The Toshiba Tecra A9 (TS52A-OCU03F) is a no-frills notebook built with the business user in mind. Although the unit's design isn't innovative, eye-catching or easily portable, it's very functional and easy to work with.
Designed as a business machine, this notebook contains only the bare essentials for computing. You won't find a webcam in this model, nor Bluetooth, which would have been handy for video conferencing and connecting to a mobile phone. But, gigabit Ethernet and 802.11a/g/n wireless networking are standard. The wireless and Ethernet connections will allow airport-hoppers and constant travellers to log-on to the Internet at most places – and for the security conscious user, a fingerprint reader is built-in providing another level of authentication.
As a work tool, the Toshiba is user-friendly. The keyboard is easy to type on and the keys are all large enough to use without difficulty. The touchpad is responsive and the screen functions well in all light environments, although its viewing angles are somewhat restrictive. At 2.8kg, and with a 15.4in screen, the unit is a little heavy for lap use, so it's not ideal for use while travelling – together with its power supply, you'll have to carry 3.3kg in your notebook bag.
The notebook is powered by a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 CPU, which features an 800MHz front side bus (FSB) and 2MB L2 cache. A 120GB hard drive is installed, which spins at 5400rpm, and the unit has 1GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM. These specifications are good enough for the pre-installed operating system, Windows Vista Basic. Its 15.4in screen has a native resolution of 1280x800, but it can't be easily viewed from the sides.
Rounding off the Tecra A9's features are three USB 2.0 ports, one PC Card slot, a double-layer DVD-RW drive, a microphone jack, headphone jack and dial-up modem. It also has a set of speakers, which produce decent sound, but you'll be better off plugging in a set of headphones for serious listening. Design-wise, the unit is very simple. The cover is the same shade of silver as the palm rests and even the touchpad's colour almost blends into the chassis. Nonetheless, the construction of the screen and body looks and feels very solid. On the left side of the keyboard are two hotkeys that open up a very useful piece of software, namely a special version of Windows Mobility Center, which has been customised by Toshiba.
From here, a user can easily set-up a connection to a projector, change the display brightness and toggle the wireless adapter on or off without fiddling with the Windows Control Panel or Display Settings, thus saving time when setting up presentations, for example.
Users who need more than 1GB of RAM should note that the unit is expandable to 4GB of RAM, but the additional cost must be factored in to any purchasing decision, and with 1GB as standard, this Tecra is good value. The combination of its 1GB of RAM with shared graphics and a 2GHz dual-core CPU resulted in the WorldBench 6 score of 68, which means the notebook will allow for basic multitasking of office programs, but it won't handle more intensive tasks. It won't handle 3D graphics well, and this is reflected by the unit's 3DMark06 score of 399. Either way, this unit isn't designed to run 3D applications. In our MP3 encoding test, where we use iTunes to convert 53min worth of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, the A9 took 2min 44sec, which is slower than we were expecting.
While on the road, the Tecra's battery might not last as long as most users would like. In our worst-case scenario test, in which we loop a DVD in order to run the screen, speakers, CPU and DVD drive, the Tecra A9 lasted 1hr 18min. This is about 10min below what we were expecting of this 15.4in notebook. Nevertheless, if you employ vigorous power management strategies – while working on productivity applications, and not watching movies – you will get much more time away from an outlet.