Small is portable. Big is comfortable. But go too far either way and the cart turns over. Toshiba is playing with how small a laptop can get with the Satellite Click Mini, an ultra-low-cost tablet-meets-laptop hybrid.
The Satellite Click Mini costs just £250. That's less than half the price of the Microsoft Surface 3 (not the Pro model, of course) with the near-essential keyboard attachment included, yet here you get everything you need. Which sounds like a bargain.
Sure enough it's about aggressively priced as you will find. But before putting hand in pocket, have a good look at this Toshiba. Because the Satellite Click Mini will feel pretty cramped in many adults' hands, and the screen is smaller than other small hybrids to boot.
Has this Satellite failed to achieve orbit by cutting too many corners for the sake of price?
The Toshiba Satellite Click Mini is something new, because it takes a slightly different approach to the other bigger hybrid makers out there, including Acer, Asus and Lenovo. Where most hybrids are between 10- and 13-inches, Toshiba squeezes its way down to an 8.9-inch screen in the Click Mini.
As such, it's pretty tiny. We put this all-plastic hybrid next to the Asus Transformer Chi T100, a 10-inch alternative, and it is indeed significantly narrower. For fitting in a handbag, that could be a positive for the Toshiba, but it's not too great if you're going to be typing long-form.
Believe it or not, our job requires writing an awful lot, and we found the keyboard that bit too small to type on comfortably for hours at a time. Unless you have pretty small hands, you'll need to splay your wrists to get proper coverage of the keys, and that's certainly not going to please any physios or people who have to pore over workplace HR guidelines for a living.
This is pretty much why other companies bottom-out at the 10.1-inch hybrid scale. For us the Click Mini is a little too mini.
However, if you're only going to be using the Satellite Click Mini for typing occasionally, perhaps it doesn't matter too much. Add the touchscreen technology and in that respect and others the hybrid style works pretty well.
The keyboard connects to the screen using direct contacts, not Bluetooth. Just plonk the tablet component into the dock and it starts working.
Its hinge looks and feels like that of a standard laptop too. It moves smoothly, not in set increments like the Microsoft Surface 3. And to release the tablet you just press the button above the keyboard, releasing the metal clasps that hold the display in place. It's simple, sturdy and sensible.
Some might be a bit disappointed with how far the Toshiba Satellite Click Mini screen tilts back, though: with fewer than 135-degrees to play with it can seen like you're "looking down" on the screen. However, a great side effect is that this is less prone to tipping over than just about any other small hybrid. You can use it on your knees, at an angle, and it'll stay where it should be - which is pretty refreshing.
Part of this is because Toshiba has put a bit of extra weight into the base by using a fairly substantial battery. The one in the screen gets you a so-so six hours of use, the secondary one in the base adds another six hours, totalling 12 hours between the pair. Not bad, right? The base battery is used as a backup, charged-up once the tablet cell is full.
As with any laptop-style hybrid like this, the keyboard also protects the screen when it's not in use. Aside from being that bit too small, this show is pretty well thought out.
The Toshiba Satellite Click Mini keyboard keys aren't too bad either. As you might expect of a £250 hybrid with a plastic shell, the whole thing flexes quite a bit if you press down hard, but the keys, which are sensibly laid out, aren't too spongy or inordinately shallow.
What's below the keyboard isn't quite so hot, though: the trackpad. It's just too small, and, no surprise, its surface is basic plastic rather than something fancier. We also found that its driver seems to use very aggressive palm rejection tactics in some circumstances, making it even fiddlier to use. There are no control panel options to turn this off either.
Small screen, high res
Throughout the Toshiba Satellite Click Mini we see a mix of good and bad, a familiar battle can be seen with the screen too. It rules in terms of specs and sharpness, but there are downsides too.
Most budget 10-inch hybrids still have low-res screens: the Acer Switch 10 and Asus Transformer Book T100 both use 1366 x 768 pixel panels. Toshiba, on the other hand, opts for a 1920 x 1200 pixel panel in the Click Mini, resulting in a much sharper experience thanks to the high-definition resolution.
