Toshiba Tecra P4

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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.

Toshiba Tecra P4

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.

Build quality
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.

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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.

Benchmark results
BAPCO MobileMark 2005 was used as our main indicator of system performance. The Tecra's battery lasted two hours and 46 minutes. Being under three hours is less than exciting, but not overly surprising for a large machine; of course you do have the option of purchasing a larger battery which should extend life by about 60 percent. The performance score was a very respectable 234. (A modern machine should score over 200 and we've not seen a score higher than about 270.)

The Sandra Pro File System test gave a result of 28MB/s whereas many of the machines we have tested in recent months have scored around 35MB/s. Memory bandwidth was estimated at 63 percent efficiency, which scored a little below what we might hope for -- we have seen machines with 1.83GHz processors perform a touch better. (The CPU is naturally only part of the story with memory function, but we tend to see a correlation between CPU speed and memory bandwidth.) CPU arithmetic scores came out at 24251 MIPS for Dhrystone ALU and Whetstone FPU scored 22768 MIPS and 6046 MFLOPS respectively.

The Toshiba Tecra P4 strikes us as a good reliable machine with plenty of features. Despite its conservative appearance, there is modern technology inside providing solid performance. Toshiba's faith in its product is demonstrated by the three year parts and labour warranty with complimentary courier pick-up. Phone service is limited to weekdays, but does extend from 7am to 7pm. If only Toshiba would pay a little more attention to design issues such as physical layout and aesthetics. Overall the P4 represents reasonable value for money and is a very effective desktop replacement.

Product Tecra P4
Price AU$3,300
Vendor Toshiba PC
Contact 13 30 70
3 out of 5
Good management software and communications, spoiled only by keyboard design.
3.5 out of 5
Durable and has good options for expansion.
3.5 out of 5
A worthwhile investment, if the keyboard doesn't annoy.
4 out of 5
Great warranty, good phone service and online information.
3.5 out of 5

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