Tecra 9000: Stylish and connected

With a desktop computer, if you don't like your monitor or keyboard, you can replace them. With a notebook computer, on the other hand, these components are built into the device. That's why the look and feel of a notebook computer can have such an impact on your productivity. After all, you're more likely to get down to work if the experience is a pleasant one.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.'s Tecra 9000 scores high marks for stylishness and solid usability. The relatively light (5.5 pounds) and slim (12 inches x 10.75 inches x 1.5 inches) case is attractive both inside and out. The outside has a silver matte finish, while the inside is matte black with silver trim. A 14-inch thin-film transistor LCD display fills the top of the unit right to the edges. The unit's speakers are small, raised mounds on both sides of the display hinges, which may explain the better-than-average sound.

We were pleased with the unit's solid construction and particularly with the feel of the keyboard. The unit employs a pointer stick, situated in the middle of the keyboard. We found the stick more sensitive than those we've used on other notebooks, though once we got used to the quickness of the movements, we found this to be a positive feature.

Apart from its stylish design, the other thing that most distinguishes the Tecra 9000 is its connectivity. The notebook not only comes with built-in 802.11b wireless capability, but also with a built-in antenna for Bluetooth. The first technology allows connections to local-area networks (as well as to the Internet, if that is provided via the LAN), while the second technology allows short-range communication with other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

With a 1.2G Intel Corp. Pentium III Processor-M and 256M of system memory (expandable to 1G), the Tecra 9000 turns in a creditable performance. We did, however, find that it came up a bit short on battery life.

In our testing, the unit only supported a little more than two hours of use. Other similarly configured notebooks generally run for about three hours.

In addition to the expected Ethernet and modem connections, the Tecra 9000 offers two USB ports, a FireWire port and a video out port. The notebook offers only one modular bay, which can hold either an optical drive (a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive is standard), a second hard drive or an additional battery. Toshiba has included a separate floppy drive that connects via a USB port. There is also a Secure Digital flash memory slot and a slot that will accommodate either two Type II or one Type III PC Cards.

The Tecra 9000 carries a premium price, especially when you consider that the product isn't delivered with a suite of office applications. Accordingly, the Tecra 9000's overall appeal will likely be strongest with agencies and departments that have — or plan to add — standardized connectivity for 802.11b wireless and Bluetooth protocols.

REPORT CARD

Toshiba Tecra 9000

Score: B+

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.

(800) 867-4422

www.toshiba.com

For the Tecra 9000 configuration we tested, the list price is $3,154. The Tecra 9000 is a fast, stylish and surprisingly trim desktop replacement. It carries a premium price, but in return offers unusual connectivity, including built-in 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless capabilities.

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