Merlin John tries the surprisingly versatile Toshiba Tecra M4. A tablet with a trick up its sleeve - it's also a laptop.
Schools adopting Tablet PCs have tended to go for tablets with screens of 12-inches and less, and RM's offerings have already proved popular and well supported.
Now Toshiba has upped the size stakes with a 14.1-inch tablet, the M4 (a hybrid actually - it's a laptop too), in it's Tecra range which may interest those needing the extra screen size for working with young children or learners with special needs. It works like the smaller Portege. You use it like a laptop, and when the tablet is required you twist the screen 180 degrees and press it down until it clicks firmly over the keyboard. Ingenious, practical and effective.
From there on it works like most other tablets. The screen is clear and bright (SXGA graphics) and its viewing angle is better than many competitors. Performance is what you would expect from Toshiba: connectivity is excellent with wifi wireless networking, bluetooth, infrared, modem and Ethernet networking; peripherals are well served with three USB, one FireWire, one screen connection and S-VHS; and of course you can burn CDs and DVDs.
The advantages over ordinary tablets are the excellent screen (with good graphics card), standard hard disc and ability to read and burn discs. Downsides? That's the weight, which can't really be avoided with a screen this size.
There are a couple of other nice touches: the base extends slightly beyond the edge of the lid at key points so that the screen has some protection from knocks (rather like the new RM Mobile One but not as pronounced); EasyGuard technology can detect movement and protect the hard disc; the volume wheel and wi-fi switch are at the front, next to the headphones and microphone sockets, for easy access.
Laptop computer with up to Intel Pentium M 740 (2.13GHz) processor (with Centrino mobile technology), Windows XP Home, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900, up to 1 Gb memory, Up to 80Gb Hard Drive, 15.1-inch SXGA+ TFT screen, DVDRW drive, wireless networking, 101001000Mbps LAN, 56K modem, FireWire port, 3 USB 2.0 ports, VGA port, S-video-out port, PC card slot, Titanium Anti Virus software, Ability Office software, Roxio Creator 7, Napster (one month subscription), carry case, three-year collect-and-return warranty.
Price from pound;849 ex VAT.
Rock 08709 90 90 90
Fitness for purpose *****
Ease of use ****
Value for money ****