Review Toshiba Tecra A9 Notebook
Te | cra The Tecra series is Toshiba's answer to the demand for robust and durable business notebooks. Tecra introduces a lot of innovations, which, although not visible from outside, provide a lot of reliability and user-friendliness. Also the hardware of the new Tecra A9 is interesting, because it is based on the Santa Rosa platform.
The Tecra A9 has a decent, yet elegant design, in one word business-like. Most apparent are the black base unit with silver overlay, and a similar color choice for the display.
Even the forms of this notebook are decent. The overall straight and geometric lines are supplemented by a Tecra specific smooth rounded front edge. It basically contributes to the ergonomics of the notebook, because the hands can slide over a comfortable rounded edge.
Also the Tecra A9's stability of the case is apparently very good. The base unit seems to be very stable and resistant against applied forces. Additionally, you'll hardly face any deformations when lifting this notebook or handling with the notebook.
Only the heavily perforated bottom side yields somewhat under pressure. Sensible parts, like the hard disk cover are compound, e.g., the hard disk is further protected by a domed part, called Hdd Dome.
The display cover is moderately, yet sufficiently pressure resistant. However, more forceful pressure changes the picture representation.
The hinges seem to be very robust. They keep the position of the 15.4 inch WXGA display. When adjusting the display's position it possibly slightly see-saws.
A ramshorn hook secures the closed position of the display. On closing the display, you'll detect another feature of construction: The display is located a little bit more to the front compared to the base unit. This reduces the force effect to the display in case of a fall, because the base unit absorbs most of the shock.
According to Toshiba, this notebook should tolerate falls from heights up to one meter without data loss. However, we did not try this in practice.
Tecra A9's ports are mainly located at its backside and at its left side. We want to especially mention the serial port, which is located at the left side near the back.
The form of the keys fit well to the case. At the beginning, we had some problems hitting the intended keys, but after a while we got used to the keyboard layout. Most of the problems were caused by the inlay at the left keyboard edge which keeps the power switch - again and again, we hit it instead of the shift key.
The layout of the keys is most striking. E.g., the function keys above the keyboard are grouped into groups of four, and also the cursor block is separated and was placed more to the front. In total this layout lets the keyboard appear clearly structured.
The size of the keys is comfortable, even though their actual contact surface appears a little smaller, because it is laterally beveled. The Tecra A9 also provides the typically slightly increased keys, e.g., shift, backspace, and control have as usually over-size and the enter key extends over two rows.
Typing faces a very clear action point with a comfortable travel. Being tightly attached to the base unit contributes to a positive impression of typing with this keyboard.
The Tecra A9 is equipped with a combination of touch pad and track point. On the one hand the pad is good and precise in use, but, on the other hand, it is somewhat lower than the surrounding case. The same is true for both of its buttons, which are comfortable in use, but, their pushed state is a little too low compared to the surrounding case.
Besides a maybe somewhat to small size, the track point cannot be criticized in any way.
Furthermore, the Tecra A9 is equipped with a fingerprint reader, which is located below the cursor keys, and the typical Toshiba control dial for volume control at the front edge of the case.
The reviewed model of the Tecra A9 was equipped with a 15.4 inch widesreen display with matt display surface and a maximum resolution of 1680x1050 pixels. This makes it concise while the font size is sill acceptable.
We measured a maximum brightness of 153.7 cd/m². Considering it isolated, this is not bad, but, because the brightness heavily diminishes at the top corners, the illumination is only 72.6%.
The measurement diagram depicts a slightly increased red color curve, which leads to a warmer color representation.
The very low black value of 0.3 cd/m² leads to a very good calculated contrast ratio of 512:1. The display of the Tecra A9 rates grade 6 of the Pixperan test of legibility. This result and also the result of a number of different scroll tests rate the display average regarding speed of reaction.
Outdoors, especially in very bright environments, the use of the display is limited. Although the matt and non-reflecting surface argues for outdoor operation, the rather moderate average brightness of 135.4 cd/m² lets the display appear rather dark.
