Toshiba Tecra S1

Yet another notebook utilising Intel’s new Pentium-M Centrino chip has arrived on the scene, this time from notebook powerhouse Toshiba.

Yet another notebook utilising Intel’s new Pentium-M Centrino chip has arrived on the scene, this time from notebook powerhouse Toshiba. The Tecra S1 is packed to the gunwales with features and packs some impressive performance to back up the glossy specification sheet.

At the heart of the S1 is the 1.6GHz P-M CPU with integrated 1MB on-die level 2 cache and a decent swag of 512MB of PC2100 DDR SD-RAM. Microsoft Windows XP Professional came pre-loaded on the 60GB, 5400rpm ATA-5 hard disk while removable, optical storage comes by way of a very handy DVD Multi Drive. This particular unit is capable of writing CDs at a more than respectable 24x, but that’s not all. It will also write to DVD RAM/-R/-RW media, so nearly every base is covered. Watching DVD movies on the S1 was a most pleasurable experience and the 8x DVD read speed coupled with the 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics card meant the machine never skipped a frame. The 15” UXGA LCD screen was rock solid and incredibly crisp even at the highest resolution of 1600x1200, although the text on-screen at this setting may be too small for some people to comfortably use. Even so, if you have to turn the resolution down it’s nice to know what this notebook is capable of – should you need it.

With so much power beneath the metallic silver-coloured plastic shell, it comes as no surprise to see the Tecra blaze through our PCWorldBench4 tests to chalk up a record score of 125. To put this in perspective, the nearest rival in the notebook field is the Acer Centrino offering we looked at in April that recorded a similarly healthy 119. This speedy performance was corroborated by SYSMark 2002 that saw the S1 scoring 189 in the internet content creation tests and 153 in the office productivity tests to achieve an overall score of 170. Battery life was also set in good stead lasting a whopping 331 minutes under the MobileMark 2002 “reader” benchmark.

At 2.8kg and with reasonably bulky dimensions of 33mm x 327mm x 287mm (H x W x D) the S1 can’t be called diminutive, but it’s certainly not the heaviest or largest notebook we’ve seen. Still, with the S1, Toshiba hasn’t set out to corner the ultra-portable market (see next month’s PC World for our roundup of ultra-portable notebooks), this is a workhorse that will happily replace your desktop. To this end Toshiba have also included an array of connection options that includes a built-in v.90 56kbit/s modem, Intel 10/100 Base TX Ethernet and of course the Intel Pro/Wireless 2100 802.11b link. There is also a Secure Digital (SD) Card reader, two PC Card slots, an external monitor port, an RCA style TV-out jack, a parallel port, an advanced port replicator slot, a serial port and a fast infrared port capable of 4mbit/s. Three USB 2.0 ports round out the connections options — of these one is conveniently situated on the side of the notebook rather than hidden away at the rear.

Build quality is very good and the whole unit has a reassuring solidity to it. The full-sized 85-key keyboard feels nice to work with and won’t “bend” in the centre like some notebooks are prone to. Besides this the S1 features dual pointing devices catering for both trackpad users and fans of the tiny “joystick” found in the centre of the keyboard. Integrated stereo speakers situated below the screen do as good a job as one can rightly expect from a notebook.

All this power comes at a price, however, but not an unreasonable one. $6738 incl GST represents good value for the fastest laptop we’ve encountered here at PC World.

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Scott Bartley

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