First of all, I have to come out and say that I have never owned a Tablet PC, until I purchased my Tecra M7. And second, let me say that I may never go back to a conventional notebook again! The Tecra M7 from Toshiba is not only a powerful notebook computer, but also, by rotating the screen it becomes a Tablet PC, making tasks such as note taking and graphics editing a breeze.
(view large image) The Toshiba Tecra M7 in "notebook mode"
(view large image) The M7 in "tablet mode"
(view large image) Tecra M7 with Stylus and Battery, with a pen for size comparision
Toshiba M7 Specs
Reasons for Buying
It was summer and I was getting ready to head off into my junior year of College. The laptop I had at the time was an old clunker (at five years-old and having minimal hard drive space). But, it was a Toshiba, and it had served me well. Naturally, I wanted a computer that could last just as long, to be fairly powerful for a notebook, or be too pricey (basically not much more than $2,000). The Tecra M7 was all of these, and just over $2,000 dollars (I purchased Microsoft Office pre-installed, so the actual price is probably around $1,800).
Where and How Purchased
Admittedly, at first I wanted to purchase the Tecra M4. And I did order one from ToshibaDirect. But, seven days later, Toshiba notified me via email that the credit card hadn't gone through. I had put the wrong address down when ordering.
I called the customer support number they gave me and got through right away. They were very helpful, but the Tecra M4 was no longer an option. ToshibaDirect apparently had stopped offering them two days after my previous order. However, a new model, the Tecra M7, was coming out in two days, and they would call back and guide me through the ordering process over the phone then. Needless to say, they called back in two days and I ordered a Tecra M7. It took over two weeks to build, but only two days to ship from China to the USA.
The chassis is metallic silver and black in color, and is rather simple and utilitarian. It feels sturdy, and appears elegant in its own way. And not only does it feel sturdy, it is sturdy! There is no flex anywhere in the keyboard and the screen seems to be well protected. The only complaint I could have against it is in the hinge connecting the screen to the rest of the machine. It has never rotated unless I physically turn it, but it just feels a little too "jiggly". But I may just be too used to the immovable hinges in conventional notebooks.
The Tecra M7 has several features specifically designed to make tablet use easier. For example, the biometric fingerprint scanner is located to the side of the screen, making login in tablet mode as easy as swiping a thumb. Also to the side of the screen are a joystick for easier navigation, a button that works like a second Esc key, a button that is essentially the same as pressing Alt-Ctrl-Delete, and a button to access the Toshiba Assist Console. Sadly, Toshiba must not have been thinking too well when they placed the two programmable keys. Instead of placing them to the side of the display, they are located to the left of the keyboard, making access to them impossible when the computer is in tablet mode.
Another feature worth mentioning is the shock detection sensor. It's a vibration sensor that shuts down the computer's hard disk to prevent damage when the computer is being moved.
The Tecra M7 has a 14.1" Diagonal WXGA+ Display (1440 x 900) with high brightness and a wide view angle. And while the display is easier to read at strange angles than a typical notebook display, it is still necessary to adjust the screen position for optimum viewing, especially outdoors (though it is never really a hinderance, just typical notebook computer display issues). Where the display really shines however, is in the widescreen and the graphics card. With its NVIDIA Quadro and 128MB of dedicated graphics memory, this computer is more than capable of running a wide variety of graphics intensive programs (though I haven't had much of a chance to really test it out as of yet. Work first you know).
There are two speakers in the Tecra M7, both located at the upper corners of the keyboard section. Both provide better than average sound for a laptop. The only problem I have with them is that when the computer is in tablet mode, the screen covers over the speakers. Obviously though, the best sound to be had will always be with external speakers.
Processor and Performance
My configuration of the Tecra M7 has the Intel Core Duo 1.83GHz processor option, and has more than enough computing power for any task I use it for. To back up my words, I used SuperPi to provide some hard numbers. SuperPi calculated out to 2 million digits of Pi while my Tecra M7 was running on full power, with over 70 processes running in the background. Go down one section to Benchmarks to see the results.
