Toshiba takes the cake

You may detect a slight scent of Dutch apple cheesecake as you read this review. That’s because it’s being written from a mid-Toronto coffee shop with a hot spot, where I’m noshing while testing a Toshiba Tecra M2 laptop and its WiFi connection.

The M2 series is the successor to the M1 line,

and while both have 14-in. screens the newer models are lighter, less expensive, have bigger hard drives, faster Ethernet, DVD multi-drives, Bluetooth connectivity and other features.

The unit I’m testing, for example, has an Nvidea GeForce FX Go5200 processor with 64MB of video memory, compared to the M1’s Trident processor with 32MB of memory. The M-line is aimed at corporate users, who will appreciate the new optional high-capacity main Li-Ion battery which will give them up to eight hours of juice, or as much as 11 hours with the added Slim Select Bay battery on top.

However, the M2 has taken a step backwards in standard battery life. Its six-cell Li-Ion battery has a rated maximum of four hours compared to the M1’s nine-cell 6.2 hours. Perhaps that’s how it saved weight. Although slightly larger in all dimensions than its retiring brother, the M2 went on a diet by dropping to 4.98-lb. from 5.9-lb.

Also note that the M2 has only two USB 2.0 ports, one less than the M1. But they’re conveniently located on the right side, which makes it easy to plug in peripherals. With the optional port replicator you can pick up four more USB ports.

For storage, M2s offer a choice of two CD and four DVD recording formats. A floppy disk is extra. Both models have a wide range of other ports, including RBG, TV out, IEEE 1394, two PC Card slots and an SD slot. Both come with Windows XP Pro. Both have WiFi 802.11b connectivity, but the M2 can also use the faster ‘g’ spec where available.

The bonus for all this is price: Toshiba’s Web site lists the M2 I tested, with a 1.5Ghz CPU, at $2,599, compared to $3,349 for an M1 with a 1.6Ghz processor. Both had the same size hard drive. As with all Toshiba laptops, there’s no extra software save for the operating system and a few utilities.

As expected from this company, it comes with a bright, crisp screen. The keyboard is good, although a little springy. And the Insert key is right beside the space bar. Several times I hit it with my thumb, changing the insert to delete.

Like most laptops, some of the keys do double duty, but the grey on black extra symbols on the keyboard aren’t easy to read. Battery life from the standard power supply was good. I watched the two-hour Shakespeare In Love DVD (who says tech writers aren’t romantic) and had power left over.

The Tecra found the cafe’s wireless network easily, the software gave no trouble and after fumbling a little signing up for the service (touch pads and pointing devices just don’t replace a mouse), I was surfing at 11Mbps. Unfortunately, this store offered only the slower 802.11b, so I couldn’t test what a really zippy connection could do.

In use, the M2 is pleasant and unsurprising. Take a pound off its weight, and it would be a really interesting road warrior. There are just a few things to mention: Something — the fan? — issues a soft hiss, kind of like the low crackling of a modem. It’s a little irritating, but one gets used to it.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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