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Toshiba Tecra Z40-A-11U review

HardwareReviews
8/10
by James Morris, 17 Jun 2014Reviews
Toshiba Tecra Z40-A-11U review

The Tecra used to be Toshiba's all-singing corporate powerhouse model, but like the Portege, it has undergone a bit of a change in identity of late, with models to suit a variety of different needs. The Tecra Z40-A-11U is a far cry from the monster Tecras of the 1990s. Weighing in at under 1.5kg, it's almost an Ultrabook, although the 14in display means its chassis is a little on the large side for the Ultrabook format.

The processor is more in keeping with an Ultrabook, too. It's an Intel Core i5 from the most recent Haswell generation, but an ultra-low voltage 4300U model. This runs at a nominal 1.9GHz, but a single core can take advantage of Turbo Boost to rise to 2.9GHz when required, and there's an 800MHz 11.5W mode as well, which will extend battery life significantly. The CPU is dual-core, with the usual Core i5 Hyper-Threading ability that turns the two physical cores into four virtual ones. So this is a good multi-purpose CPU.

The processor also supplies the graphics, in the shape of Intel HD Graphics 4400. This is a slight improvement over the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that went before it, with 20 execution units instead of 16. However, the 4400 is not the highest-end version of Intel's latest integrated graphics, and only has a 1.1GHz core speed – so it's not going to provide a huge boost to 3D acceleration compared to its predecessor. A relatively lowly 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM is supplied alongside the CPU, although up to 16GB is supported. You can't upgrade this easily yourself, though, so we would recommend specifying at least 8GB at time of purchase to extend the usable life of the system.

A good word to describe the Tecra's design would probably be "sober", although that will probably be what most corporate purchasers want, and this isn't the kind of sobriety found on a Lenovo ThinkPad. A few silver areas on the screen hinge and beneath the trackpad are the only different touches added to an otherwise grey and dark grey chassis. However, the build is reassuringly solid, despite the low weight.

On the other hand, the 14in display is merely adequate. The non-reflective screen has a mere 1,366 x 768 resolution, which is beginning to look decidedly low-end now that some notebooks are pushing towards 4K. Horizontal viewing angles are decent enough, but vertical viewing angles are somewhat mediocre, as this isn't an IPS display. The display is a low point in an otherwise commendable specification. Another mediocre choice is the 128GB Toshiba solid state disk, which will be fast and low on power consumption, but looks meagre when Ultrabooks are beginning to standardise on 256GB now.

The Chiclet-style keyboard is comfortable enough to type on, although Toshiba has separated out the home, page up, page down and end keys from the cursor keys, and placed these in their own row on the right. This has meant a slight reduction in the size of the keyboard and keys. The action is light, but there is still a general sense of reassuring quality, and touch-typing is comfortable. This being a Toshiba corporate notebook, there's a trackpoint as well as a trackpad, with the joystick in the usual position in between the g, h and b keys. There are discrete buttons for this at the top of the trackpad. The latter is reasonably large, and positioned directly below the spacebar as it should be, although it also incorporates buttons that are indicated by very subtle ridges. The silver section underneath does not include buttons, instead offering status LEDs and a fingerprint reader.

The Tecra has plenty of connectivity. On the left there is a VGA port, USB 3.0 with Sleep-and-Charge, full-sized HDMI, the SD card reader, and the slot for the mobile data SIM. The right-hand side is home to a smartcard reader, combined headphone and microphone minijack, two more USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, as well as the power socket and Kensington lock slot. Toshiba supplements the wired connectivity with 802.11ac, a, b, g and n Wi-Fi, plus 4G mobile broadband – so you should be able to get onto the Internet in most locations where there's some form of connectivity available.

With its ultra-low voltage processor, the Tecra is not going to provide desktop replacement levels of performance. However, it still acquits itself reasonably well in the Maxon Cinebench R11.5 rendering test, achieving a result of 2.81. This places it towards the top end of the Ultrabook range, with only recent releases like Toshiba's KIRA 101 and the Asus Zenbook UX302L doing better. The OpenGL result of 15.5 is not quite so competitive, but adequate for integrated graphics. Similarly, the score of 823 in Futuremark's 3DMark11 and 532 in the Firestrike 1.1 portion of 3DMark are mediocre, but nothing to worry about.

With everyday software, the Tecra acquits itself better. The result of 2,281 in the Home portion of PC Mark 8 is decidedly decent for a notebook this size, and 3,578 in the Work portion is even more impressive. Most important of all, however, the Tecra lasted an incredible 434 minutes when running the Home test on battery, which means it will easily endure an entire working day of general office work, particularly as it still achieved a benchmark score of 1,690. It also managed 206 minutes of our intensive Battery Eater Pro test, implying that it can cope with lengthy periods of more intensive work as well. We ran both these tests using Toshiba's special eco mode, which optimises settings for extended battery life.

In a corporate notebook like the Tecra, good battery life is a key requirement and the Z40-A-11U delivers beyond the call of duty. The only downside is that the battery is not user-removable, so you won't be able to carry a second unit or replace the existing one when its abilities start to weaken with age.

Verdict

The Toshiba Tecra Z40-A-11U is mostly an effective design for the intended corporate user. It's light, considering its 14in chassis, and the battery life is exceptional, which will make it an ideal road warrior companion. It's also reasonably quick with the kind of software a business user is likely to be running, and has a full complement of business features, including 4G mobile broadband, a fingerprint reader, smartcard slot, and a comprehensive port selection. However, the screen is mediocre, particularly in the resolution department, given that this is a corporate notebook for a corporate price.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Toshiba Tecra Z40-A-11U

Processor

1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U

RAM

4GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 4400

Storage

128GB Toshiba solid state disk

Optical disc

None

Display

14in Toshiba HD non-reflective High Brightness eDP LED backlit TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac+a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE (4G)/HSPA+

Interfaces

3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, combo headphone/microphone, SD card reader, smartcard reader.

Width x Depth x Height

338 x 236 x 20.4mm

Weight

1.47kg

Warranty

1 year European carry-in

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