Photos: Toshiba NB520 netbook
Business users needing a compact computer for undemanding workloads and after-hours activities may well look to the netbook market. Toshiba recently sent us its NB520, which costs £233 (ex. VAT). It won't break the bank, but how capable is it?
The Toshiba NB520 has a 10.1in. screen with a resolution of 1,024 by 600 pixels and a reflective finish that many users find distracting. The glossy screen comes into its own for video playback, though, delivering a sharp and bright image with superb colour rendering.
There's no integrated optical drive, but the 250GB hard disk should accommodate a good number of applications and media files.
The NB520 has a dual-core Intel Atom N550 processor running at 1.5GHz, plus 1GB of RAM (expandable to 2GB). The operating system is Windows 7 Starter 32-bit. There's no discrete GPU here — just Intel's integrated GMA 3150, which shares up to 250MB of memory with the main system.
There are three USB 2.0 connectors, including one with Sleep and Charge. You also get 10/100Mbps Ethernet, VGA, a pair of audio jacks and an SD card reader. Wireless communications run to Bluetooth (2.1, upgradable to 3.0) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n). The webcam is a basic VGA-resolution unit.
So far, so average, but the NB520 does have some notable features. One of these is a solid build and attractive finish. Our review unit had a brown lid with a simple dimpled patterning: you can also get blue and lime-green. The lid colour follows through to the touchpad buttons and surrounds for the speakers that sit on the wrist rest, making for a rather stylish look.
The ergonomics are good too, with a well-made keyboard that we were able to use at almost full touch-typing speed. It is necessarily squeezed, and people with larger hands may find it a little cramped, but that's nothing new for a netbook. We'd be happy to use a keyboard designed to this standard in a fully fledged business notebook.
The multitouch touchpad is comfortable to use, and its buttons are as well built as the keyboard.
The aforementioned speakers are the star of the show. Toshiba talks up the fact that they are Harman/Kardon units designed to deliver high-quality sound, which indeed they do. Top volume is high for a netbook, and quality is very good. There's no distortion even at the highest volume, and we could certainly watch videos on this netbook.
The Toshiba NB520 sports a clever feature called Sleep & Music, which lets you attach an audio device and play music through the speakers even when the netbook is switched off. It's a clever idea that adds a nice second string to the netbook's audio capabilities.
Without the superb speakers, the NB520 would be just another netbook — albeit one with a stylish chassis design and a very good keyboard. With the speakers, and battery life that Toshiba quotes at up to ten hours, this netbook is an attractive proposition for the price.