Toshiba Tecra 700CT Review

by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (27,678)

by Charles P. Jefferies

Overview & Introduction


Toshiba Tecra 700CT (view large image)

The Toshiba Tecra 700CT is a portable PC that debuted in 1994. It was the world’s first notebook to incorporate the new Intel Pentium processor. My notebook is configured as follows:

  • Processor: 120MHz Pentium Processor
  • Memory: 16MB DRAM (48MB max.)
  • Hard Drive: 1.2GB hard drive
  • Screen: 11.3” TFT Active Matrix color screen, 800×600 pixels
  • Optical Drive: 4X CD-ROM drive (also available with 3.5” floppy)
  • Speakers: Integrated 16-bit sound and dual speakers
  • Graphics: 1MB video card (C&T CT65548)
  • Battery: Lithium battery
  • Ports: 2x PCMCIA slots
  • Wireless: Infrared data port
  • 3-year warranty
  • Dimensions: 11.5-inch width x 9-inch length x 2.5-inch height

As you can see, the feature list is quite extensive and the 700CT weighs only about 7 pounds, making this a machine you can take with you with relative ease.  

Reasons for Buying

I did not consider any other laptops for long after looking at the Toshiba Tecra 700CT due to its extensive feature set, powerful components, and nice-looking design. The 3-year warranty was another plus; I intended for this machine to last for a long time when I bought it. Key features of the 700CT include a fast 120MHz Pentium processor, a large 11.3-inch screen that has active matrix technology, and a CD-ROM drive. For comparison, cheaper machines use 75MHz Pentium processors, ~10-inch screens with passive matrix technology, and 3.5-inch floppy drives.

The CD drive was a worthwhile option – they have a far higher capacity than standard 3.5-inch floppies. CDs hold 650MB or around 452 x as much as a single floppy. Some programs can take 8 or 9 floppy disks to install – it is a hassle to switch in and out all of those floppies. All of that can fit onto one CD and be done in one step.

Where and How Purchased

I originally purchased this machine for $6,239 from Toshiba. I think the price was much too high but no other machines offered the advanced technology that the 700CT did, so as far as I was concerned the price was justified for that reason alone. The latest technology does fetch a premium after all; for example, the CD drive was an extra $489.

Build & Design


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Toshiba choose to use a light gray design for the exterior of the Tecra 700CT. Light gray is the only color on this machine and there are no variations. I am personally very fond of the look – it looks professional and I like the consistency. I used to get compliments wherever I took this machine, but that was during the mid-90s. In more recent years while in public view, I have been either accused of robbing a museum or questioned about why I was using a typewriter.

The machine is made entirely of plastic and the plastic used is quite thick. It, unlike cheaper plastic, is dyed all the way through so it will not show wear and tear. There is no flex evident on the machine and it is solid all around. The screen is solid as a board and shows no ripples when pushed from behind.


Top view of Toshiba Tecra 700CT (view large image)

Screen

The Tecra 700CT features an 11.3-inch standard-aspect display with an 800×600 (SVGA) resolution. It is powered by a C&T CT65548 video controller with 1MB of video RAM. In my opinion, the LCD display is a welcome improvement over the traditional CRT. LCDs are expensive and that does partly explain the relatively high cost of the 700CT.

The 11.3-inch TFT display on the 700CT is fairly sharp and has good contrast. It is not as bright as a CRT but that is to be expected on a portable machine like this. Side-to-side viewing angles are quite good; the colors remain consistent and do not wash out. However, vertical viewing angles from both above and below are terrible – the picture completely washes out. Some colors are distorted on this screen; white looks like a tan/yellow.

Speakers

Since this is a work machine, I do not have any music on it, but from what I can tell the dual speakers do their job well enough. In the one game I play on it (which I will talk about in the next section), sounds come through clear and without issue (note that these sounds are limited to beeps). However there is no bass.

Processor & Performance

As I stated previously, the Toshiba Tecra 700CT is the first portable machine to use the new Intel Pentium processor. The model in my machine runs at 120MHz and using Windows 3.11, the 700CT is responsive and appears to have plenty of power to do my bidding.

