The Toshiba NB550D netbook is one of the very first to use the new AMD Fusion ‘APU’ processors. But will this Accelerated Processor Unit bring decent performance and battery life to the notoriously ephemeral AMD processor line?
The Toshiba NB550D is a netbook unlike any of the netbooks that have come before it. It has a 10.1in glossy screen like most other netbooks on the market - but instead of running an Intel Atom processor, the Toshiba NB550D is based on the AMD Fusion APU (accelerated processing unit), which is composed of an AMD C-50 CPU (1GHz) and ATI Radeon HD 6250 graphics processor.
This APU supplies much better overall performance then a typical Intel Atom–based netbook, and it's also competitive (and in some cases faster) than netbooks based on Intel's dual-core Atom CPU.
The Toshiba NB550D looks great and feels good to use, despite having speakers located on its palm rest. These speakers are from Harmon Kardon and they are much better than what can usually be found on netbooks. Put it this way: you can actually use them to listen to music and watch films.
We like the overall build quality of the Toshiba NB550D; it feels sturdy on all sides and its screen is held by strong hinges. The texture of the palm rest (the parts that aren't occupied by the speakers) and the lid feels almost rubber-like, which is good, and the overall design of the netbook is stylish — although the speakers on the palm rest do look ugly.
Despite being only a 10.1in netbook, the Toshiba NB550D is actually a little bigger than a typical netbook, thanks to a deep palm rest and a wider-than-usual bezel around the screen. It has a good size keyboard that is very comfortable to hit; its touchpad is also fairly large (80x40mm), but it has a texture that can sometimes get on your nerves.
Around the edges of the Toshiba NB550D netbook, you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, a 100Mb/s ethernet port, headphone and microphone jacks and an HDMI port.
It's the HDMI port that sets this netbook apart from others — digital video outputs are rarely found on Intel netbooks. This port should make it easier to plug a netbook into a big-screen TV and stream video off the web or watch videos.
When watching standard-definition video from the Toshiba NB550D on a 40in Sharp LCD TV there was some slight tearing noticeable in the video, but it wasn't a regular occurrence. Video playback was smooth on the netbook's own screen.
By default, the video from the netbook is overscanned on the TV, and there is no scaling feature available in the AMD Catalyst Control Centre software to fit the screen exactly to the TV, which means the Taskbar is hidden from view.
As for performance, the test results we obtained are positive and they show that this Toshiba NB550D netbook is indeed faster than most, even though it only runs at 1GHz and has 1GB of RAM.
Compared to the fastest netbook we've seen to date, the Acer Aspire One Happy, the Toshiba NB550D puts on a great show.
It recorded times of 4min 25sec and 4min 54sec in the Blender 3D and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, with the iTunes time being especially fast for a netbook. What this suggests is that the Toshiba NB550D is indeed well suited to performing media tasks, more so than other netbooks on the market.
However, you still won't want to use it for encoding media files, as it will still be too slow for most tasks.
The Toshiba NB550D's hard drive transfer speed was a little slower than expected at 20 megabytes per second, but its 3DMark06 score of 1882 is better than we expected to see out of a netbook. It doesn't mean that you can use the netbook for gaming, but it gives it a little more oomph when it comes to processing videos and photos on the screen.
A battery life of 3hr 13min was achieved by the Toshiba NB550D's 6-cell battery, which isn't a great result when compared to many recent netbooks we've seen, such as the Aspire One Happy and the HP Mini 5103. But you might be able to get more out of it when you enable Eco mode or a custom power profile and a low screen brightness.
The screen itself is quite glossy, and reflections get annoying, but it's bright enough so that you can use the netbook outdoors.
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