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Price Is Right for Toshiba’s Bare-Bones Netbook


How do you create what might be the world’s cheapest computer? Easy: You strip it to the absolute bare minimum.

Toshiba’s NB505 netbook isn’t quite as skeletal as that, but it’s awfully close. And at all of $288, asking for much more would probably be a bit greedy.

The specs don’t merit a whole lot of notice: A 1.66-GHz Atom CPU and a paltry 1 GB of RAM ensure performance scrapes rock bottom. Though it couldn’t actually run most of our benchmarks, those that the NB505 did complete were near-record-breaking … on the bottom end, that is. A 250-GB hard drive is more than plenty, and the three USB ports plus SD card slot cover the connectivity basics. The 10.1-inch LCD is about average in both brightness and resolution (1024 x 600 pixels), and at just 2.7 pounds, the laptop’s heft is in line with other machines in its class.

While price is the clear — and appropriate — focus with this portable, Toshiba makes some oddball choices that don’t really make a lot of sense.

Why saddle this underpowered netbook with special, always-on software that basically makes funny frames for your webcam video when you’re talking on Skype? Why would anyone want their machine hijacked by the “Toshiba Bulletin Board,” with its special notes and enigmatic “deals and offers?” Is this an attempt to drive the price of the computer down to zero? (If so, sign me up.)

The machine’s design is a bit of a mess, from the difficult, super-flat keyboard to the distracting glossy frame around the screen. Also, I’m mostly on the fence about the material used to create the back of the lid. It’s sort of rubbery plastic studded with pock marks. It comes in several different colors, but the one I tested was brownish-gold, making it look a bit like high-tech snakeskin, only much less cool than that sounds.

All of this may come off like there are a lot of negatives about the NB505, and there are, but remember: It’s less than 300 bucks. If you don’t like it, park it in the kitchen and use it for recipes. Keep it in your sock drawer in case of emergency. Or, give it to an orphan and write it off on your taxes. If the bottom line really is the bottom line, the NB505 is ultimately a surprisingly good netbook choice.

WIRED Touchpad is more spacious than pads on many much larger laptops. Dirt cheap. Battery life approaches 5 1/2 hours.

TIRED Incredibly slow; would happily have paid the extra $12 for another gig of RAM. Ultra-flat keyboard makes touch-typing massively error-ridden. We had forgotten that Windows 7 Starter Edition actually existed. Pretty darn ugly.

Photo by Jim Merithew/Wired.com

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