Toshiba Portégé M700-110 review
Attractive to look at, but too expensive for occasional tablet use and not good enough to compete with the best dedicated devices.
This is the first article in PC Pro to be written by hand for quite some time. In fact, it's quite possibly the first ever. We found Toshiba's new tablet so tactile and usable that we dispensed with our keyboard altogether for the day to give it the most thorough test we could think of - helping us to write its own review.
In notebook mode, the Portégé looks like any standard small-format laptop, with a conventional chassis for a machine with a 12.1in screen, aside from the rotating hinge of course. The silver plastic that makes up the lid and keyboard surround looks good, and the mirror-finish Toshiba logo adds an aura of quality.
Sadly this look of solidity does not extend to the construction of the M700-110. The build quality is unimpressive, let down particularly by a huge amount of flex around the removable optical drive. The whole side of the laptop at this point can be compressed to a worrying extent.
The keyboard is delicate, with hardly any travel in the keys. It doesn't feel precise as a result and some keys are too small (the function keys, for example) to use comfortably. Small keys can be forgiven on a notebook this size, but as our current A List Tablet PC, HP Compaq's 2710p, manages to cram a superb keyboard into an even smaller chassis, the Toshiba has little excuse.
Switching to tablet mode is simply a case of swivelling the screen 180 degrees and closing the lid. The hinge works well, but only if you line up the screen at 90 degrees to the body of the notebook; if it's off by a few degrees then the mechanism clicks loudly and the screen bends. The over-flexible chassis is even more noticeable when you're gripping the Toshiba in tablet mode, and the optical drive also irritates - the eject button is all too easily pressed by accident.
The screen can be used in digitiser or touchscreen mode. This means it can respond not only to a stylus, but also the jab of a finger depending on your preference.
And all this, impressively, doesn't impinge on image quality; the M700's screen isn't grainy as touchscreens so often are. The glossy coating can cause reflections in brightly lit offices and in strong sunlight, but the quality is very good, and the surface seems resilient to even the firmest of jabs from the stylus.
The screen isn't the only input device available in tablet mode. There's also a row of buttons along the bezel, which include a combined arrow key and Enter emulator, plus a quick-launch button for Windows Mobility Centre, which allows you to change various settings with just a couple of clicks. Thoughtfully, there's a fingerprint reader and this is mounted on the screen surround for access in either tablet or notebook modes.
In our battery tests the Toshiba lasted nearly five hours under light use, and just one hour and one minute in our more intensive tests. While this is respectable, it's far from class leading. The HP Compaq 2710p managed a far longer three and a half hours under intense use, partly helped by its lower power processor. However, this means a trade off in power, and the 2710p only managed a rather sluggish 0.54 in our 2D benchmarks.
Toshiba hasn't gone down the same route here, and the Portégé posts far more impressive performance scores. With an Intel Core 2 duo running at 2GHz and a generous 2GB of RAM, Vista runs without any problems and programs load quickly.
It scored 0.96 in our 2D benchmarks. That's on a par with most other business laptops in its price range, our current favourite - the Dell Latitude D630 - included.