A notebook with zip

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

video memory.

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

functionality.

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.

REPORT CARD

Tecra 8100

Score: B

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.

(800) TOSHIBA

www.toshiba.com

Price and availability: Available on the GSA schedule for $3,351.

Remarks: This notebook is a very fast performer and a solid system, but batterylife is on the short side, and you don't get many bells or whistles suchas user-programmable multifunction buttons.

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