Toshiba has been at the forefront of the notebook business for 21 years and in that time has long been considered one of the business world’s manufacturer’s of choice. However, as you can buy it’s machines through places like PC World and from any of the online vendors, the average person looking for a solid workhorse of a machine can easily pick one up.
Take the Tecra A3X for instance, it may not be the best looking notebook on the market but when you consider it costs £560 (inc. VAT) it suddenly starts to look a lot more appealing.
For starters it’s robust and the 2.6kg weight means you can carry it around without too much trouble. Where this machine let us down was in the field though, as we only managed to get a battery life of two hours from it, so not exactly the best choice for a machine you need to take around with you all day.
At this price, don’t expect the latest of components either as it comes powered by an Intel Celeron M 370 (1.5GHz) processor and 512MB of DDR2 memory. If you’re simply looking for a cost-effective machine to handle office tasks, check email and generally surf the web, this configuration will be fine.
We’d like to have seen more than 40GB on offer but you can easily upgrade to a larger drive at a later date if you want.
The 15-inch TFT panel comes with a standard 4:3 aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. So, no glossy screen but we found it bright enough in most conditions. Graphics, as you’ll expect from a budget machine, come in an integrated form. The Celeron chip uses Intel’s older 915GM chipset, which is fine for basic multimedia tasks but won’t handle games.
Where this notebook starts to stand out from similarly priced machines is in the build quality, which is superior and designed for long-term use. The plastics used are solid and gives the machine a good feel. Considering the screen isn’t a widescreen panel, the keyboard is still of a good size and proved comfortable to use.
Wi-Fi and standard Ethernet connections will keep you connected to networks and hotspots and with 3 USB2.0 and a Firewire port, you can add a host of peripherals without worry. To keep costs down, you’ll find the optical drive is an older DVD/CD-RW drive, which means you can write CD-R discs but not DVD-R. You can read data from DVDs, either as programs or DVD movies, though.
It may not be the prettiest notebook on the high streets, nor is it the most powerful but what the Tecra lacks in grace it make sup for in build quality and that asking price.
If your needs are basic and your budget strapped, this is one machine you may well think about checking out – just be aware that you may outgrown its uses within a year or two.