How low can a Windows 8 hybrid tablet/laptop go -- at least, as far as price is concerned? Toshiba has tried its best with its new $600 bargain-basement Satellite Click, a 13.3-in. tablet that comes with a snap-on keyboard, transforming it into the equivalent of a traditional laptop.
The Click will be available only directly from Toshiba or from Best Buy, and comes with a one-year warranty. While the review unit came with Windows 8, Windows 8.1 was available as of October 18.
Toshiba Satellite Click
On its own, the silver-tone plastic tablet weighs 2.2 lb. and has a protective rubber rim around the screen's edge. It measures 13.0 x 8.5 in. with a depth of 0.4 in. in front and 0.6 in. in back.
Add in the matching 2.5-lb. keyboard and you have a laptop package that weighs 4.7 lb. and is an inch thick. That means the Click is 0.4-in. narrower, but 5 oz. heavier, than the Asus Transformer Book TX300, which, at about $1,400, is the other 13.3-in. tablet/keyboard combo currently on the market. ( HP will be coming out with its $600 Pavilion 13 X2 sometime in November.)
A larger -- and heavier -- tablet
The Toshiba's 13.3-in. screen shows 1366 x 768 resolution (as opposed to the Asus Transformer Book's 1920 x 1080 HD imaging). The Click uses a Radeon HD 8180 graphics accelerator with 500MB of dedicated video memory that can use up to 1.5GB from the system's RAM, for a total of just over 2GB of available video memory.
In practice, that means the display is bright and rich enough for most users. However, the video it delivers looks choppy at times. It works better for animated games like Cut the Rope than for watching YouTube videos.
Able to respond to up to 10 independent inputs, the capacitive screen can interpret several gestures; when I tried it with my own Kensington Virtuoso Stylus, it worked well.
I really appreciated the system's big display for games and movies, although I would have preferred the detail that comes with an HD or better screen. It sits flat on a tabletop and doesn't wobble when tapped, but at three-quarters of a pound heavier than the iPad with Retina display, carrying or holding the Click can get tedious.
I found that the Click was most comfortable with me seated and the base of the slate balanced on my lap with a hand holding one of its sides. That leaves the other hand free for tapping and swiping.
The tablet has a power switch on the right edge and volume rocker on the left. There's a front-facing webcam for video conferencing and selfies; unlike many other tablets, the Click lacks a forward-facing camera.
The Click's ports are minimalist: audio, micro-HDMI and microUSB 2.0. It comes with a 6-in.-long micro-to-full-size USB adapter cable that works well for connecting it to a computer; however, the cable makes it awkward to use with a USB key. The Click's communications are covered with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The tablet is outfitted with an AMD A4-1200 dual-core processor that runs at 1GHz. It comes with 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard disk drive that spins at 5,400 rpm. If that's not enough, it sports a micro-SD card slot to add up to 64GB of storage.
Making a keyboard connection
The Click tablet is detached from the keyboard section by flipping a lever at the screen's base and pulling it free. I had no problem with that process; on the other hand, I found it hard to line up the latches that enable you to reconnect the two pieces.
I did discover one small improvement that made things simpler: A small notch cut out of the base of the keyboard portion makes it much easier to pull the screen open when the Click is in its "laptop" configuration. It's a small thing, but I appreciated the additional ease of use.
Another nice feature: At its base, the Click's screen has two rubber feet that steady the screen when the keyboard is attached. As a result, when the display is poked and swiped, it doesn't wobble as much as some other touch-screen laptops on the market.
I was disappointed to find that the keyboard is not backlit; it also seemed to flex a lot when I was typing.
The keyboard base adds a full-size USB 3.0 port that can also charge a phone. The tablet has its own speakers; when it's attached to the keyboard, it uses the keyboard's two speakers instead. The Click uses DTS Studio Sound technology, but to my ears the audio was on the thin and shrill side, particularly for music, no matter which pair of speakers I was using.
From its 5mm hard drive that uses advanced power management techniques, to the low-voltage CPU and graphics accelerator (which consumes less than 4 watts total), the Click has been designed to use a minimum of power. As a result, it doesn't have a cooling fan. I found that this passive approach to cooling not only made for a quieter experience, but saved on battery usage as well.
The tablet and keyboard each have a separate 3,300mAh battery and power input. When the two parts are mated, the tablet is charged first and the keyboard's battery is drained first, increasing the chances that the tablet will be charged and ready when you need it.
With two batteries, knowing how much power is available can be confusing. Toshiba solves this by showing the average of the two cells if you hover over the Windows task tray battery icon. Click on the icon and the individual charge level of each battery is shown.
In my tests, the tablet's battery ran on its own for 3 hours and 43 minutes of intensive usage, constantly playing HD videos from a USB key. Together, the tablet and keyboard combined for a reasonable 6 hours and 19 minutes of run time using the same test, which is better than most traditional laptops. It means that, under normal usage, it should last a full day without needing a charge.
After using the Click for a week at the office, at home and on train rides in between, I really appreciated its flexibility. For instance, I could curl up on the couch with the tablet alone to play on the Web, watch a movie or read the digital news. With the keyboard in place I could create a presentation or respond to the night's accumulated email.
The price to pay for this flexibility, unfortunately, is performance. If you plan to use it mainly as a laptop, prepare for some slowdowns -- the Click scored 433.4 on PassMark's PerformanceTest 8, about half as much as a similarly priced budget touch-screen laptop, the Asus VivoBook V400CA, which scored 915.9. (Unfortunately, I don't have scores available for the Asus Transformer Book TX300, the other 13.3-in. convertible presently on sale.)
At a Glance
ToshibaPrice: $600Pros: Inexpensive, snap-on keyboard, two independent batteries, slim tablet, no fanCons: Heavy for its class, slow performance, can be difficult to snap the tablet onto the base
In fact, I found that, while the Click was fine for casual Web journeys, email and online videos, there were several instances where, because I was using several programs at once, it became unresponsive for a few seconds and delivered choppy audio.
In the final analysis, the Click's large screen may not be perfect, but it isn't bad, and it does provide another approach to tablet computing. The system's ability to go between a tablet and a laptop trumps its low performance potential. In my experience, it's an improvement over pairing a tablet with a wireless keyboard -- and the Click has the advantage of the extra battery inside its keyboard.
Households that want a large tablet that can be turned into a laptop for a reasonable price should definitely check out the Click. However, if you need more computing power and have a bigger budget, you may be better off with a higher-end convertible -- or just with a separate tablet and Ultrabook.
This article, Toshiba Satellite Click: A large tablet/laptop for $600, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Brian Nadel is a frequent contributor to Computerworld and the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.
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