Toshiba Tecra A5 review

£599
Price when reviewed

The Tecra A5 is a mixed bag of attractive features and disappointing omissions. The basic model costs only £549, so we chose to upgrade to a three-year international warranty (albeit return-to-base cover) to reach the £599 price of this Labs.

With a 1.6GHz Celeron M 380, it managed an adequate 0.62 overall in our 2D benchmarks. This could have been higher, but there’s just 256MB of PC2700 memory installed. You can add more via the spare socket, though.

The Intel Extreme Graphics 2 won’t allow you to play the latest 3D games, but there’s a widescreen 14in TFT with a resolution of 1,280 x 768. It’s appropriate for the size, but the screen on our review model was unevenly lit and had poor viewing angles – it’s best when you’re facing square-on. The lid will protect the screen from light knocks, although the build quality of the chassis as a whole is disappointing. The black plastic feels thin and flexes easily, with the screen feeling particularly vulnerable.

Fortunately, there’s a good variety of ports. There are four USB 2 ports, a mini-FireWire connector, plus a Type II Card slot and a 5-in-1 card reader. In addition to the usual cards, it’s unique this month in reading xD-Picture cards. There’s a switch to enable the 802.11b/g wireless when needed, and Bluetooth is also present. 10/100 Ethernet and modem ports complete the set, and the Tecra is the only system to boast a hardware volume control.

For storage, Toshiba has fitted a 60GB hard disk, but instead of a DVD writer there’s only a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive. It’s a disappointment, but you do get Windows XP Professional as well as the useful OneNote 2003 application.

Battery life is reasonable, although it can’t compete against the notebooks with two batteries. It lasted two-and-a-half hours under light-use conditions, and one hour, 42 minutes during intensive use. Noise-wise, the A5 measured 26.5dBA when idle, making it as impressively quiet as all this month’s notebooks.

Overall, the Tecra A5 has a few highlights – it offers XP Professional and support for xD-Picture cards along with useful hardware controls. And you also have the reassurance of Toshiba’s impressive performance in our Reliability & Service Survey. But of the two business-friendly notebooks on offer here, we’d opt for the more solid-feeling Fujitsu Siemens Amilo.

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