Toshiba Tecra M1 review: Toshiba Tecra M1

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.4
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Battery life: 9.0
  • Service and support: 9.0
Review Date:

The Good Five-hour battery life; DVD burner; plenty of ports, including FireWire; attractive design; Centrino architecture.

The Bad Big and heavy; performance trails that of other Pentium M notebooks; expensive.

The Bottom Line The Tecra M1 features top-flight components, a DVD burner, and a five-hour battery, but it doesn't measure up in performance, portability, or price.

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Toshiba always offers a compelling lineup of business notebook features, and the company pulls out all the stops with the Tecra M1. The Tecra M1 series offers the newest and fastest components available. The system we tested included the 1.6GHz Pentium M (PM), Intel's 855 mobile chipset, and the optional Intel wireless 802.11b networking solution, making it a true Centrino system. Throw in a 60GB 5,400rpm hard drive, a DVD burner, and Bluetooth wireless personal-area networking, and you have a fast and capable system designed for the road. Given the Tecra M1's 1.6GHz PM and its relatively high price tag, however, we expected a lighter weight and better than the second-best performance we found in testing. The Toshiba Tecra M1 makes a strong first impression with a classy black-and-silver design that looks formal enough for a CEO and utilitarian enough for those on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

Despite its good looks, the Tecra M1 is bigger and heavier than the Tecra 9100 series it replaces. At 1.6 by 12.2 by 10.8 inches, the Tecra M1's rounded case is a little pudgy, and it's thicker and wider than the Compaq Evo N620c's. The Tecra M1 weighs only 6.1 pounds, but its 1-pound AC adapter brings the system's travel weight to 7.1 pounds. This is a few ounces more than the Acer TravelMate 803LCi, which has a larger screen (15 inches, to the Tecra M1's 14.1 inches). You can swap the optical drive with a blank module that Toshiba supplies, slimming down the weight to more modest 5.5 pounds, but the Compaq Evo N620c weighs roughly that with a drive in place.

From boardroom to park bench, elegant all the way.

The Tecra M1 is pretty heavy, but you can replace this drive with a blank module to take off some weight.

With a 14.1-inch screen, the Tecra M1 can show video on an external monitor or projector at 2,048x1,536 resolution in full color. During our weeklong workout with the Tecra M1, we found that the keyboard screen-brightness adjustment had no effect, but its Brightness Sensor Control, which uses a light-level sensor above the keyboard, worked fine.

The Tecra M1's keyboard doesn't disappoint. While it lacks the firmness of the ThinkPad T40, the 19.5mm springy keys have a generous 2.4mm of depth, making for a comfortable experience. Unfortunately, the G, H, and B keys have pieces cut out of them to make room for the system's pointing stick, making it somewhat hard to hit the keys without also nicking the pointing stick. The pointing stick is flanked by two mouse buttons, and the Tecra M1 also includes a small touchpad, with two more mouse buttons.

The keyboard is sturdy, with some annoying cutouts around the pointing stick.

Audio plugs and a volume wheel grace the front edge.

Audio plugs on the front of the notebook make it easy to connect headphones or a microphone, but the Tecra M1 has neither external audio CD controls nor an S/PDIF connector to link it with high-end speakers. It does have a handy thumbwheel for adjusting the volume, however. All told, the SoundMax sound chip does well but doesn't really get loud enough, and as with the Evo N620c, the Tecra M1's Andrea noise-reduction microphone doesn't help.

With a single fan on the bottom of the Tecra M1, the system remains cool whether charging or running on battery power. The notebook's elaborate cooling system pushes excess heat through a heat pipe and radiator to the fan. Every bit as functional as a Porsche exhaust system and graceful as a Frank Gehry building, it's a shame that it's hidden from view.

Beneath the plastic skin of the Tecra M1 beats the heart of a true-blue Centrino notebook (read more about Centrino technology here). It's one of the most up-to-date available, with features galore. The Tecra M1's top-of-the-line, 1.6GHz Pentium M processor is matched with a 5,400rpm hard drive that can hold 60GB of data and 512MB of 266MHz RAM. Like most of its peers, the system accommodates up to 2GB of RAM, for data hogs.

Based on a 14.1-inch SXGA+ screen, and a Trident Cyber-XP4 graphics accelerator with 32MB of dedicated memory, the Tecra M1 lags behind more advanced Pentium M video systems. The Dell Inspiron 600m and the Acer TravelMate 803LCi, for example, both include the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 chip and twice as much video memory, making them much more suitable for graphics-intensive tasks or games.

Ports galore, plus two PC Card openings and a bonus Secure Digital slot.

What's in there? No less than a DVD-burning drive.

Wireless is front and center, as with all new members of the Centrino family, with an on/off switch for air travel and sensitive locations. The Tecra M1 includes both Wi-Fi (via Intel's wireless/Pro 2100 802.11b wireless data radio) and Bluetooth data radios, so you'll probably be able to communicate but will have to choose between the two. Around the edges of the system lies an impressive complement of ports that will prove useful for workers on the road, including legacy parallel and serial ports, one FireWire connection, a trio of USB 2.0 slots, and external monitor and S-Video ports. You also get two Type II PC Card slots and the bonus of a Secure Digital slot for tiny postage stamp-sized flash cards. The notebook includes modem and LAN connectors as well as an infrared data window.

