Netbooks haven’t moved on much recently. Their place has in part been usurped by the iPad 2 and Android tablets, while their general specifications have languished in a sort of limbo as other laptop computers get faster, and feature an array of increasingly sophisticated features. Manufacturers peddling netbooks now have to work much harder to differentiate their products and prove they represent value for money.
Toshiba’s take on that with NB520 involves giving the netbook some great looks, a superb keyboard and impressive sound capabilities. Let’s start with the looks.
Keeping up appearances
Toshiba has given the NB520 a coloured lid with a dimpled finish. Brown, blue and green variants are available, and our brown sample looked really attractive. The colouring is replicated in the two mouse buttons and in the surrounds to a pair of speakers that sit in the wrist rest area. It’s a smart and clean look, and not too flashy.
The keyboard is really stunning. Necessarily small, it’s really well made and comfortable to use. We’ve got small hands, but we were touch-typing at nearly our full speed on it. Seriously, we’ve used a lot worse keyboards on business notebooks costing several times the price of the Toshiba NB520.
But it is the speakers that make the Toshiba NB520 stand out. The Harman/Kardon units deliver superb quality sound that loses none of its punch even at a top volume – and top volume is louder than we are used to from a netbook. There’s even a feature called Sleep & Music, which lets you connect an audio device such as an iPod and then play music through the speakers even when the NB520 is switched off.
Movie watching benefits from those speakers too – and from a superb screen whose reflective coating comes into its own for video. It was, though, annoyingly mirror-like when we were working with a light behind us. The screen measures a netbook-standard 10.1in, and delivers 1024×600 pixels.
And here we hit the bog standard part of this review. The overall specification of the NB520 is dull and unsurprising. The Toshiba NB520 is powered by a standard Intel Atom N550 processor running at 1.5GHz. There’s 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. The operating system is Windows 7 Starter 32-bit.
Like all netbooks, the Toshiba has no optical drive built in. Ports and connectors are predictable: there are three USB 2 connectors, one of which offers sleep and charge. Ethernet, VGA and audio connectors are also present, and there is an SD card reader. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are on board, and there is a VGA webcam.
- Nice styling, stunnign speakers and a superb keyboard.
- A humdrum spec... not bad, just boring.
The Toshiba NB520 is a standard netbook on the inside, except for a superb pair of speakers. On the outside a lovely keyboard makes for good user ergonomics and the colour scheme simply looks attractive. In a sea full of similar products, Toshiba has found good ways to make the NB520 stand out.