The Pine Trail version of Toshiba's excellent vanilla netbook
Let’s talk about love. When you love something, you love it for what it is, not what it isn’t. We love netbooks; we don’t care that they can’t really do games, or HD Flash video, or any media encoding to speak of. We know what we want—all-day computing in a formfactor small enough to toss into a knapsack or messenger bag and barely know it’s there, and cheap enough to be viable as a secondary PC. Toshiba’s first netbook, the NB205, came out in the latter half of 2009, but was immediately lauded as a shining exemplar of netbook craft. So, can the NB305, its Atom N450–toting successor, replicate the NB205’s success?
With the NB305, Toshiba has opted for a gentle refinement of the 205 rather than an all-out reimagining. Aside from the new Pine Trail N450 CPU and the Windows 7 Starter OS, the NB305 is virtually identical to its predecessor. Both share standard netbook specs: 1GB DDR2 RAM, a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and a 10.1-inch 1024x600 screen. And the 305 replicates the NB205’s styling almost identically, from the matte-silver plastic chassis, textured lid, and matching bezel to the striped touch pad and chiclet keyboard.
The NB305's keyboard is its weakest point--it looks like the NB205's, but it's less crisp and the space bar doesn't always register hits.
Two of our favorite features from the NB205 carry over into the sequel: hard drive vibration detection and plug-and-charge USB. One improvement: Thanks to the N450’s lower energy requirements and refinements by Toshiba, the NB305’s 6-cell battery doesn’t protrude from the back of the chassis like its predecessor’s did. The chassis is a bit slimmer, too, and the ports have been shifted slightly—the SD card reader is on the left, instead of the front, and the audio jacks are on the right.
The NB305’s keyboard, while fairly roomy, is less crisp than the 205’s. We found keystrokes wouldn’t always register the way we expected them to—the space bar in particular isn’t as sensitive as we would like and didn’t always pick up on our hits.
Pine Trail’s power efficiency is what drives the NB305’s truly excellent battery life. In our full-screen DVD-quality video-playback test, running at 50 percent screen brightness and 50 percent volume, the NB305 lasted more than seven and a half hours, 79 percent longer than our zero-point and fully half an hour more than the next best netbook we’ve tested. In the rest of our benchmarks, the NB305’s numbers were a little more down to earth, with performance ranging from 3 percent slower than our zero-point (in Quake III) to 14 percent faster (a still-unplayable 4.1fps in Quake 4).
As a vanilla netbook—one without Nvidia’s Ion netbook gaming platform—the NB305 performs well. It ships in two configurations: a $350 version with Windows XP, a smaller hard drive, and no sleep-and-charge USB port, or the $400 Windows 7 Starter version reviewed here. You’ll have to decide for yourself, though, whether an added half-hour of battery life and a sleep-and-charge port are worth the $100 premium you’ll pay over the Acer Aspire One AO532h (reviewed April 2010)—especially given the NB305’s wonky keyboard and lack of Bluetooth.
Incremental improvements to solid platform; great battery life; sleep-and-charge USB port.
Win 7 Starter; no Bluetooth; wonky keyboard (especially space bar); expensive.
1.66GHz Intel Atom N450
Intel NM10 Express
Intel GMA 3150
10.1-inch LED-backlit TFT LCD@1024x600
250GB HDD (5,400rpm)
Three USB 2.0, audio in/out, SD reader, VGA, 10/100 Ethernet Wireless: 802.11b/g/n
2 lbs, 14.4 oz / 3 lbs, 7.6 oz
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
Main Concept (min)
Quake III (fps)
Quake 4 (fps)
Battery Life (mins)
Our zero-point netbook is a Lenovo IdeaPad S12 with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, 1GB of DDR2/667 RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Intel GMA950 integrated graphics chipset, and Windows XP Home SP3.