Toshibas Tecra A8 Strikes Good Balance - 2

Review: laptop provides good performance and feature set for a low price

Toshibas Tecra A8 is a portable desktop replacement that delivers all the things users want—robust performance, good graphics capability and decent battery life—at a price IT managers will like. This combination of fantastic features and a relatively low price point earns the Tecra A8 eWeek Labs Analysts Choice award.

Released in June, the Tecra A8 weighs 6.3 pounds. Its slightly heavier than the Hewlett-Packard HP Compaq nc6320 we tested earlier this year, but it has a 15.4-inch widescreen display compared with the nc6320s 15-inch widescreen display. (For eWeek Labs review of the nc6320 and other laptops, go to "Which laptop is for you?" at eweek.com.)

The Tecra A8 has a six-cell battery, which ran for almost 4 hours in our battery tests—a reasonable battery life considering the size of the laptops display.

Toshibas recommended configuration, which costs $1,099, has a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300E processor, a 15.4-inch widescreen display, 1GB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) RAM, an 80GB hard drive, an Intel Wi-Fi module capable of accessing 802.11a, b and g networks, and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM optical drive.

The Tecra A8 we tested featured a slightly beefier processor—the 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400—1GB of DDR2 RAM and a 100GB hard drive. In this configuration, the Tecra A8 costs $1,349. The laptop also can be purchased with Intels Celeron M 420 processor, at a starting price of $699.

The Tecra A8 uses Intels GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 950 with a 2MB L2 (Level 2) cache. The 15.4-inch display has a 1,280-by-800-pixel native resolution and is a TruBrite TFT (thin-film transistor) active-matrix LCD—a nice feature because of the brightness and clarity the TruBrite technology affords.

The Intel GMA 950 makes the Tecra A8 Windows Vista Premium Ready, which means the machine can provide users with the full Microsoft Vista experience, including Aero Glass three-dimensional graphics, translucency and window animation.

When it comes to connectivity, the Tecra A8 offers users the tri-band Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection. A hard switch on the front of the laptop allows users to easily switch the wireless on and off.

The Tecra A8 has a full-size keyboard, but some of the keys are oddly placed. For example, the tilde key is next to the space bar, and the Windows key is at the top of the keyboard. These are minor annoyances, though, and we liked that the keyboard features both a touch-pad and a pointing mouse.

The Tecra A8 comes with a set of management tools, called Toshiba Software Utilities. The utilities provide hard drive protection—which parks the hard drive when the laptop senses vibration or a drop—and allow users to manage the security features of the laptop, including a biometric reader. Also included with the laptop is a free one-year subscription to SystemGuard—which is accidental damage coverage—in addition to standard warranty coverage.

Our test unit had three USB 2.0 ports, a Type I/II PCMCIA slot, a FireWire port and a Secure Digital card reader. Our unit also had a DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive.

During tests, we used the BAPCO MobileMark 2005 benchmark suite to gauge the battery life of our Tecra A8 unit. MobileMark measures a systems battery life and performance with a core office productivity test that models a mobile professionals workload. Our Toshiba unit turned in a MobileMark score of 225, or 3 hours and 45 minutes, which is decent for a laptop of its size.

E-mail Senior Writer Anne Chen at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

Evaluation Shortlist

Dells Latitude D620

This widescreen model supports both Cingulars HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) and Verizons EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) networks, giving enterprises real choice in carriers (www.dell.com)

HP Compaqs nc6320

This laptop features Intels Core Duo dual-core processor and supports EvDO (www.hp.com)

Sonys Vaio S160

Has one of the brightest screens weve seen but comes at a high price—as much as $2,499 (www.sony.com)