Last year, Toshiba made a late-entry into the netbook market. It was a cautious one, too: it’s only offering was the NB205. And yet, this late-comer knocked our socks off, winning our Editors’ Choice award, along with other repeated endorsements from us. So, we were excited to get hands-on with the NB305, the follow-up to this netbook, which Toshiba announced this morning.
Fortunately, Toshiba was hesitant to mess with a good thing: the design is essentially the same, except that the 6-cell battery is more flush with the chassis. Under the hood, this machine has the new Atom N450 processor. The best part is that this system promises up to 11 hours of battery life. The price hasn’t changed either: it’s still $399.
Will Toshiba’s netbook once again be the one to buy? Read on for our early thoughts, and check out our video walk-through.
Everything we loved about the original NB205 still holds true: the sturdy, metal keyboard with well-spaced keys, the large, low-friction trackpad with twin touch buttons that extend all the way to the lower edge of the palm rest, the 10.1-inch LED-backlit display, and the durable, textured lid (although it will no longer be offered in pink). The current list of colors includes blue, brown, and white.
The biggest difference is that the battery is now nearly flush with the system, meaning it’s tucked underneath and doesn’t jut out of the back. The result is that the bottom of the netbook isn’t flat; in profile, you can see that it slants. Although this seems to be mainly a by-product of making the battery flush, Toshiba also claims it makes the design more ergonomic. From our early hands-on, the change is noticeable, but doesn’t seem like it will adversely affect the user experience. We’ll have a better idea once we test it extensively in a full review. Here’s a side-by-side comparison between the NB305 (left) and the NB205 (right).
One last detail: the LED lights on the right side of the palm rest have been raised so that they’re more easily visible (previously, they were on the front side, below the lip).
The NB305 also has slightly beefier specs than its predecessor: a new Intel Atom Pinetrail CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and Windows 7 Starter Edition. It, too, has a six-cell battery., which Toshiba says lasts up to 11 hours. We can’t comment on battery life until we formally test it, of course, but given the original NB205’s impressive nine-and-a-half-hour battery life, we have great expectations. This time around, it weighs 2.6 pounds (the NB205 was 2.8 pounds).
Given that the NB305 has all but stuck to the NB205’s superlative design and has done nothing but beef up the specs, we expect we’ll love it as much, or more, than the original. Our biggest questions are: will that ergonomic slant be comfortable for long-term use? And how will it compare to other new netbooks, which likely offer the same specs (often for less money) and may (or may not) have stepped up their game when it comes to design? Stay tuned for our full review to find out.