The stability to the vantage point of the display has horizontally a good area of operation, at acute angels the contrast diminishes and the display reflects.
Vertically, the area of operation is yet sufficient. However, outside its area of operation the usual darkening and whitening of the display quickly appears.
As already mentioned in the introduction the Tecra A9 series already uses the Intel 965GM/PM chip set, which you might probably know as "Santa Rosa".
More interesting for the user is that this chip set already includes the WLan standard n, which will provide a faster wireless transfer speed and a bigger technical reach. Furthermore, a new Intel CPU is build-in, so, a slight improvement of speed is to be expected.
In more detail, the Tecra A9 is equipped with a Core 2 Duo T7500 processor with 2.2GHz and a total of 2GB Ram. A GMA X3100, the GMA 950 successor, is responsible for graphics. Besides a general performance increase, the most important advantage of this solution is DirectX 10 support, which is the dedicated future video standard.
Compared to the GMA 950 chip the benchmark makes a clear performance increase of Intel's new on-board graphic chip apparent. Despite this, the GMA X3100 still clearly scores worse than independent video cards, e.g. Geforce 7300/7400.
The PC Mark benchmark comparison uncovers that the Tecra A9 is a top business notebook. Comparisons which mainly focus on CPU performance show that the T7500 CPU scores similar to a Core 2 Duo T7400 or a Core Duo T2600.
The 160GB Hitachi Travelstar hard disk provides a capacity of 160 GB, which should be sufficient, and it rates slightly above-average regarding transfer rates and access times.
|3DMark 05 Standard||922 points|
|3DMark 06||479 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||3402 points|
Even in idle mode the fan runs all the time and the hard disk can also be heard in quiet environments. However, in total the measured noise level in idle mode of 34.3dB and also the subjective impression are alright.
Under load the fan possibly turns up, but a maximum noise level of 38.9dB is still tolerable.
Time and again the noise of the hard disk got apparent, which drew our attention by its unsteady clattering and crackling.
32.4 / 41.3 / 41.3 dB(A)
||36.5 / dB(A)|
||0 / 41.3 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
Basically, similar to the measured noise, the surface temperature of the Tecra A9 also cannot really be criticized. A Maximum of 39.7°C at the top side and of 42.1°C at the bottom side are unobjectionable.
palmwrist: 34.7°C max: 39.7°C avg: 36.5°C
max: 42.1°C avg: 39.3°C
Considering, it is a business notebook, Tecra A9's speakers are well worth-hearing. Located left and right above the keyboard, their sound is passable and the maximum volume respectable. Because the Tecra is a business notebook, its weak basses, which are typical for notebooks without sub-woofer, are not a main criteria.
The reviewed notebook was equipped with a 5100 mAh battery. During our test the battery runtime was in between a minimum of slightly above one hour and up to 4 hours.
So, the battery runtime is usable, but not really exciting.
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||4h 00min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||1h 16min|
|Off / Standby||0 / 0 Watt|
|Idle|| 18.6 / 27.5 / 28.4 Watt|
69.9 / 64.3 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
In total the Toshiba Tecra A9 could convince during our tests. Nearly all test criteria were passed with a positive result.
The case of the Tecra A9 is especially flexural rigid and stable. We also like its decent, yet elegant design.
The input devices seem durable and also robust. They rate high, because of their clear layout, although the form of the keys needs some adaption time.
The display with a resolution of 1680x1050 pixels provides a good consciousness at an acceptable font size. Its size and resolution make it fit for Windows Vista, whose bigger window frames require more space. The brightness could be improved, especially for outdoor usage.
Regarding video and calculation power the Tecra A9 is passable equipped, considering it is a business notebook. Because of the new Santa Rosa chip set this notebook can be equipped with the new Intel CPUs. The GMA X3100 video solution provides sufficient power for office applications.
We were also satisfied by the results regarding noise and temperature emissions. The noise and the surface temperatures were alright.
The last considered aspect is the battery runtime, which can never be long enough for a business notebook. The Tecra A9 battery runtime is in between 1 and 4 hours, so, at least the minimum requirements are met.