DISCLAIMER: I have NOT been paid to write the review below – however I was sent the laptop to review by Talk Toshiba at no cost to myself.
A couple of months ago, before I went on holiday in July I recieved an e-mail from Toshiba offering to lend me a laptop for a week to review – now this got me all excited as I’ve always wanted to live the reviewers lifestyle – something new to play with every week and this would afford me a little taste of that experience.
However I like to consider myself and this blog free from commercial bollocks and open to say what I like about anything that takes my fancy – something I wasn’t sure I could do in a review of a product somebody had gone to the trouble of shipping over to Jersey for me – not something that is overly cheap.
So I got on with my holiday and spent a bit of time thinking about it – eventually, as you might have guessed from a couple of previous posts – I decided to give it a go.
Well on 23 August 2007 a Toshiba Tecra A8 arrived on my doorstep – I didn’t get to touch until for a few hours as I was at work but I jumped straight on when I got home.
Unfortunately, before I’d really had any chance to play with it properly – I’d done little more than install the operating system, load office, slap a couple of games on and browse the web – my parents arrived for a suprise visit.
I only get to see them a couple of times a year so it’s great when they come over – unfortunately the week they came over was also the week running up to Jersey Live – often one of the bussiest weeks of the year for me as I need to organise and pre-produce BBC Jersey’s coverage of the festival.
So I decided to e-mail Toshiba and ask to hang on to the laptop for a couple of days over the pre-planned week and it paid off – it meant I was able to take the laptop to Jersey Live with me and actually use it in anger at an event where it functioning properly was essential.
My first impression was that, although the screen is large and extremely sharp it also suffers horrificly from glare unless you jack the brightness to max – which kills the battery in minutes.
Also the keyboard is odd – yes the keys are comfortable to type on and make a nice crisp sound that lets you know something is happening BUT they’re all moved about three centimetres to the right because of a couple of TOSHIBA buttons places in a panel on the left hand side – buttons that normally go at the top.
This isn’t a big deal but as someone prone to touch typing it meant I had to adjust myself by three or four centimetres to the right – which meant typing felt a bit odd and uncomfortable – something I’m sure I’d get used to after more time with the laptop.
It came with a selection of pre-loaded software – things like a hard drive monitor that checks to see whether things have wobbled about or not and corrects them – this is a nice little tool but I don’t need it to tell me what its doing I want it to get on with it in the background and play the silent partner – something it’s happy to do when you actually get around to telling it to shut up.
Other bits of software included are the usual toss you get pre-loaded with any new computer – the manufacturers only bits and bobs, anti-virus software from their partner companies and other bits of crap I ignore.
They’re easily enough to delete though.
Anyway – the laptop itself was pretty impressive although the keyboard thing is probably enough of a reason for me not to get one. My real review started when I got to use it under stress at Jersey Live.
The laptop is extremely light for one of that size and functioned brilliantly under stress – often having to handle Photoshop, Dreamweaver, WS_FTP, Adobe Audition, Firefox and Windows XP at the same time – it handled it brilliantly.
However the battery life is utter turd – the first day of the festival I had the battery fully charged before I left but didn’t bother to take a power cable as I wasn’t sure there would be power – there was free WiFi but I didn’t think electricity would be available – it was.
So I had to last on battery power alone – nwo this was set to be a 12 hour day – so I was working on the assumption that, if I used the laptop for about 15 minutes in every hour – which is only about three hours I would be fine.
By three hours into the festival the battery was already half empty – thats after just 45 minutes of active use – so to make sure it lasted all day I switched to 10 minutes every three hours and dropped the brightness to about 50% – meaning I could barely see the screen BUT it JUST about managed to survive until the end.
The next day I had the power cable and the laptop performed fantastically – comfortably taking me to the end of the day with the screen at 100% with having to re-boot once – not a crash in sight.
So will I be buying a Tecra A8? Probably not as it’s an older model and one designed for business but this certainly hasn’t put me off going Toshiba – in my hunt for a new laptop.
Up until this point I’ve been leaning towards Dell and Apple – Dell because I’ve had one before and it just got on with its job and worked – Apple because they look beautiful, the operating system is miles better than Windows and I can still run Windows if I really need to.
However, now I will be considering other alternatives – I want something light but with at least a 15″ screen, a good graphics processor, a massive chunck of ram and a screen that doesn’t suffer too badly from glare.
Will I go Tosh? Maybe but it depends on price, a better screen and the keyboard being in the right place. Something that the Satellite Pro A200GE seems to have cracked.
It’s got a great spec, is a little heavy but no more than other laptops with a 15″ screen and is around £750 so a fairly good price as well but it doesn’t stand out head and shoulders enough for me to shout – buy it now!
There are still other laptops in the running and my heart is till on a MacBook which I can get in a similar spec to the Satellite Pro for about the same price.
Rating for the Tecra A8: 3 out of 5