The follow-up to Toshiba's prior-generation Portege M200, the new Portege M400 is the first convertible tablet PC to offer Intel's Core Duo processor as an option. The system combines its new CPU with some nice convertible-tablet standards, such as a swiveling 12.1-inch display and a swappable optical drive. Still, though the Portege M400 costs less than several competing tablets, it also delivers slower performance and shorter battery life than many of its rivals. If you need a tablet form factor at a low price, the $1,699 Portege M400 may fit the bill. Otherwise, we recommend you check out the bigger Fujitsu LifeBook T4020 for superior performance (the configuration we tested cost $2,149, though lower-end models cost $1,499) or the Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet (prices start at $1,599) for extralong battery life.
The 4.8-pound Portege M400 measures 11.6 inches wide, 9.8 inches deep, and 1.6 inches thick--making it a bit bulkier than other convertible tables with 12.1-inch displays, such as the 4.8-pound Fujitsu LifeBook T4020 and the 3.6-pound Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet. Though the Portege M400's AC adapter tacks on another pound, the total package is still light enough for semifrequent travel and short stints of clipboard-style note-taking.
Like most convertible tablets, the Portege M400's screen swivels between landscape and portrait modes, automatically switching its orientation in midswivel. The display appears bright and clear both indoors and outside. Its standard 1,024x768 native resolution doesn't provide minute graphics detail or tons of screen real estate but makes for big, readable text. Two preset buttons alongside the screen serve to manually change the display's orientation and call up Windows Task Manager, while two other buttons can be programmed to launch the applications of your choice. Finally, a biometric fingerprint sensor sits in the screen's corner, providing an easy and secure way to log on to Windows and access other password-protected content.
The Portege M400's keyboard is on the smaller side, but we were able to type for an hour or two without cramping our hands. The touch pad and mouse buttons are also small, even for a tablet, yet tolerable. We experienced no problems with the included stylus, though its plastic construction seems a bit cheap; we did appreciate the handy "eraser" on its end, which works just like a pencil eraser on your digital notes. As with most tablets, the M400 has a built-in microphone for on-the-fly dictation and recording. Two integrated speakers reside in the far upper corners above the keyboard, where their mediocre sound is partially obscured by the lid, whether it's in laptop or tablet mode. A convenient wheel on the front edge helps you adjust the volume.