A notebook with zip
- By Michelle Speir
- Aug 07, 2000
If you feel the need for speed — notebook computer speed, that is — consider
the latest offering in the Tecra line of corporate notebooks from Toshiba
America Information Systems Inc.
The Tecra 8100 is packed with a 700 MHz Intel Corp. Mobile Pentium III
processor with SpeedStep technology, designed to prolong battery life by
slowing down processing when using battery power. The processor features
256K of integrated Level 2 cache and a 100 MHz frontside bus.
According to Toshiba, the Tecra 8100 is a quarter-inch thinner and a
half-pound lighter than the original Tecra 8000 series. Our unit weighed
in at 6 pounds and 3.4 ounces with just the battery and the DVD-ROM drive.
The weight increased to 8 pounds and 5.1 ounces when the external floppy
drive and the AC power cord were added.
The unit's construction is sturdy overall, with a nice rubber grip area
at the top of the lid, but the port cover for the external floppy drive
connector on our unit was flimsy and did not close properly. Although this
was surely a result of jostling during shipping, it doesn't bode well for
the trials and tribulations most notebooks will encounter when users take
them on trips.
The processor churned out excellent performance on Business Applications
Performance Corp.'s (BAPCO) SYSmark/98 suite of real-world benchmark tests,
earning a score of 275. This is impressive for a processor that is just
15 percent faster than a recently tested Gateway Inc. Solo 9300 notebook
containing a 600 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, which earned a SYSmark/98
score of 235. The Tecra 8100 scored 274 for office productivity and 240
for content creation.
The story isn't as rosy when it comes to battery life. The system ran
for a relatively short 2 hours, 15 minutes and 6 seconds on BAPCO's BattMark
battery test, completing 2.0 loops (one loop is a fixed set of applications
the system must run) and earning a score of 98.23.
However, a user might get longer battery life out of the Tecra 8100
by using a proprietary Toshiba power- management utility. That utility replaces
the Micro-soft Corp. power-management module included with the Windows 98
operating system and is designed to improve battery life. Unfortunately,
we had to disable the Toshiba utility to run our battery benchmark test,
so our score does not reflect its capabilities.
Our unit came with Windows 98 Second Edition, 128M of memory (expandable
to 256M), a 12G hard drive, a 6 speed DVD-ROM and an integrated V.90/K56Flex
modem. An external 3.5-inch floppy drive comes bundled with the system.
The notebook's SelectBay multibay can hold the DVD-ROM drive, the floppy
drive, or a CD-ROM drive, second battery or second hard drive.
The Tecra 8100 will give users excellent graphics performance, thanks
to its 14.1-inch thin film transistor active matrix display with 1,024-by-768
resolution and an S3 Inc. Savage/MX 3-D graphics accelerator with 8M of
The unit's PC Card slots can hold two Type I or Type II cards or one
Type III PC Card. The notebook also features one USB port, an infrared port,
a composite video port, a Kensington lock and an expansion port for connecting
a port replicator. We liked the cover that slides over the power button
on the side of the unit to prevent accidental pushing.
Surprisingly, Toshiba has not followed the current trend of placing
several user-programmable multifunction buttons above the keyboard for shortcuts
to e-mail, Internet access and other frequently used functions.
Toshiba has incorporated a unique feature into the trackpoint mouse
system. In addition to the buttons corresponding to left and right clicks,
the Tecra 8100 features two small buttons that offer page-up and page-down
The Tecra 8100 doesn't come with many bells and whistles. Aside from
the Toshiba power-management utility, one of the only two extras we found
loaded on the machine was an "easy Internet sign-up," which allows users
to access special Internet offers for Toshiba customers as well as set up
a new Internet account or configure the notebook to access an existing one.
The other extra was "My Yahoo for Toshiba," which contains an offer for
a free Yahoo account.
As usual, Toshiba's documentation is superb. The manual is thorough,
featuring an index, glossary, easy instructions and clear diagrams. We love
the oversized page numbers, which make locating specifics a snap. A handy
quick-start guide is also included.
With a street price of $3,499, the Tecra 8100 is a tad on the expensive
side for a 700 MHz Pentium III system, but if performance is your priority,
the unit's price is justified.