-70 and upgradeable to 80-90Wh should pretty much be standard. 85Wh would roughly give twice the battery life. I would rather skip the optical drive and have a larger battery. At least in the ~13" devices. But really it's hard to compete you get a much better product for just a few hundreds more. And a real business laptop comes at 1500 dollars. Building a laptop with AMD processor and ATI graphics like HD5650 would be pretty attractive today though. Maybe HD5730 to give it an edge. But it would have to compete with 900 dollar Core i5 / HD5650 lappys. I wouldn't buy something like that though. It can't really compete there, Champlain isn't fast enough. P520 should be pretty good for a low end laptop. If put together smartly.

    HP Probooks with AMD is mostly a joke though, but it at least in the form of ProBook 6455b and 6555b, support one off my personal requirements DP-port. The 6555b with HD+ screen even has decent resolution of 1600x900. I would rather have something other though.

    Something like Toshiba Satellite L655D just don't cut it. Too. Something like HP Compaq Presario CQ62Z / HP Pavilion dv6z with P520 for $540 USD / $580 USD might be acceptable though. Still trails to close too Core i3 laptops though. It's not worth 600 bucks, they need to knock off 50-100 dollars, most of that should be on the processor (P520) which they should be able to lower 60 bucks or so. It should be a good 150-200 dollars less then a Core i3 2.26GHz laptop i think. It would be competitive then.

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