Weighing 4.1 pounds with a 12.1-inch wide-screen display, the Intel Core Duo-based Toshiba Tecra M6 notebook lies on the cusp of the ultraportable and thin-and-light categories. Designed for business users, the Tecra M6 crams features we expect in a thin-and-light--such as an integrated optical drive, biometric security, and plenty of ports--into a small package with an extremely low starting price of $1,099. Our Tecra M6 review unit had $400 worth of upgrades, making it a moderately powerful machine for a still-reasonable price. Competitors such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X60s and the Sony VAIO SZ are both more expensive and feature rich. However, the Tecra M6's direct competitor, the Lenovo 3000 V100, is probably a better buy as it offers faster performance and a few more features for roughly the same price.
Like other systems in Toshiba's business notebook line, the Tecra M6 is conservatively styled; it has a dark gray lid and palm rest with black trim along the display and on the bottom. Measuring 11.8 inches wide, 8.9 inches deep, and 1.3 inches thick, the Tecra M6 is smaller than the Lenovo 3000 V100 and the 13.3-inch wide-screen Sony VAIO SZ but larger than the Lenovo ThinkPad X60s (which has a standard-aspect display). Its 4.1-pound weight makes it heavier than the Sony and both Lenovos. With its power adapter, the Tecra M6 weighs just 5 pounds, making it easy to take everywhere you go.
Like the Lenovo 3000 V100, the Tecra M6 features a 12.1-inch, glossy wide-screen display with a native resolution of 1,280x800, which is good for both work and play. At that resolution, you can see 19 columns and 36 rows in a new Excel worksheet or enlarge a Word document to 140 percent without the need for horizontal scrolling. The display's resolution and reflective coating make HD content look crisp and vibrant (we downloaded the NASA clip in 720p from Apple's QuickTime HD gallery). Unfortunately, the laptop's speakers are spectacularly poor; the Tecra M6 manages to eke out sound (in stereo!), but everything we played either clipped at high and low pitches or sounded like the Chipmunks. The notebook does, however, offer a convenient rocker switch to control volume, which is adjacent to the front headphone and microphone jacks. There's also a handy Wi-Fi on/off switch on the Tecra M6's right side. The final design feature of note is the fingerprint reader, located just below the keyboard, which lets you log in to your machine with the swipe of a finger.
The Tecra M6's input devices leave much to be desired. Although we expect to make usability sacrifices on a machine of this size, the keyboard and touch pad on the Tecra M6 are just too small. The keyboard is 0.25 inch narrower than full size, but the keys feel cramped and have very little vertical travel. Even more frustrating for those who use keyboard shortcuts, Toshiba has moved some keys--most notably the Windows key--from their standard locations. Measuring just 2 inches wide, the Tecra M6's touch pad and mouse buttons are downright diminutive. Even with the tracking speed set to maximum, you have to lift your finger from the pad to make the pointer traverse the wide screen.
Toshiba loads the Tecra M6 with most of the connections and ports that business users will need to work away from their desks. It includes Gigabit Ethernet, integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless, and a 56Kbps modem for networking; Bluetooth 2.0+EDR is optional. The case is stocked with three USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, VGA out, and a slot for PC Cards (though not the latest ExpressCards). There's also a CD-RW/DVD combo or dual-layer DVD burner, and a 3-in-1 media card reader that reads Secure Digital, Memory Stick, and xD Picture Cards. The Tecra M6 lacks some corporate-level features, such as a Trusted Platform Module, integrated WWAN, a Webcam, and a docking solution, most of which are available as options on competing models. Toshiba preinstalls a potpourri of applications on the Tecra M6, ranging from the ubiquitous Windows XP Professional operating system to Sonic RecordNow for disc burning. While many corporate machines come without any kind of productivity suite, Toshiba throws in Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 and the Microsoft Works 8.5 mini suite with the Tecra M6.
Our Tecra M6 review unit cost $1,489 for an entry-level 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor; 512MB of midrange 533MHz RAM; integrated Intel GMA 945 graphics; an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and a DVD burner. Compared to competing systems, the Tecra M6 is reasonably priced but not the least expensive. A similarly configured Lenovo X60s costs roughly $900 more, the closest current configuration of the Sony VAIO SZ (which has a faster processor, twice the RAM, and a larger hard drive) is $600 more, and a comparable Lenovo 3000 V100 currently sells for about $250 less.
On CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks, the Tecra M6 ran well behind the 2GHz Lenovo 3000 V100 and the 1.83GHz Sony VAIO SZ. It was also slower than our Lenovo ThinkPad X60s test unit, which had the same processor but faster RAM. That said, the Tecra M6 should be powerful enough for basic productivity tasks such as Web browsing, word processing, checking e-mail, and working on a spreadsheet. Video fans should note that the Tecra M6's 1.66GHz processor failed its attractive glossy display by stumbling on playback of HD content.
The battery life on the Tecra M6 was good, clocking out after 4 hours, 6 minutes of use--just 1 minute longer than the Lenovo 3000 V100. The Sony VAIO SZ and the Lenovo X60s both turned in significantly longer times, a remarkable 5 hours, 36 minutes and an extraordinary 8 hours, 16 minutes, respectively.
Toshiba offers a one-year parts-and-labor warranty on the Tecra M6, which is short of the three years we like to see with business systems but to be expected with such a low-priced laptop. You can upgrade the warranty to three years for an additional $100 if you buy directly from Toshiba. Support is accessible through a 24/7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and both a carry-in and mail-in repair service.