Toshiba A505D-S6987 in Greater Detail

The hardware inside Toshiba's A505D certainly offers reasonable performance for the budget-conscious consumer, but the overall design of the unit leaves a lot to be desired. It seems like for every design win, for every perk, there's something else undone. Toshiba outfits the unit with what they call their "Fusion Finish with Sonic Pattern in Black Onyx." What this means is an absolutely relentless, unchecked use of glossy black plastics with silver accents. The overwhelming majority of Toshiba's notebooks on the market are head to toe glossy plastic, and for us it means the difference between "bargain" and "cheap." Gloss on the lid is still fine and fairly common, but most manufacturers are quietly edging away from using glossy plastics. Even Toshiba recently announced their "Fusion X2," which utilizes more attractive, less gaudy matte plastics. For those of you that like glossy laptops, though, the A505D might just be your dream come true.

Gallery: Toshiba A505D

When you flip open the lid, you're presented with a design most other manufacturers have since abandoned. The Harmon Kardon speakers above the keyboard sound excellent for notebook speakers; they're a bit tinny but notebook sound quality is a contradiction in terms. Unfortunately, situated between them is a series of touch-based media buttons. Toshiba at least backlights them with white LEDs, but the touch-based volume control is disappointing. Toshiba was one of the last stalwarts to employ an analog volume control dial on their notebooks and the omission is missed.

Below the speakers and media buttons is the keyboard proper. Toshiba's keyboard layout really is one of the better ones we've seen come through, including a full-sized numeric keypad along with dedicated document navigation keys. They even managed to include a scroll lock key! To top it all off, the keyboard is backlit with subtle, attractive white LEDs. It's just a shame the keyboard itself is so lousy. When we say head-to-toe glossy plastic, we mean it, and that includes a glossy plastic keyboard. The keys are devoid of texture, have only the most minimal beveling, and just don't feel particularly stable. What you're left with are completely flat, smooth, wobbly keys that make typing a lot less enjoyable than it ought to be.

At the bottom we come to the touchpad, which mercifully has a nice matte finish and texture that makes using it a pleasure. There's a dedicated button to enable and disable the touchpad above it, and it's multi-touch capable. The buttons themselves are curiously large, but they feel fine and offer the right amount of resistance.

And finally, around the edges Toshiba includes an extremely healthy selection of ports. The left side bears a USB 2.0 port, an exhaust vent (always appreciated on the left so it doesn't melt your mousing hand), a VGA port, an Ethernet jack, an HDMI port, a combination USB 2.0/eSATA port, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and dedicated microphone and headphone jacks. On the opposite side are the slot-loading optical drive, two more USB 2.0 ports, a modem jack, and a power jack next to a Kensington lock. The memory card reader is on the front, next to a—thank the heavens—dedicated physical wireless networking switch. It's a small touch but it's welcome.

Honestly, the shame of the machine is the "Fusion Finish" and we're thankful Toshiba is eschewing this on their newer models. There are so many attractive value-adds—the quality speakers, the slot-loading drive, the backlighting in the keyboard, the physical wireless switch—that it's unfortunate the A505D is burdened with all the gloss and a poor keyboard. We don't like glossy laptops much, and the general consensus based on previous reviews appears to agree with our opinion. Keep the layout but change the keys and the coating and we'd be a lot happier with the A505D. Of course, if you happen to like smooth, glossy surfaces the Fusion Finish and our criticisms of it can be tossed out the window. Find one in person at a local store and see what you think.

Toshiba A505D-S6987: A Look at Turion II Ultra M600 Performance Toshiba A505D-S6987 General Performance
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  • veri745 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    I'm REALLY looking forward to review of the Danube and Nile platforms, but these Tigris notebooks are just not interesting. horrid battery life in a 15.6+" form factor...blech.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    I agree, but it does help set the stage for the next review, plus there are lots of Tigris laptops floating around. They perform well enough and often can be had for a song, provided you're not after long battery life in an ultraportable chassis.

    Anyway, the Toshiba A665-S6059 just arrived this evening, and I unpacked it a couple hours back. It's radically different in looks from the A505D, and it throws in a lot of other extras. Quad-core P920, HD 4200 + HD 5650, textured lid/palm rest, and a thinner chassis to boot. Granted, it costs $875, but it looks like it idles at around 13-14W. That's still only good for 3.5 hours of battery life, but blame it on the paltry 48Wh battery. We'll have the review ready for next Friday is the plan....
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Oh, I see, Jarred. Keeping all the fun ones to yourself? ;)
  • pmonti80 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    What I would love is laptops with AMD's new CULV equivalent. Don't remember the name though.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    That's the Nile platform, which is the lower wattage version of Danube. We're working to get one of those for testing as well. An no worries, Dustin... we'll get you some other stuff. ;-)
  • Roland00 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Here are the specific models of the new Nile Platform

    The Nile platform (2010) are 9W, 12W, 15W processors with DDR3 support. All these processors are Champlain processors with the new memory controller.
    9W, AMD V105, Single Core*1.2 Ghz, 512 kb L2 cache total
    12W, AMD K125, Single Core*1.7 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache total
    12W, AMD K325, Dual Core*1.3 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    15W, AMD K625, Dual Core*1.5 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    15W, AMD K665, Dual Core*1.7 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total

    The Danube platform (2010) are 25W, 35W, 45W processors with DDR3 support
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Ooooh. Quad core + HD 5650 for $850 sounds like fun. It doesn't look all that great though (and the screen is pretty sadly low res - 1366x768 is not okay on a 16" display) and Toshiba is quoting 2.5 hours of battery life. That's not a good sign right off the bat. I'm scared for the results battery life tests, though it doesn't sound like they should take very long ;)

    Should be interesting to see how AMD's "more cores for less money" strategy works in the mobile space. Just gonna place a bet that it won't work as well as the desktop chips for two reasons: power consumption and heat. Will wait for benchmarks though, it should have a lot of fun with the encoding benches.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Initial idle battery life testing is under way, and it's looking like 3.5 hours is going to be about right. Obviously, Internet and x264 will put a much bigger load on the system. 2.5 hours seems about what you'd get if the HD 5650 stayed active.

    Quirky system, though: I haven't found a way to disable the dGPU other than unplugging the laptop. I mean, sure, if you're plugged in having the GPU enabled is reasonable, but I do wish there were a way to manually engage/disable it. Also, the lack of AMD driver updates is disheartening... and there's not even an ATI CCC with the current drivers, so I'm not sure what version of the drivers it's running.

    $850 is a tough sell given the competition, but at least it looks like battery life won't be bad. The 1.6GHz clock speed may prove a bigger issue for some, but for heavily threaded workloads the quad-core CPU should come close to (or surpass even) some of the i3/i5 processors.
  • HHCosmin - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    hello. i'm the proud owner of an acer timeline 3820TG featuring an i5 540m and a switchable (manually) 5470 which i do not really need... but that is a different story. i read some reviews and they were complaining that you cannot turn off the discrete card when plugged in. that is not true and it's also not so obvious.
    goes like this: when you plugin the lappie the discrete ati gpu goes active. then you can go to the ati control center (or something) and there it says that the discrete ati gpu is active. you also have two buttons: one is to enable the "power saving gpu" and one is for the... err power hungry and hot gpu. :) you have to press the button that sys about enabling the power saving gpu and wait. it takes a bit of time to make the switch and the desktop may go dark.. etc but after a while it will say that the integrated gpu is active. all this is on a special page... and you just have to find it. good luck!
  • fabarati - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Does it have AMD's Turbo-whatever? If it does, does it work well?

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