Toshiba A505D-S6987: A Look at Turion II Ultra M600 Performance

Our review of the Toshiba A505D-S6987 brings us to an interesting crossroads. In recent years Toshiba has made a habit of producing fairly well-rounded and inexpensive notebooks—good values overall. The A505D we have on hand adds an AMD Turion II Ultra to the equation, specifically the M600 that exists near the top of AMD's mobile line (or did until the Phenom II refresh that's starting to show up in the marketplace was announced). Ultimately, Toshiba means to bring a strong value-oriented mainstream notebook to market. Can it compete?

Toshiba A505D-S6987 Specifications
Processor AMD Turion II Ultra M600
(2x2.4GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880M Northbridge, AMD SB750 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-800 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200
(40 Stream Processors, 500MHz Core, Integrated)
Display 16" LED Glossy 16:9 720p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba 500GB 5400 RPM Hard Disk
Optical Drive Slot-loading DVD+/-RW Combo Drive with LabelFlash
Networking 10/100 Ethernet
Realtek 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
V.92 56K Modem
Audio HD Audio
Harmon Kardon stereo speakers
Headphone (shared with optical) and mic jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 12V, 44Wh battery
Front Side Wireless Switch
MMC/SD/MS Reader
Left Side USB 2.0
Exhaust vent
Ethernet jack
ExpressCard/54 slot
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port
Mic, headphones
Right Side Optical drive
2x USB 2.0
Modem jack
AC jack
Kensington lock
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.1" x 10.2" x 1.44-1.61" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.48 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
104-key LED backlit keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $654 Online [Note: Currently out of stock at most places.]

The AMD Turion II Ultra M600 humming at the core of the A505D-S6987 is a K10.5-based processor, a mobile derivative of the desktop Athlon II line. It runs at a 2.4 GHz clock speed and has a combined total of 2MB of L2 cache—1MB per core. The Turion II should perform more than adequately; AMD's refined K10.5 architecture is typically able to produce performance clock-for-clock equivalent with Intel's first generation Conroe-based Core 2 Duo architecture, slightly behind the second generation Penryns. It's not going to run with the Core i3/i5 processors, but it should get the job done for most users and offer a fine value proposition.

Attached to the Turion II's integrated memory controller is 4GB of DDR2-800 RAM. Consider this unit one of DDR2's last hurrahs; even Intel's Atom processors use DDR3 now, and AMD's most recent Danube/Nile refresh brings DDR3 support to the table as well. DDR2 and DDR3 have already reached price parity, and DDR3 is even starting to show up at slightly lower prices. Toshiba also packs a 500GB, 5400 RPM hard drive into the A505D—naturally, a Toshiba drive. The unit is rounded out by a Realtek wireless-n adapter and, as a nice value-add, a slot-loading DVD writer.

The last thing Toshiba brings to the table is one of the benefits of using an AMD CPU—AMD's Mobility Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics processor. While the Intel HD graphics embedded in Intel's dual-core i-Series Core processors has made great strides in bringing performance parity with AMD and NVIDIA (excepting NVIDIA's staggering GeForce 320M IGP in Apple's hardware), overall driver quality, stability, and performance is still largely in AMD's favor.

Note that like the Acer 5542 we looked at recently, the A505D is a slightly older design and it is nearing EOL. However, there are plenty of laptops sporting the now outdated M-series AMD processors, and we expect to see a lot of these laptops on sale in the coming months. The original $800 MSRP is far too much, and even $650 is more than most would be willing to pay, but forgetting price for a minute it's still useful to see what the M600 laptops have to offer. What's more, we just received the new Toshiba A665 for testing (literally—the FedEx guy came by 15 minutes ago!), and it updates the A505D in some interesting ways, so think of this review as a springboard into the A665 next week.

