Toshiba's Tecra range is aimed at those seeking a laptop to use primarily for work. The company's latest offering, the 14-inch Tecra R840-11E, seems to fit the bill, as it's not just thin and light, but also packs a powerful punch when it comes to performance. You can pick it up for around £1,050.
The R840-11E looks business-like without being totally boring. The matte black plastic on the chassis is unlikely to show up scratches as badly as the glossy coating you'll find on most consumer machines, and we like the ridged pattern that graces the wrist rest and lid. There's also some beautiful chrome highlighting used on the chunky screen hinges, and this is echoed in the smoky chrome that covers the trackpad buttons. Add in the fact that the laptop's relatively small and light and you've got a classy all-round package.
Toshiba has opted for a 14-inch screen with a matte, rather than glossy, finish, in a bid to keep reflections to a minimum. The screen is bright and colours punch through pleasingly. That said, the viewing angles aren't quite as wide as we'd have expected form a model in this price bracket, and the resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is nothing special.
The keyboard is in a different class. It really is one of the best we've come across. It uses wide, flat keys that have plenty of space between them, but what sets it apart is just how solid and responsive the action is.
Unlike the majority of today's laptops, the R840-11E has both a pointer stick and a trackpad. There are two sets of trackpad buttons -- one above the pad for when you're using the pointer, and one below for when you're relying on the pad.
There's also a dedicated button for turning off the pad and pointer when you're using the laptop with an external mouse. Both the pad and pointer are a pleasure to use, and the buttons seemed very solid and reliable during our test period.
The R840-11E packs a dual-core Intel Core i5-2520M Sandy Bridge processor, clocked at 2.5GHz. It also has 4GB of RAM, which is enough to give this laptop's Windows 7 Professional operating system room to stretch its legs. The processor is fairly speedy, as reflected in its PCMark05 benchmark score of 7,315. It'll have little trouble dealing with more demanding business apps.
One of the benefits of Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors is that they include much faster integrated graphics than the company's previous chips. In 3DMark06, this helped the laptop to score 4,053, so you'll be able to play some older games on it, but it's not going to run the latest first-person shooters at a decent frame rate.
Elsewhere the spec remains pretty impressive. The 320GB hard drive is reasonably roomy and there are plenty of other slots and ports. Above the DVD writer, for example, there's a smart card reader, and you also get an ExpressCard slot and SD card reader.
On one side, you'll find a USB 3.0 port, while, on the other, there's a USB 2.0 port, as well as a dual-function eSATA/USB port that's handy for connecting up speedy peripherals like fast external hard drives. There's also a VGA connector, and Toshiba has included a DisplayPort too, although there still aren't that many DisplayPort-compatible monitors on the market.
The laptop's battery life isn't bad. It managed to keep running for 1 hour and 41 minutes in the Battery Eater Classic test. This is a very taxing test, continuously running the processor at full whack until the battery dies, so, under real-world conditions, you should get much longer life from the battery.
If you need a laptop for work purposes, the Toshiba Tecra R840-11E is well worth considering. It has plenty of muscle under the bonnet, its keyboard is excellent, and its battery life and design are also decent.
Edited by Charles Kloet