The latest Tecra is a typically businesslike offering aimed at the corporate bulk purchaser equipping its workforce. The core spec is middle of the road, even slightly conservative, with a Pentium III/500 in the driving seat, flanked by the slightly underweight 64MB of SDRAM usually fitted to corporate machines, along with one of Tosh’s own 6GB hard drives.
DVD has been eschewed in favour of a plain 24-speed TEAC CD-ROM drive, which is fair enough for a machine like this, and you get a basic 13.3-inch XGA resolution TFT screen. While all this is acceptable as it stands – with the possible exception of the amount of RAM – what pulled us up short was the price. Toshiba wants £1,995 ex-VAT for the Tecra, which on the face of it is rather a lot for a relatively basic system.
We turned to the build quality, wondering perhaps if the explanation lay there, but while the casing of the machine is fairly solid, and there were sensible design touches like an impact shield above the hard disk compartment and a sliding cover for the exposed power stud, there wasn’t anything obvious to justify the cost.
In fact although the Tecra has a grainy silver finish to its lid this only masked ordinary plastic, not the more expensive magnesium alloy, and worse, the lid surface tended to yield under pressure and may not protect the screen below if the notebook is squeezed or bashed during transport.
This notebook is a two-spindle design (i.e. the CDROM and floppy drives are interchangeable modules), with the option of running the floppy drive module externally, from a dedicated port, when something else is in the main bay. You can’t hot-plug the floppy drive, but you can hot-swap modules in the bay using a simple software utility.
With its CDROM drive installed the machine weighs a realistic 2.7kg, but this will rise to 3.55kg with the floppy drive and power supply along for the ride, which is comparable to many three-spindle machines, so unless you leave the floppy module at home the weight saving isn’t actually that great in real terms. The Tecra does come with two useful features, though; an internal V.90 fax modem and a composite video output which can be used to connect to a TV set – this is potentially handy for giving presentations.
We found the screen acceptable, but not quite as easy on the eye as a larger panel would have been over prolonged periods. The keyboard was definitely a hit though, thanks to a spacious and logical layout. The only sticking point for some will be the stud-type pointing device set into the keyboard itself, which many people find less usable than a mouse pad.
Overall performance was slightly above average for a PIII/500, so adding a bit more memory in the spare SODIMM socket under the base should get you a moderately fast machine. What really impressed us about the Tecra though was its battery life, which seemed to be close on four hours under continuous light use. This is commendable, but there are cheaper, good quality competitors out there which can match it, so even this doesn’t really justify the price in the final analysis.
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