With a silver lid and a black base, the Toshiba Tecra M4 convertible tablet looks right at home in the boardroom. It is solidly designed and loaded with features, but its 6.2-pound weight is a killer if you want to hold your tablet like a clipboard for any length of time. If you want a decent laptop with tablet functionality, the Tecra M4 provides top-notch performance, a comfortable keyboard, and a large 14-inch screen. If you're looking for something to use primarily as a tablet, you're better off with smaller devices such as the ThinkPad X41 or the .
Measuring 12.9 inches wide, 11.4 inches deep, and approximately 1.5 inches thick, the Toshiba Tecra M4 has the same dimensions as the HP Compaq tc4200 and the . Again, the Tecra M4 is one of the heaviest tablets around and really appropriate only for carrying down the hall and on occasional trips.; both are significantly larger than the other convertible tablets we've seen, such as the
The large dimensions do allow for some creature comforts, including a spacious keyboard and two pointing options: an eraser-head pointing stick (similar to the TrackPoint on ThinkPads) and a touch pad. As on the HP Compaq tc4200, the pointing stick and the touch pad each has its own mouse button, and the touch pad features horizontal and vertical scroll zones. With the Tecra M4 in tablet mode, you can navigate and write on the screen with a stylus that has the bulk of a ballpoint pen and offers a good pen-on-paper feel. However, we prefer the rubberized grip and the thick Montblanc feel of the Motion LE1600's stylus. We also wish the Tecra M4's pen had a tether to keep us from losing it.
If you want to see life on the big screen, the Toshiba Tecra M4 is the tablet for you. While the native resolution, which lets you view multiple windows while in landscape mode. Unfortunately, the screen is prone to glare and doesn't have as wide a viewing angle as we've seen elsewhere--for example, on the . With the Tecra M4 in tablet mode or laid flat beneath overhead lights, we had problems viewing the screen at a 45-degree angle., the , and the Toshiba Satellite R15 all feature 14-inch screens, none can touch the Tecra M4's superfine 1,400x1,050 SXGA+
Another advantage of the Toshiba Tecra M4's size is that it can accommodate a decent mix of ports and connections. In addition to the headphone and microphone jacks, you'll find VGA, S-Video, four-pin FireWire, infrared, and three USB 2.0 ports. There are also SecureDigital and Type II PC Card slots, and you can connect to the Internet via modem, Ethernet, or 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. We like that the headphone and microphone jacks, the volume control, and a button to kill the wireless are easily accessible on the front of the machine. Small stereo speakers offer decent sound, but the lid covers them in tablet mode. The Tecra M4 lacks a fingerprint scanner, which would both provide security and make it easier to log on in tablet mode; however, it does have a Trusted Platform Module to help protect you from data theft. Like other Toshiba laptops, to keep data safe in the event that it's dropped, the Tecra M4 stops the hard drive from spinning whenever the tablet moves too fast. For tablets, which are often held on a wobbly arm and are more likely to be dropped, this feature is a necessity.
The Tecra M4 runs Windows XP Tablet Edition, and our test unit came with a good selection of software, including, , and Zinio Reader for reading digital magazines. It also came with Toshiba's very cool ConfigFree utility, which has a neat NORAD-like radar graphic that plots the signal strength (but not the location) of nearby wireless networks.