More for less: 4 budget laptops

How much laptop does $700 buy today? More than you'd think.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Page 5
Page 5 of 6

Toshiba Satellite L505

Clothed in corporate pinstripes, Toshiba's Satellite L505 is an inexpensive, high-performance system that is on the pudgy side.

Easily the biggest system of the bunch, the Satellite L505 is 1.5 by 15.1 by 10.4 in. and weighs 6 lbs. That's several ounces heavier than the others -- with its AC adapter, it has the heaviest travel weight of the four, at 6.5 lbs. It's also deeper than the others in this roundup. Travelers, beware: Like the Inspiron 15R, the Satellite L505 is a tight fit on an airline tray table.

Toshiba Satellite L505
Toshiba Satellite L505

While the others in this roundup have shiny, colorful cases, the Satellite L505's look is straight-laced black with diagonal gray pinstripes. It does without the lid latch or instant-start app button of the Aspire 5740. The keyboard, which has 19.1mm black keys, flexes too much, but I really like the lightly textured touchpad, which works with two-finger gestures.

Below the screen are excellent multimedia controls for playing DVDs and audio. The Satellite L505 also has a handy thumbwheel volume control and a separate mute button. There's nice chrome trim around the speakers, but the audio doesn't get as loud as the Aspire 5740's, and it sounded tinny to my ears.

With a 15.6-in. screen and Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator imaging engine, the system can show 1,366-by-768 resolution. There's a webcam, but the display wasn't nearly as bright as the Aspire 5740's, and the whites had a blue tinge.

The system comes with three USB connections, one of which doubles as an e-SATA link to an external hard drive. It also has connections for an external monitor (but not HDMI), a microphone and a headphone (but no optical S/PDIF). It has a modem for online emergencies but doesn't include an ExpressCard. Its wired LAN is limited to 100Mbit/sec. service, not the faster gigabit-per-second variety.

The Wi-Fi system uses the latest 802.11n spec; in tests, it tied with the Aspire 5740, with a range of 110 feet. There is no Bluetooth option, and it comes with 100Mit/sec. Ethernet. On the other hand, the Satellite L505 comes with a Super Multi DVD drive, which is the only one of the four to be able to etch labels onto special discs.

As with three of the others in this roundup, the system comes with a 2.13-GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Toshiba won't be offering the 350M Core i3 processor on this line of notebooks but will make it available for other Satellite models.

The notebook scored a 906.8 on PassMark's PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark suite of tasks, or roughly what the Satellite L505 and Sony Vaio were capable of.

The system's 4,400mAh battery was able to go for only 2 hours 24 minutes on a charge, or about 20 minutes short of the Aspire 5740's runtime. There's a $150 high-capacity battery available that holds 9,000mAh of capacity and that should double runtime to about 5 hours, but it adds an inch to the height of the system at the rear and 11 oz. to its weight.

The review system came with Windows 7 Home Premium and a slew of software, including a 30-day subscription to Norton Internet Security 2010, Microsoft Works 9.0 and Corel Label maker for CD disc labels. Toshiba's one-year warranty can be extended to three years for $79.20.

Bottom line

At $700, the L505 is a competent laptop, but it is the bulkiest of the four and has a screen that isn't as bright as the others I looked at. Also, it doesn't include some of the luxuries that the others have, like the extra USB ports on the Acer, the ExpressCard slot of the Vaio or the look of the Dell.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Page 5
Page 5 of 6
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon