Netbooks aren't usually regarded as multimedia machines, with their tiny speakers, compact screens and lack of power. However, Toshiba's NB520-108 aims to smash this trend by featuring designer speakers from audio experts harman/kardon, and the result is surprisingly good.

The Toshiba goes for an understated design with a bevelled dark-brown lid and black interior. We found no flex in any part of the 1.3kg chassis, which thankfully isn't susceptible to picking up dirt or scuff marks.

The chunky battery does add a bit of extra width, so this netbook is just as thick as the MSI Wind U160DX, but it still fits into bags without much trouble.

Despite an initial scepticism, we were really impressed with this netbook's speakers, which produce a powerful and clear sound. Music sounds great, although the speakers are positioned in the palmrest, so your hands cover them when typing.

No DVD drive

Combined with the bright and colourful screen, this netbook isn't a bad way of enjoying films. However, bear in mind that there is no DVD drive, as with most other netbooks, so you will need to carry all of your media on the 250GB hard drive.

Performance is simply average, with a standard Intel Atom N550 processor proving adequate for word processing, browsing the web and similar tasks. However, what sets this netbook apart is the ten-hour battery life, which will happily keep you going on even tedious long-haul flights.

Benchmarks

Battery life: 601 minutes
MobileMark 2007: 67
3DMark 2003: 675

The integrated graphics will capably run only basic multimedia applications, such as stripped-down photo-editing software. Video editing and even watching HD movies is beyond this netbook, and anyone who needs that level of graphical power should consider the Acer Aspire One 522 instead.

Usability is fairly decent, with a firm keyboard that stretches the whole width of the chassis. Our only issue is the space bar, which has to be pushed down fully in the very centre to register.

The touchpad is well sized and perfectly responsive, with two separate buttons for left and right-clicking.

Three USB ports allow you to hook up peripherals such as external mice, and one of them supports Sleep And Charge. A VGA port can be used to attach the netbook to a TV or monitor.

Tosh nb520

Wireless networking is supported via 802.11n Wi-Fi, and there's an Ethernet port for physically connecting to a network.

The NB520-108 is a great little netbook, with a truly impressive battery life and surprisingly powerful speakers. The only quirk we found was the temperamental space bar.

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