Toshiba's Top-of-Line Notebook Gets Better

Sporting a new Pentium III-500 mobile CPU, 128M bytes of RAM and a slick, silver-topped case, the Tecra 8100 packs the power you need for mobile presentations or to replace your desktop. Toshiba improved its already good Tecra 8000 design, increasing performance and adding features.

Yet -- for such a high-end machine -- it sells for the not unreasonable price of US$4,099. Like the 8000, the Tecra 8100 offers a sharp, brilliant 14.1-inch screen, enhanced by an upgrade to the S3 Savage/MX 3D graphics chip set with 8M bytes of SGRAM. Colors and focus were good during DVD playback, but action was jerky on our preproduction unit; Toshiba says it will include updated graphics drivers in the shipping model.

Shipping models carry a 12G-byte hard drive (our test unit had a 10G-byte drive). The floppy disk drive can be used either externally or in the Tecra's modular drive bay. Second hard disk, battery, and LS-120 and Zip drive modules are available. Toshiba includes a utility for hot-swapping the modules -- a nice touch. The test model had an internal 56K-bps modem; if you want to add your own modem or an ethernet card, use one of the two Type II PC Card slots.

You get little perks, like a sliding cover that keeps the power button from accidentally switching on or off, and two programmable, pressure-sensitive buttons along with the usual pointing-stick buttons. The keyboard and pointing stick were responsive and well placed for touch typing. But there are no external DVD-ROM or CD-ROM controls. Note: Our unit had trouble coming out of Stand By and Hibernation modes, but these functions should be fixed in shipping units, according to Toshiba.

The Tecra 8100 scored 227 in PC WorldBench 98, in line with comparable units we've tested. Its lithium ion battery lasted an impressive 3 hours, 48 minutes.

With the DVD-ROM drive, the unit weighs just 6.2 pounds, trim for a system in this class.

You pay a premium for this Tecra -- it's about $600 more than comparable notebooks from Dell or Gateway. But if you're looking for one of the lighter systems in this class, you won't be disappointed.

Toshiba Tecra 8100

PRO: Fast system, great screen, good battery life.

CON: So-so audio, pricey.

VALUE: The Tecra's weight and power make it especially attractive for mobile presenters.

Street price: $4,099

Toshiba America



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