It's the kind of display we've been waiting for in a budget hybrid. It's just a shame said hybrid isn't slightly bigger: when used on your knees the Click Mini does, indeed, look pretty mini.
That sort of problem melts away when you separate tablet and keyboard, but then on its own the tablet's screen does look quite dated. Next to the Google Nexus 9, another 8.9-inch tablet, it looks a bit like a digital picture frame thanks to its giganto-bezels. Not that we'd want the keyboard to be squeezed-in any more, mind.
So while the Click Mini solves the biggest problem of current budget hybrids, it introduces some new ones too. There's room for image quality to improve as well: colours are a little cool and muted; there's light texturing to the screen, making it seem less clear and pristine than a slightly higher-end screen like the Asus Transformer T100 Chi's.
For £250, though, we're fairly happy. Just don't expect quality on-par with the best standard tablets at the price.
Software and performance
Of course, this Toshiba a Windows machine, not an Android tablet you'd otherwise have to buy in order to find a real top-grade screen for the price.
By running Windows 8.1, the Click Mini can try running apps well above its pay grade. The most important one is Microsoft Office, which comes with a year subscription to Office 365 included. It's limited to this device, but it'd cost you £59.99 on its own, so makes that price point all the more appealing.
The Toshiba Satellite Click Mini can even try things like Photoshop, but don't expect too much in terms of graphical drive. It's not a powerhouse after all, with 2GB RAM, 32GB storage and the Intel Atom Z3735F CPU at its core.
This is a pretty common CPU among entry-level Windows tablets, and it's not hugely powerful. It's less powerful than some mid-range phones, even though this is a "proper" Windows computer.
Still, you can push it as hard as you like. For gaming it'll handle casual stuff pretty well, but if you're going to try more demanding games then you'll have to ratchet down the visual settings just about as low as they'll go. We tried S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky and a few other once-high-end titles, and sure enough they did run, even at native resolution. However, try to get them close to the visual fidelity you'd get out of a PS4 (or even PS3) and you're looking at 2fps-grade performance. But, hey, good luck getting something like Clear Sky working on an Android tablet.
On the other side, though, don't expect the tablet side of the Toshiba Satellite Click Mini to work quite as cleanly as an Android, or the iPad mini 2 you could snag for the same price. Windows 8.1 needs a bit more power and RAM than is on offer here in order to really sing, and it's just not as well optimised for touchscreen use as Android or iOS.
You do have to care about the PC side of things for the Click Mini to really make sense, but it does at least try to go the extra mile on this side. Where the 12-inch Apple MacBook has just one connector bar the headphone jack, this mini Toshiba has loads.
There's a full-size USB, micro HDMI, two SD card slots (micro and standard) plus a micro USB slot for charging and file transfer. That sort of load-out wouldn't look out of place on a laptop twice the size.
To top it off, there are stereo speakers (one on each side of the tablet) and two cameras, 2MP to the front and 5MP round back. None of them are any good, though: the speakers sound tinny and the cameras produce poor shots compared with just about any new phone. Still, we can't deny Toshiba has packed a lot into the Satellite Click Mini for the price.
The Toshiba Satellite Click Mini fiddles with the budget hybrid formula, injecting a high-res screen into a miniature scale.
But after the 13-inch not-so-mini Toshiba Click, this follow-up really does feel extra small. For us it's too dinky, so unless you're a pre-teen or have rather petite hands you'll likely think the same. Typing and using the trackpad feels very cramped and won't do your joints any favours in the long-run - especially if you're after a serious portable typing tool.
However, the Click Mini's screen is a cut above rival £200-odd hybrids thanks to its high resolution. This, coupled with the price point, make the Click Mini a sound deal. But practical concerns mean this Satellite can't maintain orbit in all the areas that matter, so it won't be for everyone.