Toshiba Tecra A6-S513
At a Glance
Toshiba Tecra A6-S513 Notebook
This handsome, light business portable offers extra security and makes a great commuter notebook.
The Tecra A6-S513 is one of Toshiba's least-expensive business notebooks. Compact and relatively light, the $1149 (as of April 18, 2006) machine weighs 5.3 pounds. It has a 14.1-inch, 1280-by-768-pixel TruBrite wide screen, and runs for 3.9 hours on one battery charge. It would make a very good commuter notebook.
The handsome black-and-silver portable is adequately though not extravagantly configured, with Wi-Fi, 128MB of shared video RAM, a removable 80GB 5400-rpm hard drive, a FireWire port, a five-in-one media-card reader, four USB ports scattered about the case, and a built-in right-side combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. Besides having a standard VGA port, it offers S-Video-out so that you can use a TV as an external monitor. For desktop cable management, Toshiba's Advanced Port Replicator III Plus ($199) snaps onto the bottom of the notebook via a proprietary 240-pin connector; it adds serial, parallel, and both DVI-D and DVI-I ports that let you quickly set up either an analog monitor or a digital flat-panel LCD as an external screen.
For security, the A6-S513 uses Trusted Platform Management technology, including an embedded chip to protect data. It also has a fingerprint reader in the palm rest for bypassing cumbersome passwords. (Novices will find the animated tutorial very helpful in learning the fine art of finger swiping.)
Equipped with a midlevel 1.66-GHz Core Solo T1300 processor and 512MB of RAM, the A6-S513 earned a WorldBench 5 score of 77. To give the Tecra's performance a boost, you can expand its RAM to 2.56GB via a free, bottom-accessible SODIMM slot. (The base 512MB of RAM is also user accessible, though reaching it requires removing the keyboard, a somewhat complicated process.) For extending battery life further, you can replace the standard six-cell, 4Ah battery with a nine-cell battery for $150.
My only caveat: The palm rest is extremely short, with the very small mouse buttons and touchpad squeezed in. (The entire depth of the unit, including keyboard, is only 9.5 inches, the same as on some 12.1-inch wide screens.) Though I found them comfortable to use, a person with big hands might not. The keyboard itself is large and thoughtfully laid out, with the Home, PgUp, PgDn. and End keys set slightly apart--a nice ergonomic touch. A useful Acrobat manual rounds out the package for this handsome business portable.