Toshiba A505D-S6987 in Greater Detail
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  • veri745 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    I'm REALLY looking forward to review of the Danube and Nile platforms, but these Tigris notebooks are just not interesting. horrid battery life in a 15.6+" form factor...blech.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    I agree, but it does help set the stage for the next review, plus there are lots of Tigris laptops floating around. They perform well enough and often can be had for a song, provided you're not after long battery life in an ultraportable chassis.

    Anyway, the Toshiba A665-S6059 just arrived this evening, and I unpacked it a couple hours back. It's radically different in looks from the A505D, and it throws in a lot of other extras. Quad-core P920, HD 4200 + HD 5650, textured lid/palm rest, and a thinner chassis to boot. Granted, it costs $875, but it looks like it idles at around 13-14W. That's still only good for 3.5 hours of battery life, but blame it on the paltry 48Wh battery. We'll have the review ready for next Friday is the plan....
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Oh, I see, Jarred. Keeping all the fun ones to yourself? ;)
  • pmonti80 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    What I would love is laptops with AMD's new CULV equivalent. Don't remember the name though.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    That's the Nile platform, which is the lower wattage version of Danube. We're working to get one of those for testing as well. An no worries, Dustin... we'll get you some other stuff. ;-)
  • Roland00 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Here are the specific models of the new Nile Platform

    The Nile platform (2010) are 9W, 12W, 15W processors with DDR3 support. All these processors are Champlain processors with the new memory controller.
    9W, AMD V105, Single Core*1.2 Ghz, 512 kb L2 cache total
    12W, AMD K125, Single Core*1.7 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache total
    12W, AMD K325, Dual Core*1.3 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    15W, AMD K625, Dual Core*1.5 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total
    15W, AMD K665, Dual Core*1.7 Ghz, 1 mb L2 cache per core, 2mb total

    The Danube platform (2010) are 25W, 35W, 45W processors with DDR3 support
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Ooooh. Quad core + HD 5650 for $850 sounds like fun. It doesn't look all that great though (and the screen is pretty sadly low res - 1366x768 is not okay on a 16" display) and Toshiba is quoting 2.5 hours of battery life. That's not a good sign right off the bat. I'm scared for the results battery life tests, though it doesn't sound like they should take very long ;)

    Should be interesting to see how AMD's "more cores for less money" strategy works in the mobile space. Just gonna place a bet that it won't work as well as the desktop chips for two reasons: power consumption and heat. Will wait for benchmarks though, it should have a lot of fun with the encoding benches.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Initial idle battery life testing is under way, and it's looking like 3.5 hours is going to be about right. Obviously, Internet and x264 will put a much bigger load on the system. 2.5 hours seems about what you'd get if the HD 5650 stayed active.

    Quirky system, though: I haven't found a way to disable the dGPU other than unplugging the laptop. I mean, sure, if you're plugged in having the GPU enabled is reasonable, but I do wish there were a way to manually engage/disable it. Also, the lack of AMD driver updates is disheartening... and there's not even an ATI CCC with the current drivers, so I'm not sure what version of the drivers it's running.

    $850 is a tough sell given the competition, but at least it looks like battery life won't be bad. The 1.6GHz clock speed may prove a bigger issue for some, but for heavily threaded workloads the quad-core CPU should come close to (or surpass even) some of the i3/i5 processors.
  • HHCosmin - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    hello. i'm the proud owner of an acer timeline 3820TG featuring an i5 540m and a switchable (manually) 5470 which i do not really need... but that is a different story. i read some reviews and they were complaining that you cannot turn off the discrete card when plugged in. that is not true and it's also not so obvious.
    goes like this: when you plugin the lappie the discrete ati gpu goes active. then you can go to the ati control center (or something) and there it says that the discrete ati gpu is active. you also have two buttons: one is to enable the "power saving gpu" and one is for the... err power hungry and hot gpu. :) you have to press the button that sys about enabling the power saving gpu and wait. it takes a bit of time to make the switch and the desktop may go dark.. etc but after a while it will say that the integrated gpu is active. all this is on a special page... and you just have to find it. good luck!
  • fabarati - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Does it have AMD's Turbo-whatever? If it does, does it work well?

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