For many laptop users, finding the right screen size is paramount. While the vast majority of laptops used to fall into the 15-inch category, those are quickly being replaced by more manageable 13- and 14-inch models. Apple's hugely popular MacBook laptops have almost singlehandedly built a market for the 13.3-inch display, which we consider the sweet spot between midsize and ultraportable laptops. On the Windows side, Dell's recent XPS m1330 was a well-received 13-inch system, but it's out of many shoppers' price range. Toshiba's $1,324 Tecra M8 packs the latest Centrino Duo parts, plus extras such as a hard-drive accelerometer, into a 13-inch package that's short on flash but long on value.
|Price as reviewed/starting price||$1,324/$1,249|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100|
|Memory||1GB of 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||120GB at 4,200rpm|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel Express 965 (integrated)|
|Chipset||Intel GM965 Express|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight/weight with AC adapter||4.6/5.6 pounds|
Despite slightly rounded edges, the Tecra M8 has a decidedly boxy look, which while not particularly exciting, is certainly appropriate for the Tecra brand's target audience of business users. At 4.6 pounds, it sits squarely in the middle of the thin-and-light category; it weighs a little more than the Dell XPS m1330 but less than the Apple MacBook. The basic gray-and-black chassis is subdued, to say the least, but the body feels sturdy, especially its stiff lid.
Designed as a low-frills, mid-priced laptop for the business set, the Tecra M8 doesn't offer many extras. The system includes a 1.3 megapixel Webcam and a fingerprint reader, but aside from two quick launch buttons for Vista's Windows Mobility Center and a Toshiba-branded window with shortcuts to networking and diagnostic tools, the keyboard tray offers little except a standard keyboard and a basic touch pad. A 3D accelerometer is included, however, that will freeze your hard drive in the event of a fall or shock to the chassis.
The touch pad is embedded, somewhat strangely, a fraction of an inch below the wrist rest, yet the keyboard is still similar to the one of Toshiba's recent Portege R500, which we especially liked for having separate page-up and page-down keys, instead of shunting these off as alternate functions on other keys.
The 13.3-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size and the same as you'd find on a MacBook. This provides for text and icons that are highly readable, so it's a shame that so much of the desktop real estate is taken up with bloatware and advertising, including come-ons for eBay, CNN.com, Skype, and Microsoft's Office Live services. We don't like seeing these trial offers and advertising links on consumer systems, and it's especially egregious on a system built for business users.
|Toshiba Tecra M8||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Three USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader||Three USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||Type I/II PC Card slot||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|