‘Leading innovation’ is Toshiba’s marketing warcry for its new Toshiba NB300 and Toshiba NB305 netbooks. Unfortunately, as with every other netbook on the market, innovation is now becoming more conspicuous by its absence.
The Toshiba NB305 and NB300 replace the older Toshiba NB200. We liked the NB200 – it offered just the same specification as other netbooks of the day, but had a solid-feeling chassis, nice professional keyboard and sensibly placed large click buttons. It also offered one of the longest battery lives of netbooks at the time, at around 8.5 hours.
Both new Toshiba models are essentially the same, with the NB300 finished in gloss black and the Toshiba NB305 in textured white or brown. The casework is quite similar to the NB200, with rounded front edges a little sharper at the front, good click buttons and a generally stout build quality.
There’s the same predictable running gear as everyone else’s netbook, such as low-res 1024x600 screen, 1GB RAM, three USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot and VGA-only video output. The hard drive is now 250GB, while the screen keeps its reflective-gloss glare coating.
Wireless facilities on the Toshiba NB305 have been upgraded to 11n, although the budget Atheros AR9285 card is not a full-speed MIMO solution, so network speed will be lower than with a true 802.11n network adaptor.
One of the USB ports supports Sleep-and-Charge, to power or charge a USB device when the Toshiba NB305 sleeps.
The overall weight is almost the same at 1.3kg. You have to look inside to find the main material difference – a newer Intel Atom N450 processor with on-board graphics controller.
This is indeed fractionally faster, since the Toshiba NB305 earned 33 points in WorldBench 6, where the NB200 finished with 30 points when running the same Windows 7 Starter operating system.
The battery is almost as generous at 61Wh energy capacity, and this combined with the slightly more efficient Intel chipset helped the Toshiba NB305 along to an outstanding run time of 11.5 hours (690 mins) in the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test.
But somehow the Toshiba NB305 has lost some of the stand-out quality of its predecessor. First the keyboard picks up the trendy Scrabble tiles – but small ones that feel very toy-like in action. The top deck of the opened netbook, along with the entire underside, is plastic sprayed with silver paint. And the tubular screen hinge has fake chrome trim along its length.
Rather than trading up the looks to the sophistication of real natural metals, it actually lends a cheaper feel to the entire netbook. And in a market glutted with plasticky netbooks, that’s enough to take some of the spotlight of this quite ordinary mini laptop.
The Toshiba NB305 is an NB200 with further improved battery life and unexceptionally slow netbook-level performance. Aside from slipping in a new Atom chip and offering coloured textured finishes, Toshiba’s designers have only succeeded in making a good netbook feel cheaper by substituting tiny keyboard keys and adding a glitz paint finish.