Toshiba A660D-ST2G01 Inside and Out

Toshiba's A505D that we reviewed in Junewas something of an eyesore, and thankfully the A660D does a lot to remedy the situation. There's still a glossy LCD, naturally, but the main chassis is now a textured (but still glossy) plastic. The texture goes a long way towards making the design more palatable. The keyboard has also been modified with chiclet-style keys, though they still have a slick glossy surface. The design is dubbed "Fusion X2" by Toshiba, and it definitely improves on the original Fusion, but there's still a lot of items that will be a matter of personal taste. Having used the laptop for the past month, I can say that after the initial reaction of "Gah! Glossy plastic keys!?" I have grown accustomed to the A660D. It's not my favorite laptop keyboard, but it works. Still present are the Harmon Kardon speakers, which offer good sound quality for a laptop. The keyboard also has LED backlighting, and eSATA and ExpressCard/34 expansion options are present.

While we had issues with the glossy plastic keys, the keyboard layout remains very good. There's a full size numeric keypad on the right, with the proper arrangement of keys. Dedicated Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys are above the 10-key, and there are a smattering of multimedia a quick access keys along the top. As Dustin mentioned in the Studio 17 review, a vertical column of Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys between the keyboard and 10-key would be preferable in our view, but it's not a huge issue. One interesting feature is a software utility that pops up whenever you press the Fn key that gives you a quick list of all the Fn shortcuts as well as access to a Toshiba configuration utility. It can be a bit in-your-face, but for less computer savvy users it might be helpful.

Unfortunately, the keyboard and chassis as a whole show some flex, giving the notebook a slightly cheap feel. This seems like a compromise in the quest for lighter weight, and we would be happier with a few extra ounces to give the chassis better rigidity. A better LCD—and a higher resolution panel—would also be welcome extras at the $950 price point.

We thought the touchpad on the A505D was decent, and again this is an area where the A660D ups the ante. The mousing surface is larger, the two dedicated buttons are slightly smaller, and the textured surface feels nice to the touch. Multitouch functionality works well, with the standard scroll/flip features available. We're still missing the four-finger gestures found on Apple MacBooks, and it would be interesting to see an OEM try to get an equivalent of Exposé on Windows, but the Toshiba A660D touchpad is as good as any of the other Windows laptops we've tested. A button above the touchpad allows you to enable/disable the device, for times when you're doing a lot of typing and errant touches get in the way.

The ports are the same as the A505D, with three dedicated USB 2.0 ports, a shared eSATA/USB 2.0 port, VGA and HDMI, and the other items like headphone and microphone jacks. The only real change in this area is that the ExpressCard slot is now /34 instead of /54, though it appears most ExpressCard devices are opting for the narrower form factor so this shouldn't matter much. The heat exhaust is on the preferred left hand side, out of the way of right-handed mouse users. A few other changes relative to the A505D are the use of a standard DVDRW in place of the slot load drive, and the lack of a physical WiFi switch. Some will miss these more than others, but overall the design is improved over the A505.

LCD quality is okay—slightly better than average, but nothing to write home about. The viewing angles are still poor, but it's nothing we haven't discussed with TN panels in the past. Something else we'll see later is that battery life is definitely improved over the previous AMD notebooks we've tested. That's particularly impressive when we consider the presence of a quad-core CPU. The down side is that the processor is clocked at a relatively low 1.6GHz, so short of multimedia enthusiasts and content creation, most tasks will end up slower than if Toshiba had used a faster dual-core CPU. The Turion II P520 has a 2.3GHz clock speed and the same 25W TDP, and with C-states and only two cores it seems likely that battery life could be improved even more while also improving single-threaded performance.

If you're in the market for a higher performance AMD-based notebook, the Toshiba A660D looks decent. The quad-core CPU, HD 5650 GPU, switchable graphics, and improved battery life are all positives, but it's also important to keep things in perspective. You can find a variety of Acer notebooks with a similar GPU for around the same price, but your options are generally limited to Intel Core i3(dual-core without Turbo Boost) or i5and a 17.3" LCD for a slightly lower price. There are also AMD Phenom tri-corenotebooks—again at a lower price—and other options from HP and Acer at higher prices. What none of the competition appears to offer is the same selection of components, features, and size. In fact, the biggest competition in this price range is far more likely to come from smaller laptops like the ASUS K42JV, which goes with Core i5-450M(2.4GHz plus 2.66GHz Turbo Boost) and Optimus NVIDIA GT 335M for $120 more. This really comes down to priorities, and we hope to have the K42JV or N82JV for review shortly, but the A660D does present an interesting platform.

Toshiba A660D-ST2G01: AMD Goes Quad-Core with the Phenom II P920 Graphics and Driver Shenanigans
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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    My Google-Fu was obviously weak. This is the only P520 + 5650 laptop around right now it seems, and we are working with AMD to get one. Acer likely will clock the 5650 at the full 550MHz as well, which would make it a lot more interesting.
  • silentim - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Hi, nice review. Glad to see AMD back to the game. Intel need competition these days.

