One feature unique to Toshiba’s new laptops is Sleep & Music, which lets you hook up a device to the netbook’s microphone input and output audio over its speakers, even when the machine in question is turned off. However, it might have been nice if the manual mentioned that both this feature and Sleep & Charge need to be enabled in the BIOS. The drain in battery life is minimal, however, with 20 minutes of playback only taking a single percent. However, we weren’t overly impressed by the quality using this analogue connection, which was noisier than playing the music directly from the netbook.
Performance on the NB520 was about what you would expect, with the dual-core Atom doing a decent job of light multi-tasking. 720p video isn’t a problem, especially when using a player that supports graphics acceleration to help the CPU along, but Full HD is out of the question, as is any kind of high definition Flash video. As ever with affordable netbooks, if you just want a small, light machine for browsing the web, undemanding productivity and standard definition video, it does the job just fine, but it’s no ultraportable.
In use the NB520 stayed reasonably cool and quiet even under load – at least most of the time, as sometimes the fan would rev up to become quite audible. We guess this is the price you pay for its slim body and lightness (just 1.25kg with battery).
As it turns out, Toshiba’s 10-hour claims at the launch event weren’t that far off the mark. In our looped video test with the screen at 50 percent brightness and wireless radios turned off, the NB520’s 61Wh battery managed a very impressive seven and a half hours, knocking it into the top of its class for longevity when away from a socket.
When it comes to value, we’re glad to see that the NB510’s premium finish and audio haven’t resulted in a significant price premium, as this netbook is already available for £280. In addition to its premium features, its light weight, excellent build, good ergonomics and long battery life make its restricted performance and connectivity far easier to swallow.
An apt comparison would be with the Samsung NF210, which is another stylish but basic netbook offering long battery life, and has significantly dropped in price since its review, undercutting the NB520 at £270. However, not only is it not as rugged as the Toshiba, its ergonomics aren’t as good and its speakers not as impressive, meaning we would happily pay the extra.
The NB520’s greatest enemy is perhaps another new Toshiba netbook, the AMD Fusion-based NB550D. For only £20 more, you get a nippy C50 dual-core processor with far superior graphics, thus allowing smooth Full HD and Flash HD playback as well as a little light gaming, and there’s an HDMI port thrown in to output it all to your TV. However, it’s not likely to be as easy on the battery, so we’ll see how it compares when we get one in to review.
Toshiba’s NB520 might sport the same basic internals, screen and connectivity as most budget netbooks, but its rugged, stylish design, comfortable ergonomics and excellent battery life – combined with speakers that put many laptops to shame – mean there’s still plenty to like. If you can live with its limitations, it’s one of the most attractive netbooks around.
Score in detail
Battery Life 8