Toshiba NB550D netbook
Toshiba NB550 netbook review: AMD Fusion-powered netbook with HDMI port
- HDMI port, good performance for a netbook, good speakers, good build quality and looks
- Battery life not great, video playback was a little choppy on a Full HD television, touchpad texture was a little too rough, very reflective screen
The Toshiba NB550D netbook uses the AMD Fusion platform to supply good overall performance and better-than-usual multimedia features for a netbook. Its HDMI port allows users to connect it directly to a big-screen TV and its Harmon Kardon speakers produce the best sound we've heard from a netbook to date. We like this netbook a lot, but we wish it had better battery life, a less glossy screen and a slightly smoother touchpad.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
The Toshiba NB550D is a netbook unlike many of the netbooks that have come before it. It has a 10.1in glossy screen like most other netbooks on the market, but instead of running an Intel Atom CPU, the NB550D is based on the AMD Fusion APU (accelerated processing unit), which is composed of an AMD C-50 CPU (1GHz) and ATI Radeon HD 6250 graphics. This APU supplies much better overall performance then a typical Intel Atom–based netbook, and it's also competitive (and in some cases faster) than netbooks based on Intel's dual-core Atom CPU.
See how the Toshiba NB550D compared to the AMD-based Dell M101z.
See how the Toshiba NB550D compares to the previous Toshiba NB300 netbook.
The NB550D looks great and feels good to use, despite having speakers located on its palm rest. These speakers are from Harmon Kardon and they are much better than what can usually be found on netbooks. Put it this way: you can actually use them to listen to music and watch movies. We like the overall build quality of the NB550D; it feels sturdy on all sides and its screen is held by strong hinges. The texture of the palm rest (the parts that aren't occupied by the speakers) and the lid feels almost rubber-like, which is good, and the overall design of the netbook is stylish — although the speakers on the palm rest do look ugly. (We'll stop talking about the speakers now, we promise.)
Despite being only a 10.1in netbook, the NB550D is actually a little bigger than a typical netbook, thanks to a deep palm rest and a wider-than-usual bezel around the screen. It has a good size keyboard that is very comfortable to hit; its touchpad is also fairly big (80x40mm), but it has a texture that can sometimes get on your nerves. Around the edges of the netbook, you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port, headphone and microphone jacks and an HDMI port.
It's the HDMI port that sets this netbook apart from others — never has it been easier to plug in your netbook to your big-screen TV and stream video off the Web or watch videos that you've already downloaded. When watching standard-definition content from the NB550D netbook on a 40in Sharp LCD TV there was some slight tearing noticeable in the video, but it wasn't a regular occurrence. Video playback was smooth on the netbook's own screen. By default, the video from the netbook is overscanned on the TV, and there is no scaling feature available in the AMD Catalyst Control Centre software to fit the screen exactly to the TV, which means the Taskbar is hidden from view.
As for performance, the test results we obtained are positive and they show that this netbook is indeed faster than most, even though it only runs at 1GHz and has 1GB of RAM. Compared to the fastest netbook we've seen to date, the Acer Aspire One Happy, the NB550D puts on a great show. It recorded times of 4min 25sec and 4min 54sec in the Blender 3D and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, with the iTunes time being especially fast for a netbook. What this shows is that the NB550D is indeed well suited to performing media tasks, more so than other netbooks on the market. However, you still won't want to use it for encoding media files, as it will still be too slow for most tasks.
The NB550D's hard drive transfer speed was a little slower than expected at 20.19 megabytes per second, but its 3DMark06 score of 1882 is better than we expected to see out of a netbook. It doesn't mean that you can use the netbook for gaming, but it gives it a little more oomph when it comes to processing videos and photos on the screen.
A battery life of 3hr 13min was achieved by the NB550D's 6-cell battery, which isn't a great result when compared to many recent netbooks we've seen, such as the Aspire One Happy and the HP Mini 5103, but you should be able to get more out of it when you enable Eco mode or a custom power profile and a low screen brightness. The screen itself is quite glossy, and reflections can get annoying, but it's bright enough so that you can use the netbook outdoors.
Overall, the NB550D feels sturdy, looks good, it's light and it has good speed for a netbook. The fact that it has an HDMI port should make it appeal to users who want something small that they can plug into their TVs to watch streaming videos or downloads. We just wish it had better battery life, as its performance in our battery test just doesn't stack up well against recent competitors.
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