Toshiba Tecra M7 Tablet PC – Our Full Review

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By: Jermaine Whitaker & Barry J. Doyle

Editor’s Note: – we took a unique approach in working with the Toshiba M7 Tablet PC. Our co-author, Jermaine Whitaker is a High School Teacher and Football Coach. Jermaine worked with the M7 extensively as a first time Tablet PC user. Throughout the review you will be able to read Jermaine’s unique take and his views on how everything worked out diving into the Tablet PC platform with the M7. Enjoy!


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First Words

Jermaine: I must say that this is my first time using a Tablet PC and I love everything about it. The Tecra M7 is a powerful convertible notebook computer that is great for editing photos and taking notes easily (when the Tecra M7 is in Tablet PC mode). After using the Tecra M7 it has been a tough transition back to the conventional notebook PC for me. 

Barry: The innovations Toshiba has made since the Tecra M4 Tablet PC are very impressive. At this point I find the M7 to be the best Tablet PC convertible in its respectable class (the 14.1″ screen/desktop replacement).



Toshiba M7 Specs

  • Intel Core Duo Processor T2400 (1.83GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 667MHz FSB)
  • Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005
  • 1GB DDR2 533MHz RAM
  • 14.1″ WXGA+ Display (1440 x 900) with High Brightness/Wide View Angle
  • Intel 945GM Express GPU
  • 100GB HDD (5400rpm, Serial-ATA)
  • CD-RW/DVD-ROM Multifunction drive
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG (802.11a/b/g)

 


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Design and Build Quality

Jermaine: The Tecra M7 is a well-built sturdy and portable machine. The machine is metallic silver and black in color. 

Barry: I am significantly impressed by the improvements in the Toshiba Tecra M7 Tablet PC convertible in comparison with the older Tecra M4 we worked with over a year ago. The overall feel of the M7 is a sturdy and comfortable design. Improvements have been made in several areas including the easy access to the pen, an improvement to the display hinge (feels 30% more solid) and an exceptionally comfortable palmrest that stays cool to the touch. It feels as though engineers at Toshiba spent some time using this machine in order to ensure that the design is free of any obvious characteristic flaws that we see from other manufacturer’s designs. This is nice work on that end from Toshiba.


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Screen


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Jermaine: The Tecra M7 comes with a 14-inch screen with a wide view angle. While using the Tecra M7 I did notice myself adjusting the screen angle to fit my viewing preference. 

Barry: The M7 is graced with a 14.1″ widescreen display WXGA+ (1440 x 900). The brightness and viewing angles are not exceptional in any particular way, however the quality of the picture is fairly typical of any Tablet PC convertible. Since Toshiba uses a matte finished screen rather than a gloss, there is some grain in the picture. However as most regular Tablet PC users know, this is a worthy tradeoff for better traction when writing with the pen.



Sound


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Jermaine: With the two speakers in the upper corners of the keyboard area, the Tecra M7 offers better than average sound. When in tablet mode, the speakers are covered but still put out good sound.

Barry: I can agree that the sound is decent for built-in speakers. I would have liked to see a different location for the speakers since they are covered by the screen in “tablet mode”. The good news is that the audio is not completely “blocked” as the lid allows some clearance above the speaker grills with the display locked down. The Realtek audio software that is included has some nice advanced features – a nice little “extra” Toshiba threw in the mix.



Processor and Performance

Our review unit has the Intel Core Duo 1.83GHz CPU. The CPU combination and configuration in the M7 provides speedy performance in a surprisingly cool and quiet package. The M7 lands right where we expected in the SuperPI comparison benchmarks.

We used SuperPI to calculate the number Pi to 2 Million digits in this raw number crunching benchmark. This open source benchmark application allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated from 16 Thousand to 32 Million. The benchmark, which uses 19 iterations in the test, was set to 2 Million digits.

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Toshiba Tecra M7
(1.83GHz Core Duo)
1m 20s
Toshiba Portege M400
(1.83GHz Core Duo)
1m 19s
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


Using HD Tune, we benchmarked the 100GB (Fujitsu branded) hard drive. At a 17.4 ms access time, the drive proves its worthiness. The M7 is also available with an 80GB Toshiba branded hard drive as well.




Heat and Noise

Jermaine: I didn’t notice much noise from the M7 fan. I really like the “quiet mode” that is a feature in the Toshiba power management software. The only heat that I noticed from this machine is from the battery, even that is very minimal. 

Barry:  I can happily agree with Jermaine that the M7 runs surprisingly cool and quiet. I did not fiddle with different power management settings to boost the power, however I can assume that if the M7 was driven to its full performance potential, the heat and noise would increase to a “noticeable” level.


Input: Pen, Keyboard and Touchpad


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Jermaine: The touchpad was rarely used in my short time with the machine. I preferred the pen, which I found much easier for navigation. I’ve always had trouble using a touchpad because my fingers are large and they get in the way. By using the pen I was able to navigate much easier. I do like that the touchpad on the Tecra M7 has a left and right button, unlike the Apple notebooks we educators use in the workplace. I really like the keyboard on the M7. For the past two years I have worked on an Apple iBook and the keyboard is so small whereas the Tecra M7 keyboard is nearly full-sized with the exception of the number keys. Also I noticed that the Tecra M7 keyboard has sufficiently large arrow keys which make accessing them easier.

