3 Convertible Tablets That Mean Business

Toshiba Portege M780

Toshiba's Portege M780 sits comfortably in the middle of the other two tablets when it comes to performance, battery life, size and what it offers to business users.

At 1.6 by 9.4 by 12.0 in., the Portege M780 is the thickest of the three convertibles. It's bigger than the EliteBook 2740p (which doesn't have a DVD drive) and smaller than the LifeBook T900 (which has a larger screen). It weighs 4.4 lbs. and with its AC adapter travels at 5.1 lbs., which is 10 oz. lighter than the LifeBook T900

As a traditional keyboard-centric notebook, the Portege M780 has 19mm keys that are smaller than the keys on the other two models. It doesn't have a pop-out night light, but it does have a handy volume thumbwheel. Above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel webcam. Like the LifeBook, the Portege's screen lid wobbles when it's set up as a notebook, and the bezel around the display flexes too much for my taste.

The 12.1-in. display matches the EliteBook 2740p's screen in terms of size and resolution; both notebooks use the same Intel GMA HD graphics engine.

The screen rotates freely and folds flat in a matter of seconds to transform the unit from a notebook to a tablet. The Portege M780 doesn't have a latch, so it's easier to open and close than the others, but its screen lid can't be locked in place as securely. I prefer the positive action of the latch on the EliteBook 2740p, which locks the lid firmly in place.

With the screen 0.07 in. below the surface of the bezel, I found it a bit more awkward to draw and write on the Portege M780's screen than on the EliteBook 2740p's flush display. Regardless of whether you're using your finger or the included stylus, the Portege M780's Wacom digitizer reacts quickly and smoothly to input, but the system doesn't support multitouch gestures.

Like the LifeBook T900, the Portege M780 has a row of buttons next to the screen to help when it's in tablet mode. It has switches for getting to the Task Manager screen, bringing up Toshiba's Assist menu, setting it up for an external monitor or projector and rotating the screen. Like the others, it doesn't automatically re-orient its screen if it's moved from portrait to landscape mode or vice versa.

Toshiba offers another button as well -- the oddly named Cross-Function button is a gem that can help make interacting with the Portege M780's touchscreen more intuitive and natural. It's a pressure-sensitive nub that can control the pointer and activate a selection with a press. It's more useful than Fujitsu's Scroll Sensor or the EliteBook 2740p's jog dial lever because it isn't restricted to just up and down. And you can lock the buttons so you don't accidentally hit the wrong one while you're working.

The $1,699 Portege M780 review unit included 3GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, a DVD Multi optical drive and a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520 processor that can speed up to 2.93 GHz when needed. There's also a $1,399 model with a Core i3 processor and a $1,799 model with a Core i7 processor along with 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. A base configurable unit starts at $1,329.

The system did well, if not spectacularly, as far as battery life was concerned: at 2 hours and 35 minutes, it fell between the other two models I tested.

For security-conscious users, the Portege M780 has a fingerprint scanner. There's a good assortment of ports around the edge, including three USB ports (one of which doubles as an e-SATA connector), a connection for an external monitor, headphone and microphone jacks, FireWire and ExpressCard ports, and a flash card reader. (However, unlike that the EliteBook 2740p and LifeBook T900, it lacks a SmartCard reader.) It has a dial-up modem, Ethernet and 802.11a/g/n wireless networking. In my tests, the Wi-Fi had a range of 95 feet. Unlike the other two, this system doesn't have an optional 3G modem.

The Portege M780 includes Windows 7 Professional and comes with a three-year warranty.

In terms of size, weight, performance and battery life, the Portege M780 is middle of the road between the minimalist EliteBook 2740p and the larger LifeBook T900. If you want a good, all-round tablet PC, the Portege M780 does the trick.

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