Toshiba Tecra M6 Review (pics, specs)

by hazel_motes Reads (47,339)
  • Pros

    • Very nice glossy screen
    • Light and easy to carry around
    • Well built
    • Good performance (though somewhat limited by 512 MB RAM)
    • Fingerprint reader
    • Numerous hardware protection features
    • TPM hardware-based encryption
    • Runs cool and is very quiet
    • Nice built-in optical driver

  • Cons

    • No matte screen option
    • Surprising amount of junk software
    • Only a one-year warranty standard


by Kevin Giberson

I find it useful, when reviewing a notebook, to see what the seller has to say in its online marketing about the particular machine under review. The Toshiba Tecra M6 is described on Toshiba’s website as being a “sleek and powerful” machine designed for “professionals and students” who are on the go. Weighing in at just over 4 pounds, the M6 is at the lighter end of the thin-and-light notebook range, offering easy portability, while the M6’s power comes from its use of standard notebook components, as opposed to those exceptionally diminutive, low-voltage parts typically found in ultraportable machines. As part of the Tecra line, which carries with it more of a business connotation than the home-user-oriented Toshiba Satellite series, the M6 is also designed with the “Corporate and Small Business” sectors in mind. As such, it has various protection and security features one would generally expect to find in a business-class machine: a chassis that includes magnesium alloy strengthening; shock absorption features, including special protection for the hard drive; a spill-resistant keyboard; a fingerprint reader; and TPM (Trusted Platform Module) hardware-based encryption capabilities.

The M6 is available at various online retailers and can also be configured at the Toshiba website, the latter option allowing for customization according to the purchaser’s particular needs and wants. Based on this review model’s configuration, the price will be somewhere around $1,300, which includes a one-year warranty.


Toshiba Tecra M6 (view large image)

Toshiba Tecra M6 Specs:

  • Processor: Intel Yonah Core Duo T2300E (1.66 GHz/2MB L2 Cache)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Hard Drive: 80 GB SATA @ 5400RPM
  • Screen: 12.1″ WXGA TruBrite Widescreen (1280 x 800)
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950, 128 MB Shared
  • RAM: 512MB DDR2 SDRAM @533 MHz (1 x 512MB)
  • Optical Drive: DVD SuperMulti Drive (CD/DVD burner)
  • Battery: 6-cell lithium ion
  • Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11 a/b/g
  • Weight: 4.1 lbs
  • Dimensions: 1.37” (H) x 11.8 “ (W) x 8.86″ (D)
  • Ports/Slots: 1 IEEE 1394 (FireWire); 3 Universal Serial Bus (USB 2.0); VGA monitor out port; RJ-45 Ethernet LAN; RJ-11 modem; Type I/II PC Card Slot with CardBus support; headphone/speaker jack; microphone; 6-in-1 Bridge Media Adapter: SD, miniSD (with adapter), Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Multi Media Card, xD PictureCard [shared slots]; Secure Digital slot supports SDIO

Initial Impressions

The M6 offers a pleasant, unremarkable mix of silver and black, is small enough and light enough to carry around and use just about anywhere one might reasonably expect to use a computer. At 1.37 inches thick (1.34 inches at the front), the M6 is not strikingly lean, but this thickness is unsurprising given the inner workings and built-in optical drive.

The silver and black chassis offers a look that falls somewhere between what I would consider to be a businesslike look, on the one hand, and a home or student look, on the other. Despite a typical abundance of plastic, the M6 feels and looks solid and well made, with good fit and finish and a business-casual appearance that is tasteful and somewhat understated, neither flashy nor overly cavalier about appearance and presentation.

Design and Build


Toshiba Tecra (view large image)

Most importantly, however, there seem to be no significant deficiencies in build quality. LCD latch and hinges, the latter of which dip well below they level of the keyboard, inspire confidence. The plastic casing feels strong and everything fits together nicely. Although the lid has a lightweight feel and can be pushed inward with gentle pressure, the screen did not ripple, and while my slight preference is for a stronger, more solid feel, I have seen this approach to LCD casings elsewhere; it’s as if the design and manufacturing process have allowed for a protective buffer of air between the LCD cover and the LCD itself, rather than making them one virtually solid piece, as is the case with my own Dell Precision M65.


