Toshiba has been making notebooks for the last twenty years and in that time it has been the number one choice for business buyers. True, Toshiba's business notebooks may not exude style but they are well built, and suited and booted for business.
The Tecra A4 is an attractive notebook and weighing in at less than £1000 comes with a few interesting twists to satisfy the business man and the guy who likes to take his notebook home in the evening.
The styling of the black, toughened-plastic, chassis is attractive in an understated way. The look is more akin to an IBM ThinkPad than anything else in the Toshiba range. The build quality is exceptionally high, with Toshiba putting extra attention into the thick padding behind the screen, as well as strong hinges holding the panel in place. With no sharp corners, the casing will certainly survive knocks when out and about.
Weighing in at 3.1kg, it's best suited as a desktop alternative and with a battery life well under three hours before needing to recharge, you won't be using this Tecra on the move for long stretches of the day. That said, fitted with a 15.4-inch widescreen panel, you can use it for large spreadsheet work, view two A4 documents side-by-side, or watch a DVD in relative comfort.
At this price point, the specification consists of an Intel Celeron M 370 processor, which has a clock speed of 1.5GHz. Supported by 256MB DDR SDRAM and fitted with a 60GB hard drive, you'll be able to get most office tasked completed with a modicum of speed but this specification is the minimum we'd expect from a modern notebook. Toshiba offers the same chassis with a wide array of specifications and we'd suggest looking a little higher up the food chain if you can afford it.
The 15.4-inch widescreen TFT proved to be an extremely bright and impressive screen. While it doesn't use Toshiba's UtraBrite technology we found that image clarity was sharp. Supported by an ATi Mobility Radeon X300 graphics adapter, 3D graphics are fully supported and will readily handle both DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2 with ease. The X300 is a PCI-Express powered solution and is the entry-level offering from ATI but we managed to record a score of 2500 using 3Dmark 2003, which isn't groundbreaking but is better than an integrated solution.
Extras come in the form of Gigabit Ethernet for fixed connections and coming with a Centrino badge, it means that 802.11g is fitted as standard for connecting to wireless networks. As you would expect from an entry-level notebook, the optical drive is basic, being a DVD/CD-RW drive. Once again, if you're willing to spend a little more you can get a Tecra A4 with a DVD rewriter.
Weighing in at 3.1kg, it’s best suited as a desktop alternative and with a battery life under well under three hours before needing to recharge, you won’t be using this Tecra on the move for long stretches of the day. If your budget and expectations are low, there are few problems with the A4 - but it all depends on how low your expectations go. That said, we found it to be a highly usable notebook with no obvious flaws other than we’d have liked a little more power under the hood.