The Tecra M1 features a single modular bay and can hit the road with a variety of optical drives as well as a second battery or hard drive. Unlike most notebooks, Pentium M or otherwise, our test model included a mobile DVD burner, which can write up to 4.7GB of data to DVD-RW media at 1X and DVD-RAM at 2X; it can also read CDs and DVDs at 24X and 8X, respectively, and write to CD-R (16X) or DVD-R (4X) and CD-RW at 8X. It conforms to the DVD MultiFormat specification, making its compatibility a mixed bag: It can read and write DVD-R/RW media and read DVD-ROMs, DVD Audio and Video discs, and DVD-RAMs. The drive can't deal with DVD+RW media, however. The system includes a handy external USB floppy drive.

Outfitted for corporations who like to load their own software, the Tecra M1 includes Windows XP Professional and little more. However, additional standouts include Toshiba's excellent array of utilities for power management and for updating the system's software. Our favorite is ConfigFree, a nice program for changing communications settings and getting online wirelessly, although we could have done without the program's annoying ringing bell and doorbell tones.

Mobile application performance
Compared to the other thin-and-light Pentium M systems we tested, the Toshiba Tecra M1 is at the shallow end of the mobile-performance pool. The 1.6GHz Pentium M-based system tied for third place. It was 12 points behind the Dell Latitude D600 and scored the same as the IBM ThinkPad T40, which has a slower hard drive.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Dell Latitude D600
Toshiba Tecra M1
IBM ThinkPad T40
SysMark2002 performance
After a disappointing result in mobile performance, the Tecra M1 redeemed itself in maximum performance. Although it came in third place, the system still kept up with the Dell Latitude D600. Its Internet-content-creation score tied the Latitude's and came just two points behind the Acer TravelMate 803LCi's. Office productivity was not as impressive as that of other Pentium M systems, but it was still high compared to most other systems we've tested.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Dell Latitude D600
Toshiba Tecra M1
IBM ThinkPad T40
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
The Tecra M1 delivered surprising results in our 3D graphics test. The system's graphics adapter, the Trident Cyber-XP4 32MB, allowed it to place second and to beat the two systems with the higher-profile ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB graphics adapter by a significant amount. While the system did not have the power to beat the Acer TravelMate 803LCi, which houses the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB, it was only a few hundred points off--not bad for a graphics chip manufacturer that usually causes systems to place last in our 3D tests. The Tecra M1 boasts 3D power that will disappoint only the hardest of hard-core gamers.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE  
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Toshiba Tecra M1
IBM ThinkPad T40
Dell Latitude D600
To measure 3D-graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop-replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768.

Find out more about how we test notebook systems.

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Tecra M1
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Trident Video Accelerator Cyber-X P4 32MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

All of the thin-and-light Pentium M systems we tested had impressive battery life: each system lasted at least four hours. The Toshiba Tecra M1 actually lasted more than five hours, a stellar showing considering how highly the system scored in performance. The Tecra M1's score of five hours, five minutes was good enough for second place, and it came in almost two hours behind that of the IBM ThinkPad T40. In battery life, achieving four hours is impressive, so performance of more than five hours is extraordinary.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
IBM ThinkPad T40
Toshiba Tecra M1
Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Dell Latitude D600
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application 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).

System configurations:

Acer TravelMate 803LCi
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Tecra M1
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Trident Video Accelerator Cyber-X P4 32MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

Toshiba is renowned for its notebook support, and the Tecra M1 comes with a three-year international warranty. Read the fine print, though; the battery pack is covered for only one year. Our unit didn't come with a printed manual, but Toshiba preloaded an electronic version of the 280-page tome. It contains a lot of good advice for starting up and configuring the system but scant mention of the wireless radio and rewritable DVD drive, the two items of most interest. Fortunately, each of these areas is well covered by other, preloaded electronic resources.

The Toshiba Web site offers a plethora of well-organized information, from downloadable updates to support bulletins to user guides. In fact, the best way to whittle it down to a manageable size is to enter the model in question at the entrance of the Tech Service Center and let the Web site show you what's available. The Ask Iris interactive troubleshooter hits as often as it misses, but the online chat rooms are always on target. You'll also get 24/7, toll-free phone support and free e-mail support to round out the stellar support package.

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Where to Buy

Toshiba Tecra M1 (DVD-RW)

Part Number: PT930U-03YDM7 Released: Mar 12, 2003

MSRP: $3,299.00

This product is not currently available. Click here for Toshiba's latest offerings.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar 12, 2003
  • Installed Size 512 MB
  • CPU Intel Pentium M 1.6 GHz
    Intel Pentium M 1.6 GHz
  • Resolution 1024 x 768 ( XGA )
    1024 x 768 ( XGA )
  • Operating System Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Color Black
  • Weight 6 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD-RW / DVD-RAM - removable
    DVD-RW / DVD-RAM - removable
  • Graphics Processor AGP 4x - Trident XP4m32 - 32 MB DDR SDRAM
    AGP 4x - Trident XP4m32 - 32 MB DDR SDRAM