When we reviewed Toshiba's original NB520 netbook, we were blown away by the design, but rather disappointed by the utterly lacklustre specifications. Now, however, the company has fitted one of AMD's delectable new Fusion processors inside the same sexy chassis, adding vastly superior graphics and HDMI-out in the process. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the NB550D.
Starting off with its design, it's identical to that of the NB520, which is a good thing. Unlike the smooth soft finish on the likes of the Lenovo ThinkPad X220t, Toshiba has added a dimpled pattern to the lid that makes it look a little more like padding than a coating. Regardless, it's not just lovely to hold and lends a secure grip, but also prevents unsightly fingerprints.
Most of the NB series is available in black, red, blue, green and the brown of our previous NB520 sample, but with the NB550D you're limited to brown and blue. This time around, we've received the blue model, and though it doesn't exude quite the same feeling of understated class as the bronze finish, it's still very attractive and certainly stands out.
The lid's blue hue is complemented by the touchpad buttons and narrow speaker grille surrounds on the inside, while the rest of the base and the screen bezel opt for black. Thankfully, that lovely, dimpled finish extends to the palm-rests, making typing a very comfortable experience if your hands are small enough that you can rest your palms on them properly.
As with the previous model, build quality is impeccable, and Toshiba is definitely punching way above the NB550D's £300 price point when it comes to looks and feel. This premium impression largely continues when it comes to ergonomics.
As with the NB520, the keyboard is shallow but responsive and truly edge-to-edge. However, this time around we found feedback to be somewhat inconsistent between keys, and the space-bar was slightly looser and noisier than we would have liked. Shortcuts could also have been placed a little more intelligently. Mind you, it's still one of the better netbook keyboards around, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e shows how it should be done.
When it comes to the touchpad, its slightly rough texture can become just a tad unpleasant after extended use, but it's otherwise nice enough. It's also large enough to use some multi-touch gestures and its buttons offer a nice click, though after the amazing frosted glass pad on the Samsung Series 9 900X3A, it all feels slightly underwhelming.