Hands on with the Toshiba P205

Today I'm reviewing the Toshiba P205, specifically the P205-S6237. This notebook packs a lot of features into the sub-$1000 price. You get a Pentium D T2080 processor with 1GB RAM and a 120GB hard drive, a beautiful 17" widescreen WXGA+ screen capable of 1440 x 900, a DVD burner, 802.11b/g wireless and a built-in webcam. That's a lot of bang for your buck. But how does it really stack up?

The first thing I noticed when I started using the P205 is that it looks great. Being a large 17" notebook I expected it to weigh a ton, I was pleasantly surprised by its relatively light feel. The overall look of the machine is very sleek and simplistic, nothing flashy here. The large single hinge felt solid, so I was never worried that it might break sometime down the road.

Typing on it was very comfortable, the full keyboard felt very natural to type on, and the keys were tight and responsive. The addition of a number pad is nice, I didn't use it much, but it's nice to have it there. I will say that I am not impressed with the touchpad, numerous times I would try to maneuver the cursor only to find that the window I was working in was minimized, or that the start menu had popped up. After looking into the touchpad settings I found that a simple checkbox would disable the "Tap Zones" that were causing me grief.

I love the fact that the P205 doesn't get hot. I can't use my current laptop on my lap, after only a short while it becomes very hot, even unbearable at times. So it was refreshing to be able to take this one out and type on my lap without scorching my legs. What is great is that although there are fans keeping it cool, I almost never hear them spinning. I love a quiet laptop.

The screen is beautiful. I'm used to working on a 15.4" laptop, and I'm really not sure how I'm going to go back. I'm still torn on the glossy WXGA+ screen. I love how crisp and bright it is, but when I get out in the sunlight it can produce a glare that bothered me. I had no trouble with glare indoors, even under bright lighting. The resolution goes up to 1440 x 900, which is perfect for this size screen.

Looking at the sides of the laptop we see a variety of ports. Starting with the left side we see the power jack, a VGA port, 10/100 Ethernet port, two USB drives, S-Video, Firewire and an ExpressCard slot. Moving to the front we see the control for our Wireless card, headphone and microphone jacks, a wheel for volume control and a card reader. Over on the right side is your DVD burner, 56k modem, and two more USB ports. The back is just plain and boring, nothing to see here.

I enjoy watching movies, so naturally I took advantage of the beautiful screen to watch a few, and was once again impressed. The playback was smooth with no hiccups, and the screen played even fast action-sequences without trouble. The sound was crisp, with the speakers providing ample sound. Many times I find that laptop manufacturers put little consideration towards sound quality on a laptop.

The Pentium D T2080 running at 1.73GHz and 1GB of RAM were snappy enough to keep up with most tasks that you'll throw at it. It received a 3.0 Windows Experience Index citing the integrated graphics as the biggest downfall. The P205 comes with an integrated Intel 945GM chipset, so it's really no surprise. The graphics were still good enough to keep Aero running happily, though I still don't really see what all of the fuss is about it. The machine is not built for gaming, so I'm not going to dock any points for that. At the time of writing, World of Warcraft had not finished installing, but I'll check back later in the day and let you know how it performs.

The battery would on average last around two hours. That's with wireless running at all times, so it's not terrible, but I would say that's where the P205 could use some improvement. But I understand that a larger notebook is going to suck more juice, so I can't be too harsh on it.

Overall, I was impressed with the Toshiba P205. If I were buying a laptop, I think that I'd want an updated Core 2 Duo processor, an extra gig of RAM, a dedicated GPU and a little extra battery life. But if you've got a grand burning a hole in your pocket, and you aren't interested in gaming, this is definitely worth considering. I give it 4 out of 5 gears.

[rating: 4]