Toshiba's top of the line NB200 is certainly one of the more attractive netbooks we've seen. A mixture of silver, pearl and white diagonal lines stripe the lid, monitor bezel and trackpad.
The white lid features a positively gigantic logo, and will instantly turn off anyone who doesn't feel like being a company billboard. Internally, the pearl bezel is much more subtle, with the usual webcam and microphone embedded at the top.
The shiny silver hinge, powder-coated silver keyboard and matte silver body give it a touch of class usually unseen in the netbook range.
The vertically squashed, separated keys require a period of adjustment and swearing as you continually hit "s" instead of "a", but you do eventually get used to it. The response is excellent, and Toshiba hasn't cut corners either, supplying two full-sized shift keys, all 12 "F" buttons, and the only real compromise has been on the tilde key, which has been shifted to the left of the spacebar.
All of this is just on our AU$949 supplied review model, which comes equipped with a 5800mAh, six-cell battery that extends beyond the chassis and a 160GB HDD. It also comes in "indigo silver", and soon "matte copper".
Toshiba also offers a cheaper AU$799 gloss black model with non-chiclet style keyboard, 120GB HDD and 2250mAh three-cell battery. Another AU$100 gets you a 160GB HDD and six-cell battery.
LED status lights run across the right side of the lip; however, these are effectively useless when using the laptop as they simply can't be seen.
While the centrally placed power button on the hinge is unusual, it doesn't get in the way. More concerning is the white glow it gives off, its central position making it distracting when trying to focus on the screen. While we found we got used to it, some may find it too annoying to deal with.
Three USB ports (one of which is able to charge devices when the laptop is off), 100Mb Ethernet, VGA out, an SD card reader, microphone and headphone outputs fulfil the port quota, while internally a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N280, 1GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, Bluetooth and 802.11g keep things pumping.
There's no WWAN (3G) capability in the NB200 yet, although Toshiba is hoping it'll be there by August. Given that Dell is the only company that has succeeded in this area so far despite promises from other vendors, we'll be happily surprised if Toshiba manages to join the ranks.
The 10.1-inch glossy screen features a resolution of 1024x600, and is bright and pleasant to use. If you find that some programs have elements that appear off the screen, the graphics drivers support a virtual resolution up to 1600x1200, allowing you to pan the larger-than screen resolution around to find what you need.
Software-wise, a bevvy of WildTangent trial games are included, handily wasting space on your hard drive. Toshiba's ConfigFree networking software is also included, its wonderful Wi-Fi scanning software giving you an instant picture of signal strength and available networks in your vicinity, in the vein of a solar-system-esque diagram. The access points update too frequently though, which makes tracking the moving access points in busy and congested areas quite difficult.
Also present is the seemingly ubiquitous Symantec Norton Internet Security 60-day trial, its nagware as aggressive as ever, the close button disabled on its pop up. Eventually a "remind me later" link appears after you've clicked "Next" twice while omitting to enter your email, a practice which could trap lesser experienced users into creating a Norton account just to get rid of the nagging screen.
We should note that the AU$949 RRP price for this model reflects its high build quality, but may turn some potential buyers away; there are other netbooks available for several hundred dollars less, and at close to the AU$1000 mark it might be worth considering a mainstream laptop with more grunt.
Being a netbook, performance expectations of the NB200 should be kept modest. It's fine for day-to-day internet and office productivity tasks, but don't expect it to be suitable for gaming or playback of high-definition YouTube content, the hardware simply can't keep up.
It's battery life that's the most important on these tiny laptops, and in this regard the NB200 performed excellently, with screen brightness and volume set to maximum, power-saving features turned off and a DivX file played back, it lasted a very impressive five hours, 50 minutes and 19 seconds. This is a brutal, worst-case scenario test — you'll certainly get significantly longer usage through moderate tasks like internet browsing.
The Toshiba NB200 is an excellent netbook — we just wish someone would evolve the platform already, but with Microsoft and Intel holding the reigns it doesn't seem set to happen soon.