Remember the sense of freedom and convenience you experienced the first time you burned a music or data CD on your laptop? Now you can do the same with DVDs. The Toshiba Satellite 5205-S703 ($2,700 street), lets you burn video and data to a notebook DVD drive.
This Satellite is a big, gorgeous, do-everything multimedia portable with an optical-drive bay that holds a Toshiba SD-R6012 DVD-R/RW drive, meaning that this laptop can play and, depending on the media, write and rewrite to CDs and DVDs. Theres actually very little you cant do with this machine—except speak the full name quickly.
To reduce the 8.0-pound system weight (9.0 with AC adapter) and the size of the 1.8- by 13.1- by 11.6-inch box, Toshiba would have had to sacrifice the large screen. Instead, the company opted to make the system attractive, with translucent blue keys and a case done up in metallic blue, silver, and gray. Inside is the equivalent of state-of-the-art desktop PC technology a year ago—a 2-GHz Pentium 4-M processor, a 60GB hard drive, 512MB of system memory, 64MB of DDR video memory for the nVidia GeForce4 Go graphics chip set, a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, three USB 2.0 ports, an integrated modem, and built-in wired and wireless Ethernet. But unlike this Satellite, a year-old desktop PC wouldnt have high-speed (480-Mbps) USB or a dedicated SD card slot that lets Toshiba fall back to one PC Card slot instead of two.
First and foremost, this is a multimedia machine. The 15-inch color 1,600-by-1,200 UXGA LCD uses Toshibas Personal Theatre technology, so you dont have to be directly in line with the display for good color fidelity. The front of the system has CD/DVD controls that you can access with the lid closed. And for times when you are happily ensconced on the sofa watching Casablanca , and getting up to adjust the volume is too much effort, theres even a 21-button remote the size of a credit card.
The idea of the Satellite as a personal home theater isnt all that absurd: You get pretty fair dorm-room-filling (if not living-room-filling) sound from the three integrated Harman Kardon speakers, one of which is a tiny subwoofer that adds a bit of oomph to lower frequencies. And for a bigger picture, you can output the image to a TV using the included TV- and audio-out jacks.
Our test model came with the oddball, but useful, cPad touch pad. A pointing stick is optional. The touch pad, which has a monochrome display under it, lets you tap on menus, create a calculator, and view a calendar. You can order the same unit with Microsoft Windows XP Pro for another $100; just specify that you want the Toshiba Satellite 5205-S704. System performance is decent—roughly equal to that of a year-old 2-GHz desktop. And although you wont be doing a lot of computing on airplane tray tables, knowing that battery life is more than passable—3 hours, 14 minutes on our BatteryMark rundown test—is comforting.
The Satellite comes with a handful of applications: Microsoft Works, a barebones version of Quicken, and Panasonics MotionDV Studio for video capture and editing. The comparable Sony VAIO PCG-GRX670 with DVD-R/W drive (stay tuned for an upcoming review), offers a bit more in the video editing department, though the two systems are otherwise pretty closely matched. Sonys laptop has a bigger screen, but the Satellite has the cool remote, a bigger hard drive, and better battery life. The two perform equally well. If youre in the market for a luggable notebook with enough features to justify its 8 pounds of road-hugging weight, the Toshiba Satellite 5205-S703 is about as good as it gets.