Barry: The pen and writing experience on the M7  is just what a consumer should expect from a good Tablet PC. The screen provides proper traction for writing with its matte surface. The digitizer and pen calibration was perfect right out of the box. The keyboard feel and response is exceptional and a marked improvement from the keyboard on the older Tecra M4 Tablet PC. The dual array mic is an outstanding feature for dictation and speech recognition.


Input/Output Ports


(view large image) Right side: Kensington Lock, heat vent, USB port, FireWire, multi-card reader, PC Card Slot



(view large image) Left side: Pen in silo, optical drive, USB Port



(view large image) Rear: AC in, modem port, S-Video out, LAN, 2 USB ports, VGA out



(view large image) Front: indicator lights, Wi-Fi switch, dual array mic, mic jack, headphone jack, hardware volume control, latch release


Battery

Jermaine: Battery life is average, and lasts about three hours. The downside to the battery is that it gets  hot when the computer is in use for more than an hour.

Barry: To Jermaine three hours is probably considered “average” since he uses the Apple iBook on a regular basis. Apple iBooks can claim up to five hours in battery life with regular use. In comparison with other Tablet PCs in this size and power category, the M7 battery life is on par. I found the “real life” battery runtime from the 6-cell (4700mAh) battery to be about 2-2.5 hours (with Wi-Fi on).


Battery Eater Pro Benchmark:

By turning off the power management software and running the M7 at full power, we were able to drain the battery in 1 hour. Keep in mind that this was under the most extreme circumstances and does not reflect typical “real world” battery runtimes.

System Info
Manufacture TOSHIBA
Model TECRA M7
ModelEx PTM70U-00C007
OS Windows XP Service Pack 2
CPU Info
CPU Manufacture Intel Corporation
CPU Model Genuine Intel(R) CPU T2400 @ 1.83GHz
CPU Frequency ~1828Mhz
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
Total Memory: 1016Mb
Memory slots 2 ( 1: 512Mb; 2: 512Mb; )
Display Device Info
Adapter Mobile Intel(R) 945GM Express Chipset Family
Resolution 1440×900
OpenGL render device Intel 945GM
OpenGL driver version 1.4.0 – Build 4.14.10.4436
Vertex shader version 0.0
Pixel shader version 2.0
Hard Disk Drive Info
S.M.A.R.T. Supported and Enabled
HDD Model HTS541010G9SA00
HDD Serial MP2ZX0X0K67GBS
HDD FirmWare MBZOC60R
Main Battery Info
Device Name G71C0004S610
Manufacture
Serial #
Unique ID 2100093619G71C0004S610
Chemistry Lithium Ion
Temperature Termal Control Not Present
Designed Capacity 50760mWh
Full Charged Capacity 47271mWh
Designed Voltage 10.8V
Current Voltage 11.26V
Manufacture Date 0/0/0
Cycles Count 0
Cells count 3
Force charge support Not Supported
Force discharge support Not Supported
Benchmark results
CPU BEmarks 0
GPU BEmarks 0
RAM BEmarks 0
HDD BEmarks 0
Work Done
Pi calculations 51447 Cycles
HDD readwrite 3781 Mb
Fames Rendered 369251 Frames
Benchmark Options
Resolution 800x600x32
FullScreen Disabled
Mode Classic
Results
Total time 0:58:30
Discharge rate (maximum) 4294926818 mWh
Discharge rate (average) 4282618446 mWh
Result Graph



Operating System and Software

The M7 comes preloaded with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and:


Toshiba Software and Utilities:

  • Toshiba ConfigFree
  • Toshiba Custom Utilities
  • Toshiba Game Console
  • Toshiba Electronic User’s Guide
Third-party Software:
  • Microsoft Works 8.5
  • Microsoft OneNote 2003
  • McAfee Internet Security Suite (30-day trial)
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • InterVideo WinDVD 5
  • InterVideo WinDVD Creator 2 Platinum
  • Sonic Solutions RecordNow! Basic for Toshiba
  • Sonic Solutions Drive Letter Access (DLA)

Jermaine: The Tecra M7 is preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. It also had several junk programs that I will never use. 

Barry: Toshiba has got to be the greatest offender when it comes to bloatware. I generally run the “msconfig” command in the Windows run box, then remove the majority of this garbage from the Windows startup. This will improve performance and stability, not to mention speed up boot times by up to 50%!


Security

Barry: The M7 incorporates a biometric fingerprint reader as an extra means to protecting data. For the on-the-go mobile professional or traveler with sensitive data to protect, Biometric Security is a must have feature.


Customer Support

Jermaine: Customer Support was not used at the time of this review. In my opinion, the Tecra M7 was built with the user in mind. It was not a great challenge to navigate and take advantage of the features on this machine. If I had a problem, the help files provided by Toshiba helped me work through the troubles.


Conclusion

Jermaine: The Tecra M7 is a well-made, easy to use, good machine. I highly recommend the Tecra M7 to anyone who is in the market of buying a Tablet PC. The price will compete with any other Tablets on the market. 

Barry: Ditto. The M7 is a great contender for consideration by consumers seeking a “desktop replacement” type of Tablet PC. The Tecra comes across as a business class computer with consumer-friendly features. Whether it’s features like a nice widesreen format display to watch DVDs or high-level biometric security that you seek in a Tablet PC, the M7 has combined a great mix in offerings all in one moderately priced package.
 

Pros

  • Attractive, comfortable design
  • Easy to use
  • Good mixture of  features

Cons

  • Junk software
  • Battery gets hot





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