Gaming – I have one game loaded onto the 700CT – Treasure Mountain by The Learning Company. I have no knowledge of how the game was installed or why, but I play it and I am quite good. It was released in 1990; I use v1.0. It is essentially an RPG, and you play as . . . well, a guy in a backpack who has a butterfly net to catch things. Here’s how it works – you can catch an elf; once caught, it will present three questions; get all three correct, and he will give you a location where you can find a key. Once you find the key, you level up. Here are some screenshots of the game.


Opening splash screen (view large image)

 


Description of goals (view large image)

 


Spawn point (of sorts) (view large image)

 


Incredible outdoor scenery (view large image)

 


Description of elf-catching (view large image)

The 1MB video card shines here, as the graphics are smooth and very detailed. I am eagerly anticipating newer game releases (on CD) in the next few months.

Heat & Noise

The Tecra 700CT has a single fan in the back which cools it down. It has one speed, loud, and it never shuts off. Ever. From the moment the system is powered on until it is shut off, the fan drones on. It has a high-pitched whine to it and will annoy you and those around you. Despite my gripes, the machine runs cool so the fan is doing its job. I would rather have a loud fan that keeps the machine cool than a quiet fan that does not do anything for heat.

Keyboard & Mouse


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The full-size keyboard on the 700CT is decent; it is not my IBM desktop keyboard but it works while I am away from my desk. Key travel is much shorter than that of a desktop and it is not easy to type on. I found that the keys need to be pressed down completely before they register, which can be annoying if you are a touch typist. It is also difficult to push the keys down on an angle; you must press the center of the key for it to go down smoothly. However, after using a machine for 13 years, I am used to such things.


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I give credit to Toshiba’s designers for making the most of the space they had available to them; the keyboard spans the entire width of the chassis. Keys are more or less in the expected positions.

The mouse consists of an eraser-head trackstick in the center of the keyboard along with two buttons (right- and left-click) in the palmrest. Over a decade later the rubber trackstick is hard and worn but it still works without issue. Not my favorite device, but it functions. The buttons are also worn, but they work. In my opinion, the buttons are overly difficult to press down.

Input & Output Ports

This is best done using pictures – all descriptions are left to right.  Enjoy the views.


Left Side View: Reset button, Power button, a hole for something (view large image)


Right side view: No idea what the left one is, on the right: 2x PCMCIA (view large image)


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Back Side Upper level: PS/2 for mouse, PS/2 for keyboard, microphone, headphone, infrared, fan, some ancient port, power

Back Side Lower level: VGA, serial port, docking station port (covered)

 


Front view: CD-ROM drive, status lights (view large image)

Battery


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While running MS-DOS, the battery life of the Tecra 700CT is about thirteen minutes. Yes, that’s correct. Keep in mind this machine is 13 years old and batteries do go bad. I believe this machine would have gotten around one hour of battery life brand new. Either way, the battery life is disappointing and does not allow for enough unplugged freedom. Personally, I would like one hour of battery life for every $1,000 spent.

Operating System & Software

The 700CT has both MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 operating systems. I use both operating systems, although I am much more productive using Windows and that is what I use most of the time. Windows 3.11 has a pretty graphical user interface (GUI) and is just plain enjoyable to use.


DOS (view large image)


Windows 3.11 splash screen (view large image)

 


Inside Windows 3.11 (view large image)

 

Microsoft Antivirus provides reliable protection from malicious software.


Microsoft Antivirus (view large image)

Conclusion

All in all, the Toshiba Tecra 700CT is an excellent portable computer. Equipped with all of the latest technology, including the Intel Pentium processor and a high-resolution, active matrix screen, it sets a new benchmark for mobile computers.

There is something to be said about getting your money’s worth – 13 years later, I have not had a single problem with the Toshiba Tecra 700CT and I have no regrets about buying it. It has withstood the test of time and does not show any prominent signs of wear and tear. What it all comes down to is that they don’t make ‘em like they used to, and the 700CT is living proof of that.

Pros:

  • Powerful Pentium processor
  • 1MB graphics card for intense games
  • CD-ROM drive
  • TFT Active Matrix display
  • Great looking design
  • Durability
  • Overall coolness factor

Cons:

  • Keyboard takes getting used to
  • Screen washes out from above/below; distorted colors
  • Insanely annoying fan
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Sky-high price

 

 

Oh! I forgot to tell you . . .


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