Toshiba's NB305 updates the company's netbook range with Intel's latest Atom processor and improved graphics, but is otherwise little changed from the previous generation. However, like its predecessor, it boasts an impressive battery life for such a small system.
Available since February, the NB305 is a mini laptop with the familiar netbook specifications of 10.1in display, Intel Atom processor, 1GB memory and weighing in at not much over a kilogram. It inherits the styling of last year's NB200 model, and features a similar 'chiclet' style keyboard that makes for comfortable typing despite the small size of the system.
New in this system is Intel's Atom N450, introduced at the end of last year, which integrates graphics functions onto the processor itself, and is supposed to deliver a boost in graphics handling. It also adds hyper-threading to the Atom line, which uses spare CPU resources to make the N450 look like two processors to Windows, although in reality it is still a single-core chip.
We found the performance of the NB305 to be much in line with the earlier NB200 model, as was its battery life, so it is effectively just a slightly upgraded version with expanded Wi-Fi support to include 802.11 b/g/n and with Windows 7 Starter now an option alongside Windows XP Home. Weight remains the same as the earlier generation at 1.33kg.
Our review unit (the NB305-105) had Windows 7 and shipped in a white colour scheme (brown is also available) with a 250GB 2.5in Sata hard drive, which for some reason was partitioned into two 116GB logical drives, with a further small partition for system recovery.
The NB305's 10.1in Toshiba TruBrite screen gave a nice bright and sharp 1,024x600 image on our review unit, but we found the screen hinge does not go far enough back for you to comfortably see the screen if you are using the system on your lap. On a desk, it is a different matter, and the battery pack sticking out from the underside lifts the case to a decent typing angle.
Toshiba's keyboard has tile-like separate keys that make it easier to type, with just the top row of function keys and the arrow (cursor) keys smaller than full size. The touchpad is also a decent size and supports multi-touch, so you can use gestures such as pinching together with two fingers to zoom in.
A fairly typical array of I/O lines the sides of the NB305, with a VGA port for an external monitor, Ethernet port, USB port and SD card slot for Flash storage cards on the left side. The USB port here supports sleep and charge, which can provide power for a USB peripheral even if the laptop is suspended.
To the right of the case are a further two USB ports, audio jack sockets, power connector and a slot for a cable to tether the system to a desk.
The Windows Experience Index for the NEB305 is just 2.4, which is held back by the Atom processor, while the disk and memory showed generally good scores.
In use, we found the NB305 perfectly up to the task of productivity applications such as word processing, browsing and email, although it did feel a little sluggish at times.
This is possibly a consequence of the sheer number of tools and utilities which loaded into memory whenever our review system booted, including McAfee Security Center, Toshiba Tempro, Toshbia Eco Utility, Toshiba HDD protection and a webcam tool.
Other software installed includes a 60-day trial version of Microsoft Office, Toshiba's ReelTime that lets you view thumbnails of recently accessed files, Toshiba Bulletin Board and Toshiba Assist for technical help.
Toshiba quotes a battery life of up to 11 hours from its 61Wh (5300mAh) lithium ion battery pack, but in our tests using the Battery Eater Pro benchmark it lasted for six hours and eight minutes, about the same as the NB200 we tested last year, and still an impressive result for a netbook.
Overall, the NB305 is better than the average netbook, with good build quality and decent battery life, but watch out for the pre-loaded software that seems to slow it down unnecessarily.