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A Perfect Fit

Toshiba's Tecra M10 notebook is light, yet solid, and packed with mobile management features.

Toshiba’s Tecra M10-S3401 is a lightweight but capable notebook suited for the enterprise. The Tecra M10 can power business applications while providing IT departments with the features to support the machines and the mobile workers who use them.

The Tecra M10-S3401 includes an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor at 2.26 gigahertz. This includes 3 megabytes of Level-2 cache and a front-side bus speed of 1066 megahertz. The system ships with 2 gigabytes of DDR2 800MHz RAM and is expandable to 4GB.

End-User Advantages

Right off the bat, M10 users will notice the notebook’s size: Weighing in at only 5.3 pounds and measuring 1.5 inches in height, the M10 fits comfortably into the “thin and light” category. But even with the thin, light-weight profile, the M10 has a very solid feel.

The M10 includes a 14.1-inch, thin-film-transistor, widescreen active-matrix display that supports a maximum resolution of 1440x900. The Nvidia Quadro NVS 150M graphics card ships with 256MB of video RAM, which delivers a very responsive display that’s capable of managing business applications as well as graphics and video.

End users will appreciate the M10’s excellent connectivity options. The Intel Gigabit Ethernet interface provides high-speed wired connectivity, while the Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless adapter offers 802.11a/b/g/ draft-n wireless connectivity. Toshiba packages a number of different utilities to ease wireless network configuration, including a “wireless radar” application that lets users visualize the relative location and strength of nearby access points.

Internal storage is provided by a 160GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 revolutions per minute with 16MB of cache. The combination of a 7200 RPM drive and 1.5 gigabytes-per-second transfer rate yields a responsive system that reduces the time spent waiting for programs to load or information to be written to disk. The system also includes a double-layer-capable DVD-RW drive.

Video-conferencing users will like the bezel-mounted webcam and video management software. Video conferencing is easy to initiate with the included software. The camera is responsive and the image quality is clear. The system includes a 6-cell battery that yields about three hours of runtime before recharging.

The Tecra M10 includes a number of external ports for connecting peripherals, including FireWire-1394, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth 2.1. Also included is an external Serial ATA (eSATA) port that will let users connect external storage devices and transfer data at higher rates than allowed by USB.

Why It Works for IT

The Tecra M10 includes a number of features that make it useful as an enterprise platform for mobile workers. The Intel Centrino 2 platform includes Intel’s vPro technology, which lets IT departments provide hardware-assisted remote isolation and diagnostics, independent of the operating system’s state. This is an essential support feature for the mobile workforce, for whom diagnosis and resolution of hardware and OS problems can be especially difficult.

Intel’s vPro technology can also assist in device recovery and sanitization, another important factor to consider when selecting a platform for mobile workers. The vPro platform can help locate lost devices and delete sensitive data residing on a lost device. Also, a timer-activated BIOS password will prevent unauthorized system access if the notebook is lost or stolen.

The M10 includes a number of other security features for IT departments to be enthused about. The integrated fingerprint reader, smart-card reader and Trusted Platform Module 1.2 integration deliver an added level of security and allow IT departments to easily incorporate two-factor authentication policies to mitigate the inherent risk of mobile devices.

The integrated Intel Gig-E and Wireless WiFi Link 5100 wireless adapter includes a number of features to help IT departments secure the platform. Support for 802.1x authentication for the pre-execution environment boot lets IT require authentication before operating systems or software are provisioned to the device. Support for Cisco’s Self-Defending Network and Microsoft’s Network Access Protection ensure that the device will be reviewed for appropriate patches and software versions before being allowed on the network.

The Tecra M10 ships with Windows Vista Business Edition, and the hardware combination scores a 3.5 on Microsoft’s Windows Experience Index. Vista runs comfortably on the M10, but for IT departments that are either avoiding or delaying adoption of Vista, the notebook ships with downgrade media for Windows XP Professional. With either operating system, the M10 should run a variety of business applications fairly easily.

Toshiba has also given consideration to the abuse that mobile devices typically sustain. The Tecra M10 includes an accelerometer capable of recognizing vibrations or rapid movement, and Toshiba’s EasyGuard software responds by parking the hard-drive heads in a safe location. This allows for the normal jostling expected of a mobile device without the periodic disk damage or file corruption that can sometimes result. Toshiba claims that this will protect data if the notebook falls off a desk, but that specific claim was not verified as a part of this evaluation. Toshiba also provides a water-resistant membrane underneath the keyboard, designed to limit damage caused by spills.

Overall, IT departments should find the Tecra M10 to be a good choice for an enterprise notebook platform. The M10 includes the management and security features that IT departments require to manage a mobile computing platform securely and efficiently.

Disadvantages

While the Tecra’s light weight is sure to be appreciated by end users, the 3-hour battery life is shorter than that of comparable notebooks. Users may find that they need to stay plugged in a greater amount of time or recharge more often than they’d like. IT departments may wish to consider purchasing the available 9-cell, high-capacity battery pack as an option for users who demand greater mobility.

The Tecra’s volume control is a continuous-motion wheel that’s positioned toward the user. It’s not recessed in any way, which makes it easy for a user to brush against it and change the volume. There are no stops in either direction, so it can be difficult to find a setting.

The Tecra’s keyboard has a fair amount of “travel” (the amount of pressure a key needs to be depressed), which may make the keyboard a bit soft for some users.

The touchpad also takes some getting used to. Mouse buttons at the bottom of the touchpad are split, with the fingerprint scanner separating the left and right buttons. I found myself frequently hitting the fingerprint scanner rather than the left or right mouse button.

May 26 2009

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