Toshiba NB520 – Toshiba’s “Other” Computer

Today on the chopping block is one of Toshiba’s entries into the netbook market. While not as popular as some of their other models, the NB520 still packs a punch that has been widely well reviewed for both its price point and specifications. While I haven’t actually used the NB520 myself, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching the computer and have found both the best and worst features of it to present to you.

Hopefully by the end of the rundown, you’ll have a better understanding of what makes this netbook tick and why it may or may not be a good choice for your next computer purchase. So, with that let’s jump in to all of the good stuff.

Overview

Toshiba has had kind of a rocky career in the computer world. About a decade ago they started receiving a lot of flack for the laptops and desktop computers they were producing. Many times they ran into issues with their parts and manufacturing quality that led to a lot of returns and complaints by consumers. Luckily, Toshiba has turned that reputation around within the past 2 or 3 years and has started producing higher quality machines that are built to last rather than just sit on a dusty desk in the corner of an office.

The NB520 is one of the older netbook models Toshiba makes but isn’t necessarily poorer in quality. The specs inside may make some newer computer users cringe as they’re not the fastest and sleekest around, but for a casual business user or someone looking to simply browse the web in style and comfort, I think it’s a great machine. And as I’ve said in previous reviews about older netbooks, the price point may be what gets you to buy one. Because they’re not loaded with the latest processors and gadgets of the day, they’re able to be priced cheaper than some of the newer models. And for those that don’t need a super computer in their backpack or purse during the day, an older netbook for a fraction of the cost may be the way to go.

Features

We’re not surprised to see the N280 1.66GHz Intel Atom processor inside of this. Nor are we surprised to find out that it only has 1GB of DDR2 RAM. Before even turning the computer on, we recommend sticking an extra gigabyte of RAM into this Toshiba to really make its performance pop. The hard drive isn’t huge (160GB), but with impact sensors, it can detect when it’s in free fall and can protect your data by moving the read/write sensors away from the platter so that your data is safe if your computer crashes into the ground.

The NB520 is one of the few computers still coming standard with Windows XP. In my personal opinion, Windows XP is the best operating system for a netbook because of its lightweight functionality and lack of a need for 2GB of memory to run smoothly. I still recommend upgrading the RAM, but out of the box Windows XP doesn’t lag like the Windows 7 Starter operating system being installed on netbooks these days.

The 6 cell battery lasts up to 9 hours for on the go working, which is substantially longer than other netbooks in its class. 9 hours is one hell of a long time to be able to work in the field, so it’s no surprise that the battery has gotten such high marks from customers already. And if you’re environmentally conscious, the NB520 is Energy Star 5.0 certified, which makes it a great choice for saving electricity and helping the planet go green.

One minor complaint that I have (and it’s easily fixable with external speakers) is the mono speaker included with this netbook. I know that it really isn’t a big deal, but it isn’t that tough to install a stereo speaker at the factory so I can enjoy panning and stereo effects in songs and movies. It seems like a cheap way to cut corners and keep the price down, as I’d have gladly paid an extra $5 to have stereo sound. But as I said before, an external pair of speakers will give you the same effect and will also provide you with a much clearer sound.

Finally….the keyboard. Toshiba outdid themselves by crafting a full sized keyboard for this netbook, which makes the transition from a desktop or laptop keyboard that much easier. Early netbooks were met with complaints of cramped keyboard working surfaces and how unusable they were. Toshiba avoided that reputation killer by giving users a full sized keyboard to use and enjoy without having to sacrifice any keys or put keys in odd places. The chiclet keys are also very comfortable to use and you’ll find your fingers just flying across them as you type.

  • Intel Atom N280 1.66GHz Processor
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160 GB Hard Drive
  • Windows XP Home, 5800 mAh 6-Cell Battery
  • 10.1″ Display

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really like the NB520. The hard drive is a bit small for my media collection, but then again I wouldn’t be using a device like this to watch my movies and listen to all of my music. Netbooks aren’t meant to be a replacement for a desktop or laptop computer, but should instead be thought of as an additional computer to use for basic work and web browsing.

The keyboard is fantastic and for that feature alone, I’d say to get this computer. Full sized keyboards are becoming a thing of the past, so not having to cramp your fingers on an already smaller machine is a godsend.

To really make this computer sing, you’ll have to install an extra gigabyte of RAM. The default 1GB is fine for Windows XP and basic tasks, but if you ever want to do more intensive things with your netbook, the extra RAM will help you quite a bit. RAM is only $15 or $20, and considering the low price you’ll probably pay for one of these NB520’s, you can have an awesome PC without taking a huge hit to your pocketbook.

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