The P4 strikes us as a good reliable machine with plenty of features. Despite its conservative appearance there is modern technology inside, providing solid performance.
The Tecra P4 is a largish desktop replacement model. The machine probably won't win any fashion awards, but Toshiba seem to be more focused on durability. Notebooks have been a bit of a compromise in the past as the power/price ratio puts them well behind traditional desktop PCs, however improving technology is fast closing the gap, making desktop replacements a real option for many of us. If you want to reclaim some of your fast disappearing desk-space, read on and discover if the Tecra P4 is the answer to your prayers.
Toshiba's Tecra P4 is not a small machine. It has a 15" SXGA 1400x1050 resolution screen, in a standard 4:3 ratio, supporting 16 million colours. The graphics card is an nVidia Quadro with 128MB dedicated video memory. The P4's CPU is a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and comes supplied with 1GB of RAM -- expandable to 4GB. The standard battery is expected to last up to 3.5 hours and a larger battery option is available with up to 5.5 hours of juice.
The dominant colour is black with the screen casing, touchpad surround and some minor trimmings being silver. Twin speakers are mounted just in front of the screen and a biometric fingerprint reader is located just below the arrow keys.
The P4 is supplied with a 80GB SATA hard-drive and DVD burner. Connectivity options include Gigabit Ethernet, internal fax/modem, Bluetooth, 802.11 a, b and g and FireWire. Audio ports and Firewire are placed at the front of the machine for easy access along with the volume control and wireless enable switches. Other ports include three USB2 ports, in addition to serial and parallel and two types of video output (D-sub VGA and S-video with dual screen support). PCMCIA, ExpressCard and SD card solts are also included. An optional port replicator is also available.
The P4 seems more than able to handle real world usage -- though you probably wouldn't take it out in the field in a literal sense. The machine responds to sudden movements by stopping the hard-drive to avoid damage (and tells you each time unless you configure it otherwise). The keyboard is underlaid by a tray to protect against spills. Solid, protruding corner regions provide extra protection -- if knocked, the sensitive areas such as screen and optical drive are less likely to bear the brunt. The screen would benefit from being latching with two well spaced hooks rather than one. Also the screen bevel is quite flimsy, however the overall construction quality was good.
The P4 is equipped with an AccuPoint pointing device and touchpad to cater to user preferences. Broad palm rests gives plenty of room for the hands. The "Toshiba Assist" utility, which is accessed via a desktop icon, provides quick and easy access to management software.
Where Toshiba falls down is with the keyboard. The keyboard has been narrowed to accommodate a power button and two other function keys at the left hand side -- buttons which could have been put almost anywhere. As a result of the width, the arrangement of some keys is frustratingly non-standard. Secondly, the secondary functions applied to many keys are marked in a grey which is quite difficult to read.
The notebook was supplied with Windows XP Professional SP2 and Microsoft OneNote. Management utilities are supplied for security, diagnostics and power management. A RAID utility is present in case you have a second drive (external or as a replacement to the optical drive). Intervideo WinDVD facilitates CD and DVD authoring and a 90 day trial of Norton Internet Security is also included.
"Toshiba Assist" management software gives ready access to hardware devices via a desktop icon. This software overrides many standard Windows tools.
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