Toshiba’s Tecra range strikes a fine balance between consumer and business laptops. The Tecra R840-11E offers tons of business features and great performance in a light and slim body, but at a price that isn’t out of grasp for the average consumer.
The first of the business features is a built-in fingerprint scanner wedged between the mouse buttons. You can use this to log on to your laptop, which saves the hassle of remembering complex passwords.
An ExpressCard slot allows you to add peripherals, such as graphics cards, TV Tuner cards and extra storage, while an eSATA port can be used to back up your files to an external hard drive.
DisplayPort and VGA ports mean you can hook up an external monitor or projector. You can even connect wirelessly with compatible televisions.
Your data will be protected from theft by the aforementioned fingerprint scanner, but it’s also protected against accidental damage by the hard drive. If the drive detects an unexpected motion (for example, the laptop plummeting off a desk), it will reset itself. This lowers the risk of failure on impact.
While 320GB of storage space isn’t a lot, it should still suit most users who simply want to carry their important files around, as well as a modest collection of songs and photos.
More impressive is the fact that Toshiba has squeezed in a DVD drive. Not a bad effort, considering the slender body measures just 31mm at its thickest point and weighs a modest 2.1kg. With its compact chassis, it fits with ease into most bags.
You can find more portable business machines out there, such as the Samsung 9000 Series and Sony’s VAIO Z-Series, but they tend to cost more than the Tecra R840’s price tag.
However, while the Tecra may be slim and light, we weren’t exactly excited by the plain black design. The frame and lid have a bevelled plastic texture, which does a great job of hiding fingerprints and scuff marks, but isn’t visually appealing. Thankfully there isn’t much flex, and the lid is particularly solid.
One of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge Core i5 2520M 2.5GHz processors is the brains behind this laptop. Combined with 4GB of memory, performance is even better than we expected. Not only can you run all of your business software, you can often run them together at the same time, with no kind of slowdown evident.
Basic integrated graphics mean you can’t run the latest games, but then you would rather be working on a spreadsheet, right? We still found some down-time to watch a high-definition (HD) movie, which played perfectly, and you can even edit photos from your collection and movies.
Battery Eater ’05: 239 minutes
3DMark 2006: 3741
Of course, with its matt TFT finish, the 14-inch screen was not designed for enjoying films. Images are crisp, but the best part of this display is the lack of reflections when used outside or in bright offices. If you’re constantly on the move and need a machine for staying productive, then consider this laptop.
Portability is further improved by the excellent battery life. We watched movies for four hours before the Tecra died, while less power-sapping activities such as browsing the web stretches battery life out to five or six hours.
Sleep-and-charge technology means you can connect your portable devices via USB, such as smartphones and MP3 players, and charge them even when the laptop is hibernating.
Usability is another important consideration and while the keyboard looks and feels rather plasticky, it’s well-sized with covered gaps between the keys. The keys have a shallow travel when you hit them, which we weren’t huge fans of, but it didn’t stop us touch-typing at our usual pace. You also have an ‘eco mode’ shortcut key which lets you fiddle with power settings.
The touchpad is a generous size and perfectly smooth. The mouse buttons are firmly mounted, but are strangely sunken into the palmrest, which makes them awkward to push at times. Toshiba has included a pointing stick alternative to using the touchpad, which is a tiny nubbin mounted in the middle of the keyboard. Pushing it around moves the on-screen cursor, but we personally prefer the touchpad.
Managing to cram impressive performance and a mass of excellent business features into a slim and light body, Toshiba has impressed with the Tecra R840. The design is basic and there are some slight usability issues, but if you need a portable business solution on a limited budget, you could do a lot worse.
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