Toshiba Tecra M5-S433

GCN Lab review

BEefier: The Tecra has features that pack on pounds.

Pros: Full-featured, good performance

Cons: Affordable, heavy for an ultraportable

Price: $1,696 (government)

Performance: A-

Battery life: C+

Features: A-

Value: B+

Ok, the Tecra M5-S433 isn't exactly what we'd call an ultraportable notebook. We were looking for sub-5-pound systems and the Tecra tipped the scales at 5 pounds, 2 ounces.

The two main reasons for the extra weight are the generous 14.1-inch LCD screen and the semirugged magnesium alloy case. The advantages of a larger LCD screen are obvious when using many business programs. You can actually scroll through spreadsheets and see more columns, and you can afford to use larger text sizes than you could with a smaller screen. And the big LCD panel actually opens a full 180 degrees, so getting it into a proper position is easy.

As for the magnesium-alloy case, it adds a bit of ruggedness to the unit, especially to protect its most vulnerable component'the big LCD. But you can't treat the M5 like you would an actual rugged.

The case is part of the Toshiba's EasyGuard protection suite. Another component is the hard drive protection sensor, which can tell if a notebook is falling or experiences a sudden movement. If this happens, it will lock the hard drive into a safe position almost instantly, which gives your data the best chance of survival. For data security, the M5 comes with a slide-style fingerprint scanner and a smart-card reader. These can be used to lock the M5 down at the BIOS level, so the system won't even boot unless a user's fingerprint or token security card is present.

When it comes to performance, the M5's 1.8-GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor earned 7,286 on the GCN/Alterion benchmark tests'the highest in the review. This doesn't surprise us much, considering it was the fastest chip in the review. And our informal performance-to-weight ratio indicates that if portability is your primary concern, that benchmark score doesn't necessarily offset the higher weight (in May we tested a Sony Vaio VGN-SZ180PC that was slightly faster but more than a pound lighter).

Battery life was also on the low side'again, no surprise given the larger screen size and full-fledged CPU. It held out for just 2 hours, 22 minutes, which is good for a standard or business-class notebook, but not what you want from something considered ultraportable.

The good news? At a government price of $1,696, this Tecra is very affordable. Had we reviewed this model when we tested mainstream business notebooks, it would have been one of the lightest. It's chock-full of features, including an nVidia graphics card and 100GB hard drive. Is it ultraportable? The buyer will decide.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Irvine, Calif., (800) 477-1616,

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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