Toshiba Tecra A11 and Tecra M11: first-look reviews

tecram11anda11sidebyside_thumb.jpg Toshiba splits its laptop branding into two main streams: Satellite and Satellite Pro for home and small business; Tecra for larger businesses. And we got our hands on the two new Tecra models at its 2010 press event: the 14in Tecra M11 and 15.4in Tecra A11.

Toshiba Tecra A11 and Tecra M11: first-look reviews

As can be seen from the photo above, there’s a certain amount of similarity between them (the A11 is on the left, the M11 on the right). They’re black, they’re a little boxy, and they eschew such consumer fripperies as isolated keyboards and, in the M11’s case, a webcam.

While some will baulk at the plain design, in our eyes it’s an improvement on the old Tecra design, which suffered from a combination of black and silver; a halfway house that’s very difficult to pull off. You know where you are with black, and it should look just as good in a year or two as it does the day you buy it.

tecram11keyboardangle_thumb.jpg Both are pleasant to use. The keyboard (which is identical on the models) is large and well laid-out, with the only sacrifice being a slightly narrow Enter key: everything else is well spaced. While the keyboard itself is no match for a ThinkPad, it’s pleasant enough to type on.

We also appreciate the inclusion of both a trackpad and a trackpoint, but of particular use for security-conscious businesses is the fingerprint reader – this is tucked in between the left- and right-mouse buttons.

buttoncloseup_thumb.jpg Four large, no-nonsense shortcut buttons sit above the keyboard. Two control the volume, another launches the monitor choice button (Windows plus P in Windows 7) and the fourth launches Toshiba’s eco Utility. According to Toshiba, this drops power by around 20% by default – by dropping LCD brightness, for example – but you can customise this if you prefer.

Our sample of the A11 included a 1,366 x 768 panel, and it appears up to the usual Toshiba standard. Also note the matt as opposed to glossy finish. People might begrudge the relatively low resolution for such a large display, but different resolutions will be made available. Arguably the M11’s 14in screen is a better partner for a 1,366 x 768 resolution, and again that was our sample’s choice.

tecraa11rearrs232vga_thumb.jpg Another area where the laptops differ is their ports. The Tecra A11, as the larger of the two, squeezes in some extra connectors – including the now close-to-extinction serial port. Toshiba caters for people needing a legacy D-SUB port on both machines (sensibly positioned at the rear), but there’s also a mini-DisplayPort for connecting to more modern displays via an adapter.

toshibatecraa11sidedisplayport_thumb.jpg In total, the M11 has three USB ports (one of which doubles up as an eSATA port, and continues to provide a charge even if your computer is in sleep mode), while the A11 offers four.

Considering both of these laptops are quite large, they feel surprisingly light in the hand (we await confirmation of the exact weight, but they will be around 2.25 to 2.75kg). The biggest problem is going to be getting the A11 into a bag, as it’s a wide machine.

You’ll also have to wait a month or two for the Tecra M11 to go on sale, but the good news is that you can already buy the Tecra A11: we found a Core i5-520M A11, complete with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard disk, for £604 exc VAT from

We hope to get a model into our Labs for proper testing soon, but if you’re after a mobile workstation then both these ranges already look very promising.


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