capsule review

Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Toshiba Tecra M9-S5514 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    Laptop meets EPEAT Gold environmental standard but otherwise is average in speed and battery life.

We tested Toshiba's Tecra M9-S5514 as part of "Green PCs: A First Step," a story on energy-efficient computing. This all-purpose laptop is Energy Star 4.0 certified and meets the stringent EPEAT Gold environmental impact standard. (EPEAT is a program funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; its rating reflects the laptop's impact in areas like recycling and the use of toxic substances.) Other than that, this lightweight model doesn't stand out in any particular way; its speed is average, its battery life is short, and its price makes it a tad expensive ($1799 as of 9/12/07).

With a fast 2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 processor but only 1GB of RAM, our test unit earned 73 in our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests--average for the category. Its 128MB nVidia Quadro NVS 130M graphics card also produced average results in our graphics tests. Battery life, however, was below average at 2 hours and 48 minutes.

Our test unit's features are good for general business use. It comes with Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, but lacks an option for built-in wireless broadband. It has three USB and one FireWire port, a PC Card slot, and an SD Card slot, but no S-Video or composite video ports. The unit also came with a double-layer optical drive and a built-in biometric fingerprint reader. A front Wi-Fi switch, a headphone jack, a microphone port, a FireWire port, and a volume wheel are all nice touches, though the volume wheel would be easier to use if it had stops for maximum and minimum volumes; as it is, you must watch a graphic on your screen to check the level.

The Tecra M9 was mostly comfortable to use. At 5.4 pounds minimum weight, it was the lightest among our currently tested all-purpose laptops. The 14.1-inch screen was bright, and I liked the nicely designed on-screen equivalents of the function-key utilities (such as power settings and hard-disk protection). They appear three seconds after you place the cursor at the top of the screen. While it's not necessarily easier than using the function keys, it's a nice alternative. The keyboard layout had full-sized arrow keys and Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys in a line on the right; the keys felt stiff, as did the touchpad buttons. The M9 also comes with an eraserhead that I found comfortable to use.

The Tecra M9 feels durable. It comes with hard-drive shock protection, which can be enabled and disabled with a button to the left of the power button on the top of the keyboard. (Another button in the same area gives you quick access to network and other settings in our test unit's copy of Windows Vista Business.) The hard drive and memory are stored in separate compartments that are easily accessed by removing a few screws from the bottom of the case.

The Tecra M9-S5514 should be well-equipped to handle the rigors and demands of travel-heavy business use. I can't say anything more exciting than that, but then again, you may not need anything more exciting than that.

Narasu Rebbapragada

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Laptop meets EPEAT Gold environmental standard but otherwise is average in speed and battery life.

    Pros

    • Meets strict environmental requirements

    Cons

    • Uncomfortable touchpad and buttons
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