Toshiba Portégé A100

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • More ports than the typical sub-notebook
  • internal optical drive

Cons

  • Not very fast
  • last year’s 802.11b wireless standard
  • plastic lid

Toshiba’s new and distinctly iBook-like Portégé A100 is definitely a sub-notebook, but not perhaps an ultra-portable. That’s to say it has a cut-down footprint, but the engineers haven’t gone all-out for the lowest possible weight. Instead, they’ve left enough thickness in the body to accommodate useful things that get ditched from other ultra-portables, like an optical drive and a reasonable array of ports.

All this has been achieved without the machine ending up unfeasibly heavy. In fact, it weighs 2.2kg, which is light enough to make it a realistic proposition for the regular traveller. The build is acceptably solid, although the lid is plastic rather than alloy, which could be an issue on a machine ostensibly designed for life on the road, where knocks and mishaps inevitably occur.

The keyboard is large enough to be usable and to allow moderately fast typing, which is by no means a given when it comes to notebooks this small. The touchpad work well (and we liked the brushed metal buttons), but lack a physical scrolling control, which is a shame.

We were almost relieved to find that the 12.1in. screen runs in standard 1,024 by 768 XGA rather than some unfeasible super-high-resolution mode. Smaller screen diagonals do not work well with extended resolutions, but the A100's display is readable without a magnifying glass, which is a real plus when it comes to overall usability. It's also bright and viewable from a good range of angles, which is as it should be.

The details will have different relevance to individual users, but most people should be pleased to see four USB 2.0 ports, although anyone wanting a parallel port for their printer will be disappointed. There’s a FireWire (IEEE1394) port for digital camcorders or scanners, and an RCA-jack TV-output which could be handy for watching DVDs. Data exchange with some digital cameras and handhelds is facilitated by the Secure Digital (SD) flash memory card slot, which can also act as a portable memory store (a 256MB card costs £69 from Toshiba).

The integrated optical drive provides 8X DVD play, 24X CD-ROM play and 24X/24X for CD-R/RW. One thing to watch though: playing a feature film on DVD won’t leave much battery charge left for work during the rest of your journey. Still, a spare battery can be had for £49. Typical running time as calculated by the MobileMark 2002 test was 3 hours and 23 minutes, which is reasonable, but not up there with the 4.5 hours-plus that the best Centrino notebooks can manage.

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On paper, the core specification looks as though it should be fairly solid when it comes to general performance. The CPU is a Pentium M with 1MB of on-die Level 2 cache, and the memory is fast 333MHz DDR. Admittedly there is 256MB rather than 512MB of RAM, and the integrated graphics in the Intel 855GM chipset borrows from system memory rather than bringing its own share to the table. Even so, the Portégé A100 wasn’t terribly impressive. It will cope with everyday office-type workloads of course, but it has more St Bernard that whippet in its genes. Perhaps a memory upgrade would help.

Unfortunately, more RAM won’t do anything for the optimistically named Intel Extreme Graphics, which are effectively limited to 2D. We got the 3DMark 2001SE benchmark to run, but its verdict -- 1,834 -- means that the Portégé A100’s entertainment potential does not extend to 3D gaming.

This is perhaps not so important for a machine mainly intended for working on the go, but general performance could do with a tweak. The other thing we’d change is the wireless networking, which only supports the older 11Mbps 802.11b standard. We prefer to see 54Mbps 802.11b/g on a new machine like this.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
System Type Notebook
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Pentium M 1.4 GHz
Cache L2 - 1 MB
Chipset Type Intel 855GM
Features Enhanced SpeedStep technology
Cache Memory
Type L2 cache
RAM
Technology DDR SDRAM
Storage
Optical Drive CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo - fixed
Type none
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Write Speed 24x
Rewrite Speed 24x
Type portable
Memory
Technology DDR SDRAM
Slots Qty 2
Empty Slots 1
Display
Widescreen Display No
Display Resolution Abbreviation XGA
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Installed Qty 1
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor AGP 4x - Intel Extreme Graphics 2
Memory Allocation Technology shared video memory (UMA)
Sound Stereo speakers
Input
Type keyboard
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11b
Wired Protocol 10/100 Ethernet
Processor
CPU Type Pentium M
Manufacturer Intel
Optical Storage
Drive Type CD-RW / DVD
Type CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo
Form Factor fixed
Floppy Drive
Type none
Battery
Technology lithium ion
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory SD Memory Card
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V ( 50/60 Hz )
Connections & Expansion
Slots 2 x memory ( 1 free )
1 x CardBus ( 1 free )
Interfaces 1 x display / video - VGA - 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15)
1 x display / video - composite video output - RCA
1 x modem - phone line - RJ-11
1 x network - Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX - RJ-45
1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
1 x microphone - input - mini-phone 3.5mm
1 x headphones - output - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
4 x USB 2.0 - 4 PIN USB Type A
Memory Card Reader Yes ( SD Card )
Header
Brand Toshiba
Product Line Toshiba Portégé
Model A100
Localization English
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Miscellaneous
Features system password
Compliant Standards ACPI 1.0b
Localization English
Networking
Data Link Protocol Ethernet
Wireless LAN Supported Yes
System
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
Notebook Type notebook
Monitor
Color Support 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Graphics Controller
Interface Type AGP 4x
Audio Output
Compliant Standards DirectSound3D
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 3 years warranty
Mainboard
Chipset Type Intel 855GM
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Type Drag'n Drop CD
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel Extreme Graphics 2
Video Memory
Memory Allocation Technology shared video memory (UMA)
Service & Support
Type 3 years warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 3 years

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