The business-oriented Toshiba Portege M700 borrows and improves upon features found on the company's lighter and more expensive flagship Tablet PC, the Portege R400. For example, the Portege M700 incorporates the same useful display anchors, which keep the screen from wobbling, that we first saw on the R400. The Portege M700 also borrows the 12.1-inch backlit-LED display of the R400, but adds support for both active and passive inputs--that is, input from the included stylus or from your finger. These two features may seem insignificant, but they are indicative of the thoughtful design that puts the Portege M700 ahead of many business tablets we've seen over the years. Add in the tablet's great performance, powered by a full-voltage Core 2 Duo processor, and we thought we had found our favorite work tablet. But our enthusiasm came grinding to a halt when we saw the Portege M700's dismal battery scores. Power users will be well-served by the performance and feature set of the Toshiba Portege M700, but users who want to spend two or more hours away from the power outlet would be better served by a longer-lived system, such as the ThinkPad X series Tablet.
|Price as configured / Starting price||$1,799 / $1,449|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Business|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||11.7 x 9.5 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||12.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.5 / 5.4 pounds|
Recently Toshiba begun branding its laptops more aggressively, and the Portege M700 is no exception. The laptop's lid includes the company name in capital letters just over a half-inch tall. However, the Portege's metallic silver lettering, set against a matte-silver plastic case, is slightly less egregious than the high-contrast branding of the consumer-oriented Satellite line and should prove acceptable for corporate environments. Sizewise, the Portege M700 more or less matches other bulky ultraportables, such as the Lenovo 3000 V200 and the Acer TravelMate 6292--although the Toshiba's 1.5-inch thickness makes it huskier than the other two. The Portege M700 is also a touch smaller and lighter than the other 12.1-inch Tablet PCs we reviewed recently, the entertainment-oriented HP Pavilion tx2000.
Like most convertible tablets, the Portege M700's screen swivels between landscape and portrait modes, automatically switching its orientation in midswivel. The first few times we switched between modes were difficult; plastic tabs on the outer corners of the display hold the screen in place and require some force to overcome. The hinge eventually loosened up, however, and we appreciate the extra screen stability provided by the anchors, which kept the screen from wobbling while we typed. The 12.1-inch backlit-LED screen features a sharp 1,280x800 native resolution that provides excellent image detail without making text and icons too small to read. We like that Toshiba has added touch-screen capabilities to the display, meaning that you can use either the included stylus or a finger (or the top of your pen, for that matter) to take notes and navigate menus. We also like that the display appears bright and clear both indoors and outside--helpful for users who use their tablets away from a desk. A Webcam sits above the display bezel; a handy LED next to it lights up when the camera is on so you know when you're being watched. The Portege M700 does lack one of the high-end features found on the R400, the OLED "Edge Display" that shows battery life, wireless status, and even e-mail notifications; while the feature is handy, it's hardly essential and probably will not be missed.
For when you're in tablet mode, a row of buttons along the display bezel help you navigate without the keyboard or mouse. A fingerprint reader lets you log on to Windows or your favorite Web sites with the swipe of a finger. Below it is a button that launches the Windows Mobility Center, where you can adjust the display brightness, manage battery life, and control the speakers. Other buttons launch Toshiba's configuration program, open Windows Security Center, or let you manually rotate the screen direction. (Unfortunately, none of these buttons are user-programmable.) There's also a mini-joystick to navigate menus and make selections in a number of applications.
The Portege M700's keyboard is on the smaller side with some shortened keys (space bar, Ctrl, and Alt keys), but we were able to type for an hour or two without cramping our hands. The touch pad and mouse buttons are also small, yet tolerable. The included stylus provides sufficient drag so writing feels remarkably natural; we appreciate the handy "eraser" on its end, which works just like a pencil eraser on your digital notes. As with most tablets, the M700 has a built-in microphone for on-the-fly dictation and recording as well as Web chats.
|Toshiba Portege M700||Average for ultraportable category|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||2 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD or multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||PC Card||PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||None, or DVD burner|
Given the extra bulk on the Portege M700, we expected to see a few more ports and connections than average for an ultraportable. The tablet does include both a DVD burner and a PC Card slot for expansion, plus one more USB port than average. We were also pleased that our review unit's price includes a Bluetooth radio, which makes it easy to use an external mouse or a cell-phone modem. About the only things the Portege M700 seemed to lack were an S-Video connector, which, though arguably unnecessary, is found on such other ultraportables as the Acer TravelMate 6292, and built-in EV-DO, which is available on the more expensive Portege R400. The Portege M700's stereo speakers--which are curiously located beneath the display, so that they are obscured no matter what position the screen is in--produced tinny sound that will send users running for headphones when they want to enjoy movies or music. We did appreciate the hardware volume wheel on the laptop's front edge; next to it sits a handy switch to turn the wireless radios on and off.
Toshiba offers a mix of customizable and fixed-configuration versions of the Portege M700 at prices starting from $1,499. We tested the $1,799 Portege M700-S7002, the higher-end of two fixed configuration models that includes a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor (not a Penryn chip but near the high-end of the previous Merom generation), 2GB of RAM, a 160GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, and integrated Intel graphics. On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Portege M700 finished mostly at the head of the pack of similarly configured laptops--except on the Multimedia multitasking test, where nearly all the comp systems finished within 5 percent of each other. During our use, the Portege M700 provided solid performance for such typical business productivity tasks as managing e-mail, typing documents, and building presentations.
We had really thought the Portege M700's power-efficient backlit-LED display would provide lengthy battery life, but the tablet lasted just 1 hour, 20 minutes on our DVD drain tests. That's pathetic, especially when you consider that most users buy an ultraportable tablet so they can work in meeting rooms and on the road without worrying about finding a power outlet. Quick investigation revealed that the Portege M700's battery is actually a bit smaller than its competitors'; the company does offer an additional battery that attaches to the bottom of the tablet ($180). Our DVD battery drain test is particularly taxing, so you can expect a slightly longer battery life during typical use; however, we would expect to see at least two hours from a 12.1-inch laptop on our battery benchmark.
While an economical one-year warranty is fast becoming the standard for business laptops, Toshiba backs its fixed configurations of the Portege M700 for three years. (The customizable versions give you the choice of a one-year warranty, which saves $100.) Upgrading to Express repair service costs $44, while on-site service costs $152. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.
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