Toshiba’s netbook needs a little help from its software friends

Featuring a new AMD dual-core C50 Fusion processor and the Hudson chip, Toshiba’s little stunner, the NB550D delivers remarkable performance, reduces power consumption and extends battery life up to a very respectable 8 hours in real world computing.

And did you say you wanted Dolby sound? Well, the Harman Kardon speakers produce an output of such clear and great sound that you can go without external speakers.

The Dolby Advanced Audio improves high frequencies, enhances bass and simulates 5.1 channel surround-sound through headphones. This I tried with some YouTube music clips and all I can say here is wow.

It even manages to make Jimmy Barnes circa 1997 sound enjoyable! Which of course goes well with its HD screen, making movie watching quite bearable on the 10.1 inch screen.

Moreover, Toshiba’s new Media Controller allows you to drop-and-drag photos, music and movies to any DLNA-equipped device via your home network with so much ease that it almost becomes a guilty pleasure.

Just connect the NB550D to your TV via a HDMI cable and enjoy high quality streamed movies on the big screen. Yep, that’s it – no stress, no fuss and no worries.

The unit comes with a 6 Cell Lithium-Ion battery, is 266 mm x 192.3 mm x 36.4 mm in dimensions and weighs just under 1.2 kgs even with your Internet dongle stuck in.

The NB550D also features a rubber and textured finish that’s available in blue, copper brown, orange and green, with each of the colours being just the perfect hue.

So what’s not to love right? Well the unit also ships with, Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter (60 day trial), Norton Internet Security (Trial Version)- and this is where the real problems begin.

Firstly I must point out to any hardware company execs reading this that if you want to sell Netbooks then install an OS that goes with them.

Or use your clout with the software vendors so they supply and load a simpler, smaller, faster version of whatever OS they are spruiking. This of course eliminates companies like Microsoft.

How about an Android or Linux derivative, but from my experience, Windows has never done Toshiba any favours, even on its larger, more powerful laptop variants.

And to make matters even worse, someone at Toshiba decided to lumber this little gem of a Netbook with Norton 360.

The moment I followed the prompts and loaded the 60-day free trial of Norton on the unit, I got a warning pop up saying that I am using too much of my CPU and memory- go figure, I became an overclocker just via an installation procedure.

Note to Toshiba: Just don’t do it. When the NB550D and its AMD dual-core C50 Fusion Processor (1.0GHz, 1MB L2 Cache, 1066MHz FSB) with 1Gb of DDR3 RAM is struggling with Windows 7, then the last thing you should do is throw Norton 360 into the mix.

There are plenty of other anti-virus suites available out there- in fact thousands of other AV suites you could instal that would not be so OS-clingy as I call it.

But no, Toshiba HQ in Japan decided it would be Norton and thus we have a situation whereby a great little unit as the NB550D is being nobbled by software that it really does not need to deal with.

My advice if you buy this sub-$500 device is to forget Norton and find something that is much less power sucking.

But apart from that, Toshiba if nothing else continues to deliver quality products that work well, look great and are priced within reason.

All they need to do is to apply a bit more thought to the software and their computers would come close to being almost perfect.

Pros: light, long battery life, great screen resolution, top quality sound

Cons: Let down by the loaded software

Rating: 4 / 5

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