Toshiba Portege M700 Notebook PC - Review

Toshiba Portege M700 Notebook PC - Review

Core 2 Duo T7500 Processor 2.2GHz, 1GB RAM

Despite being in the market for ages, tablet PCs have never really taken off for the consumer market. Due to its high premium, most of these devices end up in education or corporate settings for those who require screen-based input and don't mind paying for it. The latest laptop from Toshiba, the Portege M700, is one such device.

Despite its rather high price tag, the M700 is built to last. Based on Toshiba's EasyGuard technology, this is one hardy portable for the urban jungle, and the full-powered processor based on Intel latest chipset ensures that it will remain relevant for years. But despite using an LED screen, being a full-featured tablet PC means that compromises have to be made for portability. If you need a tablet that can be used on the move, the lighter but less tricked-out Fujitsu LifeBook T2010--which even has HSDPA-equipped version--may be a better choice.

Design of the Toshiba Portege M700 Laptop

One of the key improvements to the Portege tablet PC series is the inclusion of LED technology in the display. More power-efficient yet brighter than conventional LCD panels, it allows for a thinner display that has better readability in bright environments. Despite this, the screen of the M700 LCD is intentionally made thicker to ensure that it will not crack at the slightest pressure. In fact, even when we pushed hard on the LCD from the back there were no signs of ripples on the LCD. It also helps that the magnesium-alloy chassis is able to withstand more punishment than plastic-based bodies.

So despite using an LED-backlit screen, the M700 can hardly be considered sleek with a thickness of 39.4mm and a 305 x 239mm footprint. The 2.1kg heft also makes it unsuitable for on the go usage unless you pump iron as a hobby. In exchange for reduced mobility, this Portege is built to last. The harddisk is mounted on a shock-resistant casing and the thicker body does not flex excessively, thereby preventing damage to internal components should the unit be twisted in a bag. Unlike most convertible tablet PCs which rely on a single rotating hinge to keep the tablet in slate or clamshell modes, the M700 includes an additional two latches at the side which really keep the screen in its proper place even when dropped.

The placement of the USB ports (one on the back right and two on the left) as well as the cooling vent on the left are considerate to right-hand mouse users, though left-handed consumers may cry foul (and get sweaty hands as well). In tablet mode, the heating vent ends up at the top and away from the body.

As expected of a tablet PC, the M700 has the standard shortcut buttons for commonly used functions, like screen rotation, just under the display. A dedicated wireless switch turns the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios off to save power and a volume wheel takes care of the audio levels for the M700.

Features of the Toshiba Portege M700 Laptop

The Portege M700 belongs to the corporate lineup and, as such, is geared toward the needs of the business user. As is standard for any serious business laptop, a fingerprint sensor and TPM security chip take care of protecting your data from prying eyes. They work in conjunction with Toshiba EasyGuard application to ensure that even should the harddisk be removed and placed into another computer, the encrypted information cannot be read.

One minor irritation we encountered was with the built-in accelerometer which parks the harddisk reader arm when any vibration or shock is experienced. Though this protects the magnetic platters from being scratched in the event of a drop, it is so sensitive that merely hitting the table hard will result in a pop-up message telling you the reader arm has been parked. This is especially annoying if you are trying to use the machine in tablet mode as merely lifting up the device too fast will activate the accelerometer. Though you can choose to turn the pop-up messages or even the accelerometer off, we would have preferred if there was a way to control the sensitivity instead.

We like the full-sized keyboard which is responsive and comfortable to type on even for long documents. We also like the fact that it is spill-resistant and prevents small amounts of liquids from reaching the internal components. It does not have drain holes like the ThinkPad T61, so pouring too much water on the device may still damage the laptop. The touchpad is reasonably usable for cursor control, though we found it a little small.

An optical drive drive is built under the hood and can be removed and upgraded. Our review unit held a DVD writer which can read and write on almost any flavor of CD and DVD. A weight-saver option is also included in the box which helps shave off a few hundred grams from the unit and increase battery life. The bottom of the unit contains proprietary expansion ports which are compatible with the Portege range of accessories.

Unlike Dell's latest tablet PC, which has a combination touch and active digitizer screen, the M700 uses only the latter. As such, you need the included stylus (found in the spring-loaded slot) to control the cursor on the 12.1-inch display. The native resolution is 1,280 x 800 pixels and powered with the integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 chipset, which can pull up to 358MB of system memory for video rendering. A built-in 1.3-megapixel Webcam sits on the top, perfect for those who frequently video conference or need the occasional snapshot. It could have been put to better use like the Lenovo Y410 which, in conjunction with a face-recognition software, allows you to log into the computer merely by looking at the Webcam.

Typical of most current laptops, the Portege M700 holds a collection of three USB ports, a mini-FireWire and a VGA-out. The two USB ports located on the left deserve special mention as they are based on Toshiba's Plug-and-Charge technology (it first appeared in the Qosmio G40), which allows the unit to charge USB devices even when the laptop is turned off. A Type II PC Card slot completes the picture and leaves the rare few with ExpressCard devices in the cold.

Network connectivity is handled with the built-in modem and Gigabit Ethernet ports, while its wireless capabilities consist of the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n radios. While most business laptops could have gotten away with a low-quality mono speaker, the Portege M700 holds a pair of stereo horns. Though it won't win any prize for its entertainment value, the sound quality is still more than competent for the occasional movie or music file.

Performance And Battery Life of the Toshiba Portege M700 Laptop

Our S$3,599 (US$2,367.76) review unit held a Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM and 120GB of storage space. By default, the unit runs on the Windows Vista Business platform though there are Windows XP drivers available for download. MobileMark 07 was unable to install on our machine due to possible conflicts with the Toshiba applications, but with its full-powered processor it should make quick work of most productivity tasks and even some light video-editing duties. Just don't expect to play high-powered games on this device.

We ran iRobot DVD at half-screen brightness with the volume turned up. Since we did not wish to be arrested for noise pollution, we plugged in a set of earphones to save our neighbors' sanity. The Portege M700 gave up the ghost after 2 hours 6 minutes of runtime. Not fantastic by any standards, but competent enough for the regional traveler. You can expect longer battery life if computing tasks are restricted to productivity tools.

After-Sales Service And Support for the Toshiba Portege M700 Laptop

Toshiba offers a three-year international carry-in warranty for this machine. Should a problem occur, the unit will have to be brought down to a Toshiba service center for repair as there is no telephone technical support. A list of service centers can be obtained from Toshiba's Web site which also contains updated drivers and utilities.