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News

Toshiba NB205 Netbook review

Like most netbooks that use an Intel Atom processor, the Toshiba Mini NB205works well as an internet device, but not a great deal more…

Price: £243

NB205_BACK

Tech Specs:
CPU: Intel Atom 1.6GHz
OS Tested: Moblin 2
Dimensions:    259 x 193 x 33mm
Weight: 1.3kg

Pros:
Built-in SD card reader, webcam and Bluetooth. Well-positioned and larger-than-usual trackpad. Around six hours of battery life.
Cons:
The keyboard is cramped with some often-used keys, such as Tab and Delete, way too small. Unreliable Wi-Fi connection when using Moblin.

Like most netbooks that use an Intel Atom processor, the Toshiba Mini NB205 lives up to its name: it works well as an internet device, no more and no less. In fact, this 10.1-inch screen netbook runs about the same as the Acer Aspire, Lenovo S12 and HP Mini netbooks, with a few interesting extras.

For starters, the NB205 has an SD card reader right in the front of the netbook, a bit unusual since many netbooks do not offer this amenity. The NB205 also has a springy, but slightly cramped, keyboard that feels like the HP Mini but is actually about 10-15% smaller. Another unusual perk: the netbook includes built-in Bluetooth for sharing data with smartphones and for using Bluetooth headsets. Unfortunately, this is the one feature on the NB205 that did not work well with Moblin (www.moblin.org), the netbook OS we used to test this model for app performance. The NB205 does have a webcam that works well with Moblin. We tested it using the Tokbox.com video chat service. Other than these add-ons, the NB205 is not that different from other netbooks, but there were a few findings beyond the norm, and most of them are not positive compared with other models.

NB200_BLU_Prod_Full_Feb09_07Internet appliance
In most cases, the netbook you choose will end up being a secondary system to your main laptop, become a salesperson device in the field (essentially a glorified smartphone), or will serve as end-user system for testing web applications. Whether it’s used as a back-up system or as a device you roll out en masse to end-users, the main issue with the NB205 has to do with the keyboard. While the HP Mini has a spacious keyboard with keys arranged in a logical fashion, the NB205 has a few gotchas. One is the Tab key, which is much too small for a power user who uses Alt-Tab to switch between apps. The Delete key is also way too small – about the size of a pencil eraser. That said, while the keys themselves are too small and close together, the mouse trackpad is centred
well (just to the left of the space bar) under the keys and, unlike the trackpad on the HP Mini, is responsive and quite large for a netbook.

We also had trouble with Wi-Fi. The NB205 would connect fine using the network pop-up in Moblin, allowing us to select an 802.11g network with no problems. However, after around 10-15 minutes of use, the connection would drop – and no fault to the D-Link DIR-855 router we used for testing, since other Moblin netbooks maintained a steady connection).

One saving grace for this netbook, though, is that it lasts about six hours on one charge. That is much longer than on the Lenovo S10. Because the NB205 achieves this battery rating by using a heavier six-cell battery, the model we
used was heavy enough to be noticeable and require either a full laptop bag or at least a netbook sleeve like those made by Kensington.

After testing at least a dozen netbook models recently (including at least three from Asus), we came to the final decision that the Toshiba NB205 ranks near the middle of the heap – getting low marks for the keyboard awkwardness
and the Wi-Fi trouble we had with Moblin, but redeeming itself with the long battery life and the few extras the NB205 offers beyond the netbook norm. We still prefer the Sony VAIO P model for its 802.11n wireless, extra RAM and high portability, however.

Verdict: 3/5
Coming with a few nice extras, including the built-in SD card reader and Bluetooth, the NB205 also boasts impressive battery life. The annoyingly cramped keyboard and problems with Wi-Fi make it a merely average netbook, though.
John Brandon

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