- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

Here’s a helpful mantra for you when you’re contemplating the Toshiba Satellite T115-S1105 portable computer: $479. $479. $479.

Repeat these numbers as many times as needed until they sink in.

You see, they represent not only the current price at Amazon.com, Buy.com and a few other retailers, about $20 off the list price, but also a very good value for your money: an 11.6-inch, LED-backlit screen; 250 gigabyte hard disk drive; 2 GBs of RAM; a 1.3 GHz Intel Pentium processor; and Windows Home Premium 7.

Other small portable netbooks are available, mostly offering a tad more here and there for the same or slightly less money, but the fact that this is a Toshiba still counts for something.

One of the longtime, well-established notebook makers, Toshiba seems to have kept its quality quite high, and even in a reasonably priced portable, that’s important.

Moreover, the screen is a hair larger than that of your average netbook; the extra 1.0 or 1.6 inches (depending upon what you’re comparing it with) is, frankly, a plus. The notebook should still be small enough to fit on an airplane tray table, in coach, but also should enable you to work in some comfort. Also, you’ll have a better movie-viewing experience than on a fold-out seat-back screen.

Of course, how you get the movie onto the computer might be a challenge: The netbook doesn’t have a built-in optical drive, so using a service such as Amazon.com’s online rentals (and its Unbox video software) would seem a necessity. Then again, many Amazon rentals are in the $4-and-less range, so it seems like a good deal. If you’re hitting the road for a week or so, you should be able to pack a flick or three without too much hassle.

I mentioned the LED backlighting on the display screen. That’s one of the reasons why I think this is a good value. You’ll get a good picture, and those rented movies or your next PowerPoint creation will look sharp and clear. The HD display will be just 720p instead of the much-touted Full HD at 1080p, but, hey, for something you take traveling, it should be quite delightful.

This is the first notebook I’ve tested with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 7 pre-installed, and that was a bit of a plus. The Windows 7 isn’t perfect, but it’s a darned sight better than Windows Vista, and that’s a plus, too. Even though the operating system is labeled as Windows 7 Home Premium, its features should be sufficient for most small-business (and even enterprise computing) users.

The keyboard has a solid feel to it, and while the computer is smaller than more conventional laptops, I was able to type on it without hassle. The track pad is well-designed and works nicely; it doesn’t mimic those on Apple portables in terms of “swipe” gestures, but it’s certainly a good way to “mouse” around the screen.

Sound might be an issue for some users. The built-in speakers are advertised by Toshiba as being “standard stereo speakers,” while other models have more advanced sound output. However, there’s a built-in stereo headphone jack, which will be handy when you’re watching that rented Megan Fox flick on the way to Los Angeles.

The computer’s weight is about 3.5 pounds, making it a sprightly traveling companion. Battery life is rated at 9 hours, which certainly puts it at the higher end of the spectrum. (Watching the aforementioned Miss Fox in HD might reduce said battery life, however.) I’d rather see a bit more RAM come standard, but upgrades are available. There’s an HDMI-out jack, which means this can connect easily to many of the latest LCD monitors; there are also three USB ports, including one that will charge your iPhone while the computer itself is in “sleep” mode.

Overall, this represents a good value. There are cheaper netbooks, and there are more expensive notebooks, but there’s (still) only one Toshiba, and this price is a nice one, in my opinion.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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