Product: Toshiba Satellite X205-S9349
Pros: Surprisingly impressive sound system, a great screen and it plays games well despite Vista. Comes with internal hardware extras – extra USB ports, HD DVD drive, DVD burner and 1.3 megapixel webcam – you’d eventually add to your home PC anyway.
Cons: Some front ports hard to see, the system runs pretty warm and the cover easily smudges. Keys are a bit too low and pop out too easily.
Overall: A good purchase for a hard-core gamer in need of a solid portable system. Plan to spend time wiping off promotion apps. The sound system will certainly impress your friends. Check out the benchmarks.
Buying a gaming PC is always a bit tricky. You have to balance cost with performance all while considering you personal computing preferences.
The good news is that computers are, in general, becoming more powerful and affordable. The downside is, as always, that the best games stay a bit ahead of the average consumer’s personal computer. Computer companies recognize this and, with the growing popularity of videogames, are finding more ways to make systems a gamer can both afford and appreciate.
With all that in mind, here’s a look at Toshiba’s Satellite X205-S9349 Laptop. It’s a gaming rig that ships with most of the extras you’d likely install on your own – an HD-DVD player/DVD burner, an oversized screen and an amazing surround sound speakers – and a few you might not – low profile keyboard and 1.3 MegaPixel webcam.
Design – The Satellite X205-S9349 is rather large for a laptop PC, measuring 2 1/2 in. from table to top (highest point when closed), 11 3/8 in. from front to back and 15 3/4 in. from side to side. When open, the screen tilts back from the case adding 7/8 in. to the length (12 1/8 in.) and making the system 12 1/2 in. tall. The screen is 14 1/2 in. ide and 9 1/4 in tall, making a 17 in. diagonal.
The system cast features a glossy black and matte black case with a matte silver, low profile keypad. The top side has a glossy finish with black and deep red swoops (“Flare Carmine”) that look like a cross between velvet and wood grain.
The harmon/kardon speakers (four visible speakers) are at the top of the keypad area with zero profile but holes drilled though the cover to keep them somewhat visible. The subwoofer is integrated into the bottom of the system.
The 1.3 megapixel video camera is integrated in to the system case on the lid, just above the screen’s viewing area, and cannot be adjusted (you need to move the screen to get the right angle). A blue LED lights when on and it uses the built-in microphone for video conferencing.
Power supply is an extra long and sturdy cable with a larger power supply box that gets pretty warm. The laptop itself weights more than 9 pounds.
The front panel includes the built-in wireless switch (note this right away or you might be annoyed when you cannot connect to the web), four audio ports, a volume knob and a multimedia port.
The right side panel has four USB ports, a phone/modem port, an HD-DVD tray and a lock slot.
The left side has an express card slot, a mini firewire slot, an HDMI port, an S-video out port, two more USB ports, an ethernet port, a 15-pin serial port and the power port.
There are not any ports on the back. Instead, the screen’s large, single piece hinge takes up 80% of the back.
The bottom of the case has the access panels for RAM and hard drives. Cooling vents are located on both sides of the system with two vents – and the subwoofer vents – on the bottom.
Features – Here are the core system specs from Toshiba:
- Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 (1.80GHz/ 800MHz Front Side Bus/ 2MB L2 cache)
- Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
- 2GB DDR2-667 dual-channel RAM
- 1GB Intel Turbo Memory module
- 17.0” WXGA+ (1440×900) display with TruBrite technology
- Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT graphics card with 256MB dedicated memory (511MB total with TurboCache shared memory)
- 240GB hard drive space (120GB 5400RPM x2)
- HD DVD-ROM/DVD Super Multi (+/- double layer)
- Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965 AGN (802.11a/g/n)
- Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
- Built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and microphone
- Fingerprint reader
I also performed a few benchmarks (only three would run on Vista: CDMark, Cinebench and SISanrda.
It also comes with anew Snipping tool (a selective areas screen/windown image grabbing tool), and several pre-installed casual games as well as a link to Toshiba’s causal game service.
The touchpad acts as a mouse but also include a backlight when the upper right icon is double tapped, putting it into button and scroll mode. The you can slide your finger along the right side to scroll up or down the screen and use three top touch buttons or three programmable bottom buttons.
