WHAT'S HOT: The new Toshiba Satellite 5005-S504 gives hard-core multimedia and gadget enthusiasts several reasons to salivate: It has out-of-this-world sound, flash-media card slots, three USB ports, and a case that (when closed) looks like the polished hood of a sports car.
The Satellite 5005-S504 makes beautiful music thanks to a small set of Harman/Kardon stereo speakers backed by a subwoofer on the bottom of the notebook. The speakers--which jut from the back corners of the keyboard--and the audio controls on the front of the notebook remain exposed when you close the lid. A dedicated power button allows you to kick back and enjoy a CD whether the notebook is on or shut down. The volume wheel, located beneath the fixed DVD-ROM and CD-RW combination drive on the right, can turn the speakers up as high as they will go--which is very loud--and the Satellite 5005-S504 does not distort or fuzz the sound, as most notebooks do.
The Satellite's striking looks feature a marine-blue, hard-plastic lid; a contrasting blue lower casing; and a silver-and-black audio panel studded with five brightly colored status lights and a small LCD that displays the time, the day of the week, and the remaining battery life. In addition to a TV-out port for watching DVD movies on a big screen and an IEEE 1394 port for fast digital data downloads, you get Secure Digital and SmartMedia slots for popping photos, music, and other data into your notebook via the small media cards used in many digital cameras and PDAs. Of course, these slots don't help if your devices use other types of media, such as CompactFlash or Memory Stick.
Another part of the Satellite 5005-S504's appeal is the way it scatters connections all over the case in unconventional pairings, each under its own protective cover. For instance, the monitor connection and one of the USB ports sit under a door on the left side, while the IEEE 1394 port shares a cover on the back with the modem and network jacks. Only the headphones jack, far back on the right side, is inconveniently located.
WHAT'S NOT: The Satellite 5005-S504 includes only one fixed internal drive. Unfortunately, because the notebook lacks a modular bay, you can't add a second battery, and the floppy drive is an external USB device. The notebook lacks parallel, serial, and PS/2 connections. Altogether, including the AC adapter, the Satellite 5005-S504 is heavier than most notebooks, at 8.7 pounds. The 1.7-hour battery life is disappointing too.
WHAT ELSE: The Satellite's case is somewhat thicker at the hinges than at the front, which gives the keyboard a slight tilt. The keyboard is large and nicely designed. What's more, you can use the included Fn-ness utility to turn almost any key on the notebook into a function-key shortcut for launching your favorite Web site, application, or file. Counting the two dedicated buttons above the keyboard, the total number of possible shortcuts comes to 34.
The battery sticks a little before popping out of the notebook, but the hard drive and memory are easy to upgrade. Toshiba's documentation is mostly electronic, but it's easy to use and seems complete.
The Satellite 5005-S504 uses a 1.1-GHz Pentium III desktop processor, but we didn't have any problems with overheating, as the notebook has several fan vents around the edge of the case. (The main downsides of using a desktop chip: It uses up the battery faster than a mobile chip does, and it lacks SpeedStep, which can save battery life. However, our tests have shown that SpeedStep technology provides only a minor benefit.) Helped by 512MB of RAM, the Satellite 5005-S504 performed strongly and earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 95, a hair better than the score of Gateway's Solo 5350, which had a 1-GHz/733-MHz PIII-M CPU and 256MB of RAM.
UPSHOT: The Satellite 5005-S504 comes with almost everything devoted digerati could wish for. But with its short battery life and clunky size, it's not perfectly suited for toting from place to place. By Carla Thornton