Toshiba Portege M400 review
A powerful convertible laptop with features that business users will appreciate. Battery life is average, though, and it's a little too heavy for convenient tablet use
Review Date: 1 Jun 2005
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: (£1,328 inc VAT)
In spite of Microsoft's constant overtures to businesses and individual users alike, tablet PCs have yet to catch on in a big way. But the concept is appealing: a standard laptop that you can use in tablet mode is a useful thing to have if your work takes you to places without desks.
The Toshiba M400 is the first convertible tablet notebook we've seen to sport a Core Duo processor. And the 1.83GHz Core Duo CPU at the heart of it, backed by 512MB of RAM, powered it to a benchmark score of 0.90. The other specifications are respectable. The Western Digital hard disk has a capacity of 80GB, while the optical drive is a Matsushita model that will write to all formats of disc, including, usefully, DVD-RAM. Elsewhere, Intel's 3945 802.11a/b/g wireless card rounds off the Centrino specification, and Bluetooth is another plus. There's further removable storage next to the stylus in the shape of a memory card reader that handles SD, Memory Stick and xD formats.
As a laptop designed primarily for travelling business users, the M400 has some fitting built-in components. Drop the notebook and the built-in 3D accelerometer will detect the sudden movement and park the hard disk heads, preventing them from crashing into the platters and giving more chance of your data remaining intact, even if the machine as a whole doesn't survive the fall. There's also a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip built in. Arguably, the accompanying software isn't quite as intuitive as HP's TPM control software, but we had an encrypted folder set up in a little under ten minutes. The fingerprint reader adds a layer of user-friendly security, although its placement beneath the screen makes it awkward to use in notebook mode.
The rest of Toshiba's management software is a breeze to use, and we particularly appreciate the presentation button on the bezel, which automatically changes the resolution of the screen and outputs the signal to the D-SUB port on the back.
The screen is a relatively compact 12.1in display, but the resolution is high at 1,400 x 1,050. While working at a desk, this is an advantage, but once the laptop is further away, as it is in tablet mode, Windows dialog boxes become uncomfortably small and it's harder to activate buttons and icons with the stylus.
Converting the M400 to tablet mode is uncomplicated - just swivel the screen around, change the orientation of the catch that holds it shut and clip it to the base. The screen is a heavy assembly, though, and there's no way of fixing it when in laptop mode. While this isn't an issue on a desk, if you're in a moving vehicle the screen is prone to wobbling about on its hinge. The panel itself isn't dazzlingly bright and contrast is merely average. This is mainly due to the added touchscreen layer, which also gives the TFT a grainy, soft-focus look. Colour reproduction is good, though, and our test RGB colour ramps were displayed without banding or discolouration. It isn't superb, but it's easily good enough to use in a normally lit home or office.
The tablet mode itself is easy to use. The stylus is held securely in a spring-loaded holder on the right-hand side of the machine and, when released, there's enough friction to stop it launching itself down the side of your train seat. Once we'd calibrated the screen, we had no problem using it for note taking and, small icons aside, navigating through Windows.
Unfortunately, the M400 is heavy for a tablet - its 2.18kg is too much to hold in the crook of your arm for long. Battery life is less than superlative too. An intensive use time of two hours, 14 minutes and a light-use time of three hours, 57 minutes makes using the M400 a less attractive replacement for pencil and paper. Notably, the HP Compaq tc4200 boasts a superb light-use time of five hours, 32 minutes.
- New Windows 9 videos show off multi-desktops and notification centre
- BT and mobile networks warn of rising cost of Scotland split
- Phones 4u collapse puts iPhone 6 orders in doubt
- Chromebook owners get access to Android apps
- SanDisk lets you pop half-terabyte card in your camera
- Windows 9 video shows new Start menu
- iPhone 6 goes on sale... and retailer sites go down
- Intel's RealSense camera: seeing the world like a human
- Apple Watch release date, UK price and features
- How to try paid Android apps for free
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to turn off Google Location Tracking
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Best of IDF: top tech and memorable moments from Intel's tech show
- How Apple Pay works and how to use it on your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
- How to use remote-access software
- Tech support horror stories
- Become a tech support superhero
- Best of IFA 2014: what smartphones, tablets, smartwatches are expected to launch at IFA this year?
- How to uninstall a program on Windows: remove unwanted apps from your PC
- How to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows
- What’s the best 4G network in the UK?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office