Performance – The system runs fairly quiet with the loudest hum herd when running a disc. The bottom of the system gets pretty warm with the side vents expelling warm air (it’ll help keep you cozy during the winter) making to too warm to actually use on your lap more than 10 minutes.
Upon launching, the system includes many pre-installed promotional software, including the usual McAfee and more than 20 other items that clutter the desktop with system popups that periodically remind you to purchase or update. Although the system is ready to run when you open the package, it’ll take you an hour or so to remove all of the reminders and desktop icons. Otherwise, the system launches remarkably fast.
To remind you that your system is intended to be a gaming rig, a large Ubisoft sticker is placed under the keyboard area and around the touchpad, promoting Ghost Recon 2 though it is not installed on the system. It also include smaller stickers for Skype, Intel and Vista. All can be quickly removed.
The touchpad is super sensitive, making it easy to over tap. Gamers will definitely want o use an external mouse. Luckily, the system is designed with plenty of USB ports on both sides (a little love for the lefties), allowing for a shorter mouse and headset cables and no heed for an external hub.
The keyboard keys are very low profile, likely to trim a bit from laptop’s larger profile (it will not fit in your standard laptop bag). In fact, the keys are a bit too low profile, making it easy to slip onto another key. Also, the back side of each key is open so it is easy to accidentally pop off an individual key pad (which my 7-month-old did with ease). Don’t plan to do much typing with long fingernails or they may spent more time snapping keys back in place than actual typing in the back of the keys.
The screen is large and gorgeous, making it idea for gaming. it is also viewable from a fair distance and the sides, so don;t plan to sit next to your opponents at a LAN party. It does make it nice for a few friends to watch movies in the airport, though. The HD DVD player is a very nice touch and, aside from some slight blurring, movies look great.
I played a bit of Supreme Commander – which is a notorious system hog – and it ran pretty well. I’m not certain f it was the laptop or Vista, but there were a few moments of extreme lag, especially during the canned tutorial videos. Otherwise, the game ran well with all particle effects turned on.
The battery doesn’t seem to last more than 2 hours with normal web surfing and system browsin, so plan to be plugged in especially when gaming or watching movies.
The fingerprint security adds a touch of class (pun partially intended) and makes it easy to log in (or out) of your computer once activated. You scan each finger three times on a tiny slit in the case next to the touchpad so you can log on with any finger. Logging in is as simple as a single, slow finger swipe.
The built-in stereo speakers are impressive with nice, solid sounds and are ideal for watching DVDs or gaming. In fact, the most impressive aspect of the laptop is actually the built-in sound system. The subwoofer puts out some impressive tones and you can actually get a good sense of stereo from the topside speakers. Granted, when in a room of other gamers you’ll likely rely on your headphones but for gaming by yourself or watching HD movies, go with the system speakers.
The system is preset to hibernate when you press the power buttons, so immediately chance it otherwise you’ll think you just shut down when, instead, you’re draining your battery. Also, make certain your Wi-Fi switch is on when trying to connect to a wireless hib, otherwise you’ll look silly trying to figure out why you cannot get online. Otherwise, it works very well and straightforward, as does the built-in Bluetooth (also a nice feature if you like to use Bluetooth headsets while gaming or while watching movies).
The audio ports on the front of the system are a hidden by some case overhang, making it a little difficult to know exactly where you p;lug your headphone without lifting up the entire laptop.
Overall – Again, the biggest annoyance is not actually the system, but all the crap that Vista layers on the OS. So much is pre-installed – McAfee, and again more than 20 icons on the home page to other items – that you’ll spend the first couple hours stopping stuff from popping up. Otherwise, the system works very well for gaming, the screen is beautiful and the sound system is surprisingly impressive.
At first the price might seem a bit steep but the dual processors, high quality 17 in. screen, impressive sound system, plenty of USB ports and extras, the price seems pretty fair for a gaming laptop. If you do plant to use it for your home gaming system, invest in a quality external keyboard to avoid key slips and, even if taking it with you, get a decent gaming mouse as well.