CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement | How we test computers

Toshiba Tecra M9 review: Toshiba Tecra M9

The 14-inch Toshiba Tecra M9 business laptop makes up for its somewhat unwieldy design by offering Intel's Centrino Pro platform, plus shock and spill protection.

Dan Ackerman
Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
5 min read
Toshiba Tecra M9

Toshiba's business-oriented Tecra line is far from flashy, but the company's self-described flagship model, the 14-inch Tecra M9, makes up for its thick, unwieldy design by offering semi-rugged features including a shock-absorbing chassis and a spill-resistant keyboard. Our $1,794 review unit conforms to the Centrino Pro platform, which uses Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) to provide for remote updates and troubleshooting, even when the system is powered down--but less expensive models are available without Centrino Pro. This may be one of the ugliest laptops we've seen in a while, but if you're a business user who needs both AMT and semi-rugged construction, this is the only laptop we can think of that fits the bill.


Toshiba Tecra M9

The Good

Solid construction with a spill-resistant keyboard; Centrino Pro platform for added security and support.

The Bad

Big and bulky for a 14-inch laptop; bloatware clutters the desktop and hard drive, which is particularly offensive on a business system.

The Bottom Line

The 14-inch Toshiba Tecra M9 business laptop makes up for its somewhat unwieldy design by offering Intel's Centrino Pro platform, plus shock and spill protection.

Price as reviewed/starting price $1,794/$1,349
Processor 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500
Memory 1GB of 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 120GB at 5,400rpm
Graphics Nvidia Quadro NVS 130M
Chipset Intel GM965 Express
Operating system Windows Vista Business
Dimensions 13.1x9.5x1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 14.1 inches
System weight/weight with AC adapter 5.2/6.2 pounds
Category Mainstream

The Toshiba Tecra M9 is without a doubt one of the boxiest laptops we've seen in some time. It's thick, squared-off, and not particularly attractive. One could say that business users are not interested in design, but Lenovo's ThinkPad line, for example, has always managed to put out top-notch corporate systems that never looked especially stodgy.

Part of the Tecra M9's heft, thickness, and weight has to do with its rugged construction, which is certainly a fair trade if you need a laptop that can withstand more than the usual on-the-road punishment. Of course, in making it more road-worthy, you also make the system less easy to carry around. Breaking the 6-pound mark when you include the AC adapter, we wouldn't want to carry this through too many airport terminals.

Although not technically a rugged laptop along the lines of the recent Twinhead Durabook D13RY, the Tecra M9 still offers a higher degree of protection than your standard laptop's. Besides a spill-resistant keyboard, the system includes shock absorbers for the hard drive and display, and an accelerometer to protect the hard drive in case of falls.

Aside from two quick-launch buttons for Vista's Windows Mobility Center and a Toshiba-branded window with shortcuts to networking and diagnostic tools, the keyboard tray has nothing except a standard keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and a dual touch pad and pointing-stick combo. The touch pad, as in other Tecra systems, is embedded a fraction of an inch below the rest of the wrist rest.

The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is higher than the 1,280x800 resolution found on many 15-inch laptops. As in the case of the 13-inch Tecra M8, we were disappointed to find that so much of the desktop real estate is taken up with bloatware and advertising, including come-ons for eBay, CNN.com, Skype, and Microsoft's Office Live services. We've pointed out before that we don't like seeing these trial offers and advertising links on consumer systems, and it's especially egregious on a system built for business.

  Toshiba Tecra M9 Average for mainstream category
Video VGA-out VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data Three USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and an SD card reader Four USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader
Expansion Type I/II PC Card slot PC Card slot
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Modem, Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

We're pleased that the system offers 802.11n Wi-Fi technology, and business users should find the standard collection of ports and connections suitable for their needs. Toshiba offers a handful of customization options on the Tecra M9. Our review unit had a speedy Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, but going all the way down to a T7100 will knock $270 off the price. Adding a second gigabyte of RAM is an extra $140, a wise investment for anyone who wants to get the most out of Windows Vista.

The Tecra M9 performed on par with similarly configured systems, including the popular Lenovo ThinkPad T61, which shares the same T7500 CPU and Nvidia Quadro graphics chip (required for the Centrino Pro features). As we'd expect from any current T7000-series dual-core laptop, the Tecra M9 performed well at general multitasking, including Web surfing, productivity apps, and media playback.

The Toshiba Tecra M9 ran for 1 hour, 50 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the default battery. Extra features such as the AMT and the hard-drive accelerometer may keep your laptop safe, but if they also cause the battery to drain faster, you could still end up out of luck on the road. Bear in mind our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

Toshiba includes an industry-standard, one-year mail-in parts-and-labor warranty with the Tecra M9, with a $100 option to extend the warranty to three years. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads, although the otherwise helpful support Web site is fronted by a bizarre throwback dot-com-era cartoon character named Iris (Instant Response Information Service, get it?).

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514

DVD battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In minutes  
Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514

System configurations:

Fujitsu LifeBook E8410
Windows Vista Business; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8400M G; 100GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

HP Compaq 6910p
Windows Vista Business; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X2300; 120GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad R61
Windows Vista Business; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Nvidia Quadro NVS 140M; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514
Windows Vista Business; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Nvidia Quadro NVS 130M; 120GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm


Toshiba Tecra M9

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 9Performance 6Battery 5Support 6
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping