From cell phones to slate PCs like the Apple iPad, and even all-in-one PCs, touch is all the rage. There’s no denying the intuitive nature of simply tapping a finger on what you want, but can you make any device better simply by slapping a touch screen on it? Toshiba’s U505 S2010 suggests not. The notebook’s fuzzy-looking touch screen – which doesn’t swivel or lie flat like a convertible notebook – provides minimal convenience while significantly degrading screen quality, marring an otherwise well-equipped notebook.
Strip away the touch screen that defines this particular U505-series model, and you have a midrange 13.3-inch machine stacked with a just enough power to separate it from entry-level notebooks whose prime selling point is that they aren’t netbooks. A capable 2.26GHz Intel Core i5 processor drives the machine, joined by 4GB of RAM, and Intel’s rather vanilla GMA HD graphics processor. Toshiba sets its 500GB hard drive apart with motion-sensing drop protection, a feature most commonly found on business notebooks, and spices up its keyboard with LED backlighting. More pedestrian extras include a slot-loading optical drive, decent webcam and a 13.3-inch screen offering up a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution.
Out of the box, Toshiba’s U505 carries quite a bit more bulk and weight than your average 13-inch notebook. At 1.5 inches thick in the rear (it has a forward-sloping profile) the 4.74-pound U505 snubs the thin-and-light fad that the rest of this size class seems to be going through for a feel that’s downright chunky. Even the MacBook Pro, which we typically consider at the bulky end of the 13.3-inchers, weighs less than the U505 at 4.5 pounds, and measures a whole half inch thinner. (The beefier ordinary MacBook matches it at 4.7 pounds, but still claims a significant size advantage.)
As a side effect to its portliness, the U505 actually feels extremely solid. The plastic trim has little give to it, and feels substantially backed and reinforced compared to some of the flimsy plastic notebooks we’ve seen in the past. If you’re a fan of durability over portability, the U505’s bulk-for-quality trade off might not actually sound like a bad proposition.
Unlike many of Toshiba’s prior, glassy-smooth laptops, the U505 adopts a matte textured finish in one of three shades: Luxe Brown, Luxe Red, and Sweet Pink. The fancy names are a bit much, but as a matter of practicality, this finely imprinted pattern works wonders for reducing fingerprints, mars, scuffs and other side effects of regular handling, and looks pretty clean, too. A line of bright chrome highlights runs around the edges of both the lid and base, but unfortunately, it also spills over onto the left and right trackpad buttons, leaving a mirror finish on one of the most-handled parts of this notebook, which turns into a greasy patchwork of fingerprints in no time.
Although it falls into the compact 13.3-inch size category, the U505 offers no shortage of ports, including both VGA and HDMI video output, a combined eSATA and USB port, two more dedicated USB ports (one on each side), a memory-card reader up front, and of course, an Ethernet jack. Perhaps most impressively for this size, you’ll also get a slot-loading optical drive – a luxury that often gets hacked off in the name of size and money in more compact 13.3-inchers.