The Toshiba Tecra M4-S515 is a nicely designed convertible notebook that's easy to use as a tablet PC. It has plenty of ports accessible in both tablet and laptop modes, but our test unit's touchpad didn't always work. To convert the M4-S515 into a tablet, you have to swivel the 14.1-inch screen clockwise and lay it flat against the keyboard. Along with the touch screen, the M4-S515 offers two keyboard pointing devices: an eraserhead and a touchpad. The eraserhead worked fine, but the touchpad did not. No matter how I tweaked the settings, the touchpad wouldn't reliably select text when I dragged my finger across it. Selection usually required several swipes, and sometimes it didn't work at all.
Our full-featured test unit came with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a PC Card slot, and other standard ports. Whether you're in laptop or tablet mode (the default tablet screen orientation is portrait), you can reach all of them easily. The same goes for the status lights, which are conveniently located on the front of the case in laptop mode and down the left side of the case in tablet mode. The one exception may be the stylus silo and optical drive - a DVD burner in my unit - which reside at the bottom of the case in tablet mode. If this bothers you, you can rotate the screen 90 degrees to landscape orientation, thus changing the relative position of the ports.
The shortcut buttons make tablet use convenient. They include not only the usual Task Manager and display rotation buttons but also a lockable launch button for Microsoft Outlook. A versatile joystick-like button scrolls in four directions and drills down to menus for setting brightness, power, and other features. You can reprogram this button and the display rotation button to launch applications or websites.
Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 converts handwriting to text more easily than ever. I used the floating Input Panel's text-writing pad most often, correcting rare errors in the easy-to-use character pad. The writing pad translated my chicken scratch accurately almost every time.
Performance was fine. Our test unit, equipped with a 2GHz Pentium M 760 processor and 512MB of RAM, earned a WorldBench 5 score of 78 - slightly lower than the 85 and 83 earned by two Windows XP Professional laptops with the same processor and amount of RAM. On one charge, the M4-S515's battery lasted 2 hours, 41 minutes, which is slightly below the average for currently tested notebooks.
The M4-S515's 80GB hard drive and two memory slots are user accessible, and the unit comes with Microsoft Works and OneNote. You get a basic printed softbound manual plus a more detailed, hyperlinked Acrobat manual on the hard drive. Oddly, neither offers drawings or photos of the notebooks features; for those, you'll have to go to Toshiba's website, and we recommend making that trip if you've never used a tablet PC before.
Toshiba Tecra M4-S515
WorldBench 5 score of 78, 2GHz Pentium M 760 processor, 512MB of DDR2-533 SDRAM, Windows XP Tablet Edition, 14.1-inch touch screen, 80GB hard drive, double-layer DVDA/RW drive, V.92 modem, gigabit ethernet, 802.11g, touchpad and eraserhead pointing devices, 3.3kg weight (including AC adapter, phone cord, and optical drive). One-year parts and labour warranty, 24-hour daily toll-free support.
Upshot: This convertible notebook has a well-designed case, but our test unit's touchpad didn't function properly.
Toshiba's M4 is distributed by Ingram Micro, IT Wholesale, Dicker Data and BMS Technology.