    I m sorry for being off-topic here, but I can't find any anandtech official email. I'd like to ask for review for system76, one of few OEM other than Apple to ship consumer laptop other than windows, ubuntu in this case. I want to have references where I can buy laptop without m$ tax other than overpriced Apple.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    One of those should work. ;-)
  • Cal123 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Nice review btw, I thought it was objectively done. The only important thing I could think of to possibly add would be temp readings under load for cpu and gpu, to make sure the cooling system was up to snuff.
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    I seriously considered getting one of these laptops about 2 weeks ago, until I realized it didn't have amd's version of turbo boost/core. One quick look at some starcraft cpu benchmarks made me realize I would get half the frame rate of the i7-720qm. I also wasn't sure if toshiba let you use amd's laptop drivers, which you say they don't. I got a gateway one instead for $200 more, but it has the intel quad core and you can use amd's drivers. No regrets. 50% slower frame rates just wasn't worth it.
  • Roland00 - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    AMD would be competive to Intel if it had turbo and powergating.

    For example the best 35w AMD processors that AMD currently has are these three models
    AMD Phenom II x4 n930 at 4x2.0 ghz
    AMD Phenom II x3 n830 at 3x2.1 ghz
    AMD Phenom II x2 n620 at 2x2.8 ghz

    Now compare that to intel i7 720qm which works as follows with turbo (note this is a 45w processor)
    1.6 ghz Quad Core no turbo
    1.73 ghz Quad Core with turbo
    2.40 ghz Dual Core with turbo
    2.80 ghz Single Core with turbo

    If AMD had turbo and power gating it would not be unreasonable that the n930 could act as a 2.0 ghz quad core and a 2.8 ghz dual core. Thus if we are comparing straight ghz amd would possess 25% more ghz as a quad core with no turbo, 16% more ghz as a quad core, and 16% more ghz as a dual core. Now comparing ghz from different architectures is foolish for they are not the same thing, that said intel i7 mobile has a higher ipc than the phenom II mobile (which is a variant of the Athlon IIx4 of Desktops). That said the higher ipc of intel vs the higher ghz of AMD would put them real close in final speed (intel may win the benchmarks, but ask a person to "feel the difference in speed" and they would be hard pressed to differentiate.)

    Sadly AMD has no turbo or powergating thus it won't be comparable. Rumors say llano will have these features, thus that is good news for AMD, but then AMD will be competing against mobile Sandybridge which will be 10-30% faster compared to Nehalem.
  • LaptopDoctor - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    I own and operate a laptop repair business and after reading months of comments in various articles where folks are trying to justify AMD's recent poor performance, I thought I would throw in my two cents. Over the past 2-3 years I observed (and fixed) a 12 to 1 ratio of AMD based failures to Intel...mostly because of over-heating and chipset failures (HP's DV series is a great example). Seems like the vendors are trying to make AMD products compete at the mid to higher levels in thermal packaging which can't hold up much past the limited 12 month warranty. Guess this is why you can't find a ThinkPad (T-Series) with an AMD solution inside it. Unfortunately the consumers purchasing the Toshibas and HPs in this price range are really the ultimate loosers. It would be interesting for this forum to take a look at longivity in addition to speed. A fast laptop that lasts 12.5 months is a bad investment regardless of how many frames per second it can do!!!
  • The Crying Man - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    Can you specify the most common AMD CPUs? I have an HP L2005CM with a Turion 64 that's still running after 4 years with the first 2 years seeing heavy use. Curious if my CPU is part of that or if it's more with the Turion Ultras that came out after.
  • LaptopDoctor - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    In most cases it is a HP, Compaq, or Toshiba with Turion 64 based system with Nvidia examples are HP DV2000,DV6000,DV9000,Compaq F500/700 series etc. But in general it is in the retail packaging versions commonly seen and sold at local retailers in the $450-800 price range. When you get inside them the quality, fit, finish - especially with the heatsink/fan and venting, point out obvious issues. Little foam pads to make up for poorly fitting heatsinks, etc. The really sad part is that if you had an unmarked Acxx or Asxx open next to a Tosxxx or Hxx (any model except their commercial machines), you would wonder what happened to American and Japanese quality. Sort of reminds you of when Honda and Toyota taught GM and Ford what quality meant. You can observe the same issues when you lay a ThinkPad or Sony heatsink/fan assembly down next to a Dell Inspiron/XPS counterpart. After the 12 month warranty is gone, you really find out that "you get what you paid for"!! I just finished taking a CQ62 apart to remove a piece of tape that was supposed to hold the wires away from the fan, instead it was acting like a mini noise maker when the fan ran....they used to route those wires in a channel so this would not it's scotch tape. Guess this site caters to "gamers" who are only concerned about how fast it will run Crysis for the next 6 months....but then again, high failure rates in the 12-20 month range is great for my business.
  • DanaG - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    "Nvidia chipset" -- remember nvidia's bumpgate fiasco?

    But yeah, it's always sucked that manufacturers include weak GPUS with AMD processors. It really reflects badly upon AMD.

    Also Toshiba fail for not offering DisplayPort. No DisplayPort means you can only use two displays at once.
    Anything with Evergreen and DisplayPort should allow three displays at once.

    DP->VGA adapters are a mere 25 bucks, and the single-link DP->DVI adapters should be 30, soon.

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