14th March 2003 at 00:00
Toshiba's first venture into the tablet PC market is curiously conservative; more a laptop than tablet. Not that this won't woo customers - the Portege 3500 will probably appeal to the sort of laptop user who wants to come to terms with tablet PCs and writing on a screen, but who might stick initially to using it for presentations to be on the safe side.

Other tablet offerings offer a lightweight tablet, free of a keyboard when required, that can act like a PC version of a clipboard - fine for personal use and pretty dynamic for presentations too.

The Portege doesn't quite go there. An ingenious hinge allows the screenlid to swivel right around and clip over the keyboard. This is now a tablet PC, but although it has a larger screen than most of its rivals it is heavy to hold for any length of time and also gets rather hot.

As a laptop it's very good, and its major advantage is its connectivity - modem, Ethernet, wireless networking, fast infrared and Bluetooth as well as slots for PC and CompactFlash cards. However, for a machine with an education price of pound;1,600, the absence of a FireWire connection (a must for digital video) could be a mistake, particularly when even the pound;800 RM tablet PC has one.

Weight is kept down by the absence of floppy and CD drives (a sleek external DVDCD-RW came with this machine but it bumps up the package price to nearly pound;2,000).

Appealing to education professionals (teachers and advisers) who need a laptop but require tablet capability too, the Portege 3,500's price tag and weight could well put it beyond the rest.

Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet PC

Pentium III (1.3Ghz) with 12in TFT screen, 256Mb memory, 406Gb hard drive, two USB ports

Education price: pound;1,600 ex VAT

Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Features ****

Quality *****

Value for money ***

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