Enthusiasm for netbooks may be waning with the rise of the tablet PC, but Toshiba has proved there's life in the old dog yet with the release of the NB550D – a smartly designed and eminently portable mini-laptop.
For a machine so clearly geared towards portable use, all-day battery life is essential and the Toshiba delivers in spades. Running for 10 hours during constant, demanding use, you can easily work for a full day away from the mains.
With its textured, rubberised lid and choice of blue or brown colour schemes, the tiny 1.2kg chassis looks great. The black plastic interior creates a stylish and striking contrast and the whole machine feels exceptionally well built.
This quality extends to the user interface, with the keyboard proving well made and great to use. The keys respond firmly and accurately and make it a pleasure to work with. Even the touchpad manages to impress, with its large dimensions providing easy accessibility.
While the screen's 10.1-inch design is found on most netbooks and is a bit too small to use as your main machine, it's stunningly bright and vibrant. Photos and videos are shown to great effect and the NB550D is perfect for keeping you entertained when on the move.
Audio performance is also excellent. Stereo speakers are built into the palm rest and deliver a powerful, warm and defined sound. Their location means your hands cover them when typing, but there's no discernible effect on sound quality.
Office performance is less pleasing, but standard netbook fare. Internet browsing and office tasks run smoothly enough.
Graphics are far better, however, with AMD's Fusion technology providing ample performance for watching HD videos and even editing your photos on the move.
Battery life: 600 minutes
MobileMark 2007: 67
3DMark 2003: N/A
Storage is strong and the 250GB hard drive will easily hold large collections of music, videos and photos. As with all but a select few netbooks, there's no optical drive for CD or DVD use, but an SD card reader at the front of the chassis lets you easily share files with your camera.
Finally, extra features are excellent. Bluetooth 3.0 provides high-speed, shortrange wireless connectivity, an HDMI port lets you connect to your high-definition TV and free software includes tools for office use, internet security, video editing and data backup, among others.
The NB550D is by far the best mini-laptop we've seen in a long time and Toshiba has proved that the netbook can still be great when done right. Offering great usability, ample features and all-day mobility at a low price, this stylish machine is very easy to recommend.
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