Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet

The new addition to the extensive Portégé series of notebooks endeavours to be more than “just” a tablet PC by packing some reasonably healthy features into the package...

Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, tablet PCs remain a niche product that haven’t yet managed to widely infiltrate the market, although I suspect this may simply be a matter of cost rather than any inherent faults with either the hardware or operating system. If Toshiba’s new M200 tablet is anything to go by, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more tablets in use this year.

The new addition to the extensive Portégé series of notebooks endeavours to be more than “just” a tablet PC by packing some reasonably healthy features into the package, such as Centrino wireless networking capabilities, 32MB GeForce FX Go5200 video processing, 512MB DDR SDRAM and a whopping 60GB hard drive. The swivelling 12.1-inch TFT monitor rotates to lie flat over the keyboard in pure tablet style or it can be used in a traditional notebook fashion with a keyboard and touchpad as opposed to the stylus.

No matter what your preference, the display supports an almost ludicrously high resolution of 1400x1050 (SXGA+), which makes for some mighty small text onscreen. Fortunately it appears Toshiba has spared no expense on the display and, even though it’s small, the text is crisp and perfectly legible. If your eyes aren’t up to the job, a nifty zoom tool is available to help out. A textured coating on the display surface is designed to replicate the feel of writing on paper and to this extent it works well, providing superb feel with not a hint of that slippery, glass-like sensation common with PDA screens. According to Toshiba, the actual distance between the protective writing surface and the LCD panel below it has been halved to just 0.7mm, making for a more natural writing experience. I’m inclined to agree here; writing using the M200 was a painless, responsive experience.

The machine itself appears to be very well constructed with a sturdy and smart-looking outer shell surrounding a comfortable, although slightly springy keyboard. This sturdiness is welcome because chances are a tablet PC is going to be thrown about a bit during the course of its life and the M200 feels up to the task. Dotted around the edge of the Portégé are two USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port for connecting an external monitor, modem and Ethernet ports, a single SD Card slot plus a PCMCIA slot. Sadly Toshiba didn’t manage to squeeze an optical drive into the system, which would have really rounded off the package well. Instead you’ll have to make do with an optional external USB optical drive.

Performance was excellent thanks to the 1.4GHz Pentium-M CPU and 512MB DDR SDRAM, and the reasonably grunty GeForce FX Go5200 graphics chip probably doesn’t do any harm either. Battery life is obviously an important consideration for a tablet PC and even though we couldn’t quite wring the stated 4.5 hours from the lithium-ion cell, our MobileMark 2002 tests managed an impressive 3.5 hours under heavy load.

A three-year international parts and labour warranty provides peace of mind for what looks to be an excellent addition to the Toshiba range of notebooks.

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Scott Bartley

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