Toshiba’s NB205: A Budget Netbook With Premium Features

toshiba-nb205-netbookTwo weeks ago, on a Saturday night, my son Tyler and I went netbook shopping. I know, I know — most folks spend Saturday nights in front of the television, out at the movies or taking in a show. Not us. We go netbook shopping. What can I say? It’s a father-son bonding ritual in our geeky house.
It took me more than an hour before I settled on the new Toshiba NB205. As far as netbooks go these days, there really aren’t many differences. The vast majority use an Intel Atom (s intc) processor, run Microsoft Windows XP (s msft) on 1GB of RAM and offer plenty of hard drive storage space for a little laptop. They all include Wi-Fi, several USB ports and most include some type of memory card slot. The Toshiba NB205 is no exception — but it has three sweet features that make it better than the MSI Wind netbook I purchased last year.

The 3 Features That Won Me Over
netbook-trackpadsTake for example, the trackpad and mouse buttons on the NB205. Instead of one single mouse button used for both left and right clicks — common on netbooks — the NB205 has two distinct buttons. And the size of the trackpad is extremely generous. Compared to the trackpad on my MSI Wind, the NB205 offers nearly double the usable size. It’s actually larger than the trackpad on some full-figured notebooks I use.
Then there’s the Toshiba Power Saver utility, which manages energy settings at the individual component level. That sounds complicated, but the software provides a handful of pre-configured power schemes that do the heavy lifting. When using the utility on the “Long Life” setting, I can work online for nearly eight hours with the NB205’s included 6-cell battery.
Lastly, there’s those USB ports. Like most other netbooks, the NB205 includes three of them. But Toshiba enabled one port with a “sleep and charge” function, which provides power to it even when the device is off. I wouldn’t use such a feature when running this netbook off of the battery, but it comes in handy when I want to, say, charge a phone when the netbook is plugged in. When my netbook is off but connected to an electrical outlet, I can top off the batteries in my handheld devices.

And Now That I Own It…

How much do I like my purchase so far? Even with the included 1GB of RAM —  a standard for netbooks running Windows XP — the NB205 is handling my daily web work with ease in XP. I will be upgrading to 2GB of memory later this week, bringing the RAM in line with what most full-featured notebooks offer these days. As a Microsoft TechNet subscriber, I have early access to the RTM version of Windows 7, so I installed the OS on a second partition for a dual-boot solution. Upon booting the device, I simply choose to run in either XP or Windows 7. When running Windows 7 on the netbook, I find that I’m getting XP performance combined with the additional features of Microsoft’s newest operating system.
Although my computing needs are light, I’m impressed enough with the device that it’s the only one I’m using for my daily work. For 10 hours a day or more, this netbook is now my primary computer. I am taking advantage of the VGA port — a standard inclusion on most netbooks — to drive a 24-inch, 1920×1200 external display in my home office. Netbooks are made to be portable, but why not use a larger display when immobile?
Toshiba-nb205-keyboardTyping on the NB205 is actually a joy, both when mobile or stationary. The island-style keys run nearly edge to edge on the chassis, providing a nearly full-sized keyboard experience in a portable package. Unlike some earlier netbooks, the layout is correct and even offers dedicated Page Up and Page Down keys — which comes in handy when working on the 1024×600 screen, since that resolution requires a fair amount of scrolling.
Toshiba offers the NB205 in four different colors — Frost White, Posh Pink, Onyx Black and Royal Blue. Regardless of the color you choose, the NB205 retails for $399 direct.