Today Toshiba's taking the wraps off its new netbook. That's right, the same people who brought you the original ultra-portable, the Libretto, are rolling out their first sub-$400 netbook! We got our hands on a pre-production sample of the NB200-series netbooks.
Toshiba sat out the first generation of netbooks, so they could address shortcomings with the genre, and at first glance the NB205 seems to make good on that. The main typing keys are full-size and use a chiclet-style design. When paired with Toshiba's standard-sized touchpad (the largest we've seen on a netbook to date), this is an extremely comfortable laptop for typing. Toshiba claims 9.5 hours of battery life (we haven't tested yet, but we'd expect 6ish hours in a real-world scenario).
The 2.9 pound NB205 features a 10.1" 1024x600 LED-backlit TFT screen, a 6-cell battery, 160GB hard drive, and 1GB of RAM (easily upgradable to 2GB). The production model will ship with Intel's new 1.66GHz Atom N280, though the preproduction model we have sports an N270.
Toshiba skipped the fingerprint-magnet glossy lid that other netbook manufacturers prefer in favor of matte plastic in blue, brown, white, or pink. We like the way it looks, and wouldn't mind seeing more matte options from other manufacturers.
The NB205 sports 3 USB 2.0 ports, an SD-card slot, audio in/out, VGA out, and a 10/100 Ethernet port. It also has Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g WiFi. We'd like to see 802.11n, Gigabit Ethernet, and an option for either internal mini PCI Express or an ExpressCard, but these certainly aren't industry standard features yet.
Most of the NB205's features are similar to those found in the best of the current generation of netbooks (Asus' Eee 1000HE is still our favorite), but the NB205 has two features we've missed in other netbooks: a hard-drive impact sensor and a sleep-and-charge USB port so you can charge your USB devices (e.g. your iPhone) while the computer is asleep. Even the mighty 1000HE is missing that feature.
The NB205 will start shipping in Q3 2009 and will retail for $399. A model with a different keyboard and no Bluetooth will be $349. We'll reserve judgment on the NB205 until we get a production unit with the Atom N280 CPU, but from what we've seen so far, we expect the NB205 to match or exceed the best netbooks on the market today. Look to MaximumPC.com for a full review of the NB205 when the hardware's final.