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Toshiba NB100-11R review

Verdict

A superb choice of operating system and great-looking 8.9in screen, but the price needs to drop for Toshiba's first netbook to make a big impression.

Review Date: 2 Dec 2008

Reviewed By: Tim Danton

Price when reviewed: £212 (£244 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

Just like Dell with its Inspiron Mini 9, Toshiba has eased into the netbook fray with an 8.9in affair. Rather than offering a radical design, integrating 3G or supplying stunning specs, it's pinning its early hopes on reputation - a "netbook from a brand you can trust" is its non-too subtle tagline.

We're certainly big fans of its choice of operating system. Though you can choose a version of the NB100 with Windows XP (look out for part code NB100-12A) for an extra £50 or so, the Ubuntu "Netbook Remix" OS in its Linux version (part code NB100-11R) is the best we've seen.

Straight out of the box you should be able to instantly grasp its logic. The different program types are grouped into tabs down the left, so Graphics includes the Cheese app that controls the 0.3-megapixel webcam, F-Spot Photo Manager and OpenOffice.org Draw.

Generous is a slightly incongruous word to use considering that all the software here is free, but if it really is thought that counts then Toshiba has indeed been generous. All the applications you might expect are here, from a music player to an office suite to the Pidgin Internet Messenger.

It's also easy to connect to the internet. A drop-down menu shows all nearby Wi-Fi networks along with an indication of their signal strength, and within around five seconds of telling the NB100 which network to choose we were logged on.

Mozilla Firefox 3 is the default web browser, and again everything you need is ready-installed - you won't need to download Flash plug-ins, for instance, which all contributes to making this the most user-friendly Linux netbook around.

In terms of specification it ticks all the usual netbook boxes. There's a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and 512MB of RAM, which are more than enough to power Ubuntu Linux without any stuttering. Toshiba includes an 80GB hard disk, with three USB ports for adding an external disk or external optical drive.

What lifts this netbook above most others is its screen. It may measure just 8.9in diagonally and have the usual 1,024 x 600 resolution, but it's among the most impressive we've seen on a budget laptop. Many netbooks rely on a grainy display, but Toshiba opts for a high-gloss finish that adds vibrancy to photos and makes browsing the web a pleasure.

Where things start to go astray is the keyboard. While compromises are inevitable in such a small chassis, it's disappointing that the right-Shift key is tucked away at the edge of the keyboard, while little details are also odd: the comma key is around 20% larger than the full-stop, which means irritating typos are easier to make.

We aren't fans of the tiny trackpad either. Unless you're blessed with dainty digits, you'll struggle to take fine control over the cursor.

Battery life is another slight problem. We managed to squeeze 3hrs 40mins out of the NB100 under light use, but unlike the MSI Wind there's no supporting cast of extended batteries - right now, you can't even buy a straight replacement for throwing in the bag for longer journeys.

At least it's light. It tipped our scales at 1.05kg, which puts it among the most featherlight 8.9in netbooks you can buy. The small screen also contributes to a compact chassis, measuring 225 x 190 x 33mm (WDH).

Don't expect stunning looks, though. Compared to the Samsung NC10 or the best-looking Asus Eee PCs, this is a bland machine. Toshiba spices things up a little with a piano black lid, but once you lift the NB100's lid you're greeted with dull-looking grey plastiReally ?c.

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