Toshiba's business-oriented Tecra line is far from flashy, but the company's self-described flagship model, the 14-inch Tecra M9, makes up for its thick, unwieldy design by offering semi-rugged features including a shock-absorbing chassis and a spill-resistant keyboard. Our $1,794 review unit conforms to the Centrino Pro platform, which uses Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) to provide for remote updates and troubleshooting, even when the system is powered down--but less expensive models are available without Centrino Pro. This may be one of the ugliest laptops we've seen in a while, but if you're a business user who needs both AMT and semi-rugged construction, this is the only laptop we can think of that fits the bill.
|Price as reviewed/starting price||$1,794/$1,349|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500|
|Memory||1GB of 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||120GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia Quadro NVS 130M|
|Chipset||Intel GM965 Express|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Business|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight/weight with AC adapter||5.2/6.2 pounds|
The Toshiba Tecra M9 is without a doubt one of the boxiest laptops we've seen in some time. It's thick, squared-off, and not particularly attractive. One could say that business users are not interested in design, but Lenovo's ThinkPad line, for example, has always managed to put out top-notch corporate systems that never looked especially stodgy.
Part of the Tecra M9's heft, thickness, and weight has to do with its rugged construction, which is certainly a fair trade if you need a laptop that can withstand more than the usual on-the-road punishment. Of course, in making it more road-worthy, you also make the system less easy to carry around. Breaking the 6-pound mark when you include the AC adapter, we wouldn't want to carry this through too many airport terminals.
Although not technically a rugged laptop along the lines of the recent Twinhead Durabook D13RY, the Tecra M9 still offers a higher degree of protection than your standard laptop's. Besides a spill-resistant keyboard, the system includes shock absorbers for the hard drive and display, and an accelerometer to protect the hard drive in case of falls.
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 has nothing except a standard keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and a dual touch pad and pointing-stick combo. The touch pad, as in other Tecra systems, is embedded a fraction of an inch below the rest of the wrist rest.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is higher than the 1,280x800 resolution found on many 15-inch laptops. As in the case of the 13-inch Tecra M8, we were disappointed to find 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've pointed out before that 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.
|Toshiba Tecra M9||Average for mainstream category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Three USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and an SD card reader||Four USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||Type I/II PC Card slot||PC Card slot|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
We're pleased that the system offers 802.11n Wi-Fi technology, and business users should find the standard collection of ports and connections suitable for their needs. Toshiba offers a handful of customization options on the Tecra M9. Our review unit had a speedy Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, but going all the way down to a T7100 will knock $270 off the price. Adding a second gigabyte of RAM is an extra $140, a wise investment for anyone who wants to get the most out of Windows Vista.
The Tecra M9 performed on par with similarly configured systems, including the popular Lenovo ThinkPad T61, which shares the same T7500 CPU and Nvidia Quadro graphics chip (required for the Centrino Pro features). As we'd expect from any current T7000-series dual-core laptop, the Tecra M9 performed well at general multitasking, including Web surfing, productivity apps, and media playback.
The Toshiba Tecra M9 ran for 1 hour, 50 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the default battery. Extra features such as the AMT and the hard-drive accelerometer may keep your laptop safe, but if they also cause the battery to drain faster, you could still end up out of luck on the road. Bear in mind our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.