Toshiba M7 Performance Benchmarks
Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits (SuperPi)
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Toshiba Tecra M7
(1.83GHz Core Duo)
|Toshiba Portege M400
(1.83GHz Core Duo)
|Toshiba Tecra M4 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|HP tc4200 (1.73GHz Alviso PM)||1m 51s|
|Toshiba R15 Tablet PC (1.6GHz Dothan PM)||2m 8s|
Hard Drive (HDTune):
Battery Life (Battery Eater Pro):
|OS||Windows XP Service Pack 2|
|CPU Manufacture||Intel Corporation|
|CPU Model||Genuine Intel(R) CPU T2400 @ 1.83GHz|
|CPU Extensions||| MMX | SSE2 | HT | Enchanted SpeedStep|
CPU Cache Info
|Level 1 Instructions||32|
|Level 1 Data||32|
|Level 2 Data||2048|
System RAM info
|Memory slots||2 ( 1: 512Mb; 2: 512Mb; )|
Display Device Info
|Adapter||NVIDIA Quadro NVS 110M|
|OpenGL render device||Quadro NVS 110M/PCI/SSE2|
|OpenGL driver version||2.0.1|
|Vertex shader version||3.0|
|Pixel shader version||3.0|
Hard Disk Drive Info
|S.M.A.R.T.||Supported and Enabled|
|HDD Model||FUJITSU MHV2060BH PL|
Main Battery Info
|Temperature||Termal Control Not Present|
|Full Charged Capacity||45252mWh|
|Force charge support||Not Supported|
|Force discharge support||Not Supported|
|Pi calculations||155532 Cycles|
|HDD readwrite||6582 Mb|
|Fames Rendered||580588 Frames|
|Discharge rate (minimum)||4294934032 mWh|
|Discharge rate (maximum)||4294938536 mWh|
|Discharge rate (average)||4294937518 mWh|
Heat and Noise
There really is not much noise produced by either the fan or optical drive. Even so, the computer comes with a quiet mode that reduces any noise to bare minimum. As for heat, the fan exhaust is obviously a hot spot, but it is mercifully located out of the way on the left side of the computer. Still, the lower left section of the keyboard area can get pretty warm, though nothing too uncomfortable.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is nearly a full-sized keyboard, minus the numpad. The arrow keys are shoved up closer to the rest of the keys and Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End are located vertically above those. By using the function key, keys in the middle of the keyboard become the missing numpad, albiet a very awkward to use numpad. I'd recommend a USB keyboard when using the computer at your home desk for maximum functionality, but the built in keyboard is still more than useable, making class notes easy to take.
As for the touchpad, not much can be said. It's a standard touchpad with two buttons. I really can't think of a reason to purchase a mouse when you have the stylus, unless you're intending to play Tribes 3 or any other shooter. The stylus itself, except for use in games, is a powerful tool that makes many tasks a breeze.
Input and Output Ports
The Tecra M7 has 4 USB 2.0 ports, two in the back and one on each side. It also comes with a firewire port on the left side, along with a PC card slot, and a bridge media slot (which I haven't used yet) which is supposedly capable of handling Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Multimedia Card, and xD Picture Cards.
(view large image) Left side- Stylus compartment, CD Drive, USB
(view large image) Right side- Exhaust, USB, FireWire, Bridge Media Slot, PC card slot
(view large image)
Back- DC Power In, Modem Port, S-video port, Network Port, 2 USB, RGB Monitor
The Tecra M7 came with the option for either Intel PRO/Wireless or Atheros wireless. Both are comprable and can handle 802.11 a/b/g. I choose the Intel PRO/Wireless, and it works just fine, connecting to the wireless network at home, and at college.
The battery lasted about 2 and a half to 3 hours, though tweaking the various power options may extend life a bit further.
Operating System and Software
The Tecra M7 came preloaded with Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005, which is essentially Windows XP Pro. However, the M7 came loaded with several junk programs that I will never use, such as AOL internet. It'll take me a couple of hours to track down all the software I don't want and delete it, which is needless to say, annoying. My only other complaint is the lack of recovery disks. If I ever choose to format the hard drive, I'll either have to create over 10 CDs from the recovery partition or leave the partition intact and reload everything from there.
Customer support, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review was more than excellent. It's almost as if Toshiba understands that we as customers don't want to have to find our way through a maze of computer answering systems and customer support representatives who don't speak english to find help. For the few little qualms I have about the Tecra M7, Toshiba's quick and helpful customer support makes it all worth it.
This computer is a great machine for just about anyone. It is powerful, easy to use, and priced to compete with the other computers out there. I highly recommend it.
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