Toshiba's first stab at a netbook, the NB100, was on the boxy side, and suffered from specs that were slightly out-of-date by the time it launched. With the slicker-looking NB200, Toshiba is looking to make up lost ground.
There are five configurations available: the £300 NB200-10G, the £325 NB200-11L, and the £350 NB200-11H, NB200-10Z (reviewed here) and NB200-110. With a price that puts it at the premium end of the netbook market, does the NB200 have the specs to match?
The NB200 is a big step up from the unappealing NB100 in terms of design. It's a great deal slimmer, measuring a mere 25mm thick, and our model sports a rather fetching copper-coloured finish on the lid. Inside, the netbook is equally stylish, with a silver keyboard and wrist rest.
The keyboard uses flat, calculator-style keys, but they feel very responsive and, as there's a decent amount of space between them, they're easy to use for touch typing. The layout is good too, with the narrow tab and caps lock keys the only compromises that have had to be made due to the NB200's smallish dimensions. The trackpad is one of the biggest we've seen on a netbook yet and, although it's wider than it is tall, this doesn't affect its usability. Below the trackpad, Toshiba has, thankfully, gone for two dedicated buttons, rather than the single rocker-type button that's starting to find its way onto some rival machines.
Although the screen isn't up there with the high-resolution display found on Acer's larger Aspire One 751, it's still impressive. It may only measure 10.1 inches diagonally, but the 1,024x600-pixel resolution means text and graphics look very crisp. It's also very bright and, although the glossy coating won't be to everyone's taste (it's reflection-prone), it makes pictures and videos look beautifully vivid.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity are also present, plus there's a VGA port for hooking it up to a monitor or flat-screen telly. You also get three USB ports. The one on the left-hand side can be set via software to remain powered while the NB200 is asleep or completely turned off. This is a brilliant feature, as it lets you charge devices like mobile phones and MP3 players without having to keep the NB200 powered up.
Elsewhere in the NB200's spec line-up, you'll find the usual netbook suspects. As it runs Windows XP, it's shipped with 1GB of RAM, and its hard drive offers a reasonable 160GB of storage. This drive is also smarter than most -- it has a sensor that detects when the netbook is falling so that it can park the drive heads and protect your data.
Unfortunately, the NB200 refused to complete our PCMark05 benchmark test. It uses the Intel Atom N280 processor, which is a smidgen faster than the Atom N270 CPU that's been the staple of some of the best-performing netbooks for a while now. In use, the NB200 is certainly no slouch, managing challenging tasks like smoothly displaying video in full screen from the BBC's iPlayer service without any problems.
As ever with netbooks, its 3D performance isn't much cop. It racked up a score of just 92 in 3DMark06. This is good by netbook standards, but miles off what's needed to achieve decent frame rates in the latest 3D shooters.
Battery life isn't too shabby either. The NB200 managed to keep running for an impressive 5 hours and 12 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test. With normal day-to-day use, you should get even longer out of it, especially as Toshiba has supplied quite a comprehensive power-management control panel.
With so many good netbooks now on the market, manufacturers face an increasingly tough challenge to make their offerings stand out. By adding neat features like the charge-and-sleep USB port and shock-protected hard-drive, Toshiba has managed to pull it off with the NB200. We have no hesitation in recommending it.
Edited by Charles Kloet