Easily the best-equipped tablet, the Toshiba Portégé 3505 does it all with style and technological flair. With a weight of 4 pounds and a thickness of 1.4 inches, the Toshiba is slightly bigger and heavier than some of the competition. Still, the Portégé 3505 sets the pace for convertible tablets with its flexible design, category-leading performance, and extras such as USB 2.0 ports, as well as CompactFlash and Secure Digital slots not found on other tablets. In spite of a few first-generation snags, the Portégé 3505 is ready for the rigors of business or the home. Looking at the black Toshiba Portégé 3505, your eye is immediately drawn to the silver hinge in the back, which sticks out like a big, shiny button. Like the Acer TravelMate C102TI, the Portégé 3505 is a convertible tablet. The hinge allows the screen to not only open and close but rotate a full 180 degrees side to side so that it can face toward or away from you. Need a standard notebook layout with the keyboard below the screen? No problem. Want a tablet to draw or write on? Just swivel the screen, then lay it flat. A small but well-designed lock keeps the screen in one position or another, so the display feels surprisingly sturdy.
The Portégé in tablet mode.
All those abilities translate, unfortunately, to a system that is the largest of the bunch. At 11.6 by 9.2 by 1.4 inches, the Portégé is one-third bigger than the Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000 and more in line with a standard ultraportable notebook than a tablet. It also weighs more than the Stylistic ST4000, but because it uses a tiny 7-ounce AC adapter, the total travel weight is only 4.4 pounds, half a pound less than the smaller, slower, and less capable ViewSonic V1100.
Compared to this group of six tablets, the Portégé 3505 has the best place to stash the writing stylus. Its handy storage place is next to the screen--not around the system's periphery. When you press the bottom of the pen, it pops out. Unfortunately, to keep the pen flush with the screen frame, it's flat on one side and doesn't feel as nice in your hand as a regular pen.
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|The penlike stylus.|
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|The five activity LEDs on the front edge.|
Thoughtful touches abound in this design, with a volume thumbwheel and five activity LEDs that show the system's status with a series of icons. There's even a switch to quickly turn off the tablet's Wi-Fi radio for use in sensitive areas and during flights.
If you expected that the keyboard would be hard to use, you'd be wrong. With 19mm keys, the system is easy to type on, although the 1.5mm of key travel is a bit skimpy, and the spacebar is anemic. The silver touchpad has smooth action but lacks a scroll key.
As good as the design is, there are some first-round glitches that mar an otherwise superior effort. First, the screen is 1.8mm below the surrounding bezel, so the writing experience is awkward at times compared to those that place the screen and frame at roughly the same level. In addition, aside from the LAN, modem, and external monitor ports, the other slots aren't covered, and the pen occasionally skips when writing quickly. Finally, the Portégé 3505's speaker sounds pretty good when the system is in notebook mode, but as a tablet, the speaker is covered and muffled.
It's what's inside that counts, Mom always said, and the Portégé 3505 puts its competitors to shame with a 1.3GHz Pentium III-M processor (a third faster than most), 512MB of RAM (twice that of the rest), and a 40GB hard drive (double the capacity of its competitors). With a 12.1-inch XGA screen, there's plenty of room to work, and the system effortlessly rotates its orientation at the touch of a button. A Trident CyberAlladdin-T graphics accelerator with 16MB of RAM controls the screen, which was lightning fast and smooth.
You'll find ports aplenty, with connections for audio, an external monitor, a LAN, and a modem. In a move that shows Toshiba's engineering prowess, the Portégé 3505 has a pair of USB 2.0 ports; the rest of the Tablet PCs use the slower USB 1.1.
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|The screen, swiveled around to the back.|
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|The Secure Digital slot and the wireless on/off switch.|
For those who use a digital camera or portable MP3 player, the Portégé 3505 may be a godsend. Like the other tablets, it has a PC Card slot. But unlike the others, it can use CompactFlash and postage-stamp-sized Secure Digital cards.
To say the least, software is scant on this system. All that comes with the Portégé 3505 is Windows XP Tablet Edition and a few Toshiba utilities.
With the fastest processor, the largest hard drive, and shared graphics memory, the Portégé 3505 was, not surprisingly, the fastest system on CNET Labs' performance tests, though not by the margin that we expected. It also boasted a class-leading Wi-Fi range of 100 feet and successfully translated 93 percent of the words we dictated on more informal tests.
Mobile application performance
The Toshiba Portégé 3505, with a 1.3GHz Pentium III-M processor and 512MB of RAM, is the faster tablet in this roundup. But considering its processor, we expected it to score higher. Instead, it beat the Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000 by only one point, though the Fujitsu is 500MHz slower. The Portégé 3505's lackluster performance can be attributed to its Trident CyberBlade XAi1 graphics controller, which uses 16MB of main system memory as video RAM.
MobileMark2002 mobile performance test
Longer bars indicate faster performance
The Toshiba couldn't match its top-of-the-heap performance stats in battery life, but it did stay on for a respectable 2 hours, 46 minutes. It might have gone longer, if it weren't for its 1.3GHz Pentium III-M, which draws more power than the lower-speed processors of the Fujitsu and the ViewSonic. The only reason the Toshiba's battery life isn't worse is because of its 10.8V, 3,600mAh battery, which goes a long way toward making up for the power-greedy CPU.
MobileMark2002 battery-life test
Time is measured in minutes; longer bars indicate better performance
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both applications performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).
Find out more about how we test notebook systems.
Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 800MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel Extreme graphics controller 48MB (8MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm
HP Compaq Tablet PC TC1000
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe-TM5800; 232MB SDRAM 133MHz; Nvidia GeForce2 Go 16MB; Toshiba MK3018GAP 30GB 4,200rpm
Motion Computing M1200
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830M graphics controller-0 48MB (8MB shared); IBM Travelstar 20GN 20GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba Portégé 3505
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 1.3GHz Pentium III-M; 496MB SDRAM 133MHz; Trident CyberBlade XAi1 16MB; Toshiba MK4019GAX 30GB 5,400rpm
ViewSonic Tablet PC V1100
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition; 866MHz Intel Pentium III-M; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82830M graphics controller-0 48MB (8MB shared); Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba has a track record of offering comprehensive notebook service and support that is second to none in quality and variety of services available. There's 24-hour phone support, AskIris interactive troubleshooting, e-mail queries about problems, and an integrated Web site with no shortage of downloadable files that are organized by model or purpose. At present, the company still seems to be getting its act together on Tablet PCs, but we expect to see a similar level of support on these devices.
Another point in Toshiba's favor is that it's the only tablet maker to offer a three-year standard warranty.