Front view and thickness of the Tecra M6 as compared to a 9V battery (view large image)


Right view of Toshiba Tecra M6 (view large image)


Rear view of Toshiba Tecra M6 (view large image)


Toshiba Tecra M6 left side view (view large image)

The screen


Toshiba Tecra M6 TruBrite screen (view large image)

The WXGA glossy screen, TruBrite in the Toshiba lexicon, is the equal of most of the other notebooks I’ve lately had the chance to use: no obvious flaws, excellent brightness, and generally a pleasure to use. The screen provides for good movie viewing and is up to any task, though, being glossy, it’s best viewed when not being hit by direct light. I’ve never actually owned a glossy-screen notebook, since video is not a priority, but I find these bright, shiny screens to be fairly comfortable, even for regular business-type use. It does seem to be getting a little more difficult, as time slips by, to find matte screens, though they are often still available in business notebooks. The Tecra M6, however, is an exception in this regard: the TruBrite LCD is the only one available.

Graphics

There’s really not a lot to say about the Tecra M6’s Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 GPU, which is what’s been included in many of the notebooks I’ve lately used. For nearly everything except recent graphics-intensive games, the Intel integrated graphics work well enough, and the GMA 950 can apparently handle Windows Vista Aero Glass, too, though how well exactly seems somewhat open to question.

Sound

The on-board sound is somewhat weak but in line with other lightweight notebooks; it’s certainly possible to understand people talking while watching a news clip or DVD, and this is probably about as much as one should hope for when purchasing a notebook designed for portability.

Processor and Performance

The Yonah Core Duo 2300E, coupled with 512MB RAM, provided good performance in most situations, though as I have mentioned elsewhere, optimal performance appears to require more than 512MB RAM. In any case, it is possible to run a virus scan, have multiple Microsoft Office documents and various web pages open and also view an online video without a problem or any noticeable drag. This is probably plenty for most people, and the only time I noticed any lag, as I did when I reviewed another machine with a Yonah processor, Intel GMA graphics and 512MB RAM, was while running Super Pi in the background. Perhaps this is an unfair test, but there seems to be significant improvement in performance, under these high-stress conditions, when the RAM is bumped to 1GB. That said, the M6 booted quickly, and between startup and the running of multiple applications, I really had no complaints.

Benchmarks

The time needed to calculate pi to 2 million digits of accuracy, using Super Pi, was quite respectable and consistent with other Intel Yonah dual-core CPUs:

SuperPi

SuperPi measures CPU performance by calculating Pi to a specific number of digits.

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E) 1m 18s
HP dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion64 X2 TL-56) 1m 54s
Compaq V3000T(1.6GHz Core Duo) 1m 26s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.00 GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
Toshiba A100(2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Acer Aspire 5102WLMi(1.6GHz Turion64 X2 TL-50 2m 22s
Gateway E-100M(1.2GHz Core Solo ULV) 2m 02s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
HP dv5000z(2.0GHz Sempron 3300+) 2m 02s

 

Another synthetic benchmark we use is Futuremark’s PCMark 05. This is a good general  measure of system performance. The M6 achieved a score of 2,732.

PCMark05 Comparison results:

 Notebook PCMark05 Score
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950) 2,732 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV) 1,390 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo) 3,427 PCMarks

 

In detail, the PCMark 05 score looked like this:

PCMark05 detailed results

PCMark05
 HDD – XP Startup 5.57 MB/s
Physics and 3D 64.66 FPS
Transparent Windows 123.63 Windows/s
3D – Pixel Shader 12.43 FPS
Web Page Rendering 2.51 Pages/s
File Decryption 41.52 MB/s
Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 289.82 FPS
HDD – General Usage 3.82 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression 1725.17 KB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding 246.21 KB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit 89.01 Pages/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression 19.71 Mpixels/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression 6.12 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption 16.0 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD – Virus Scan 26.27 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency – Random 16 MB 7.32 Maccesses/s

 

HD Tune performance is as follows:


(view large image)

 

Memory and Processor usage comparison to Dell Precision M65 when running Super Pi:

For those interested, included is a comparison between the Dell Precision M65 (a larger dual core workstation notebook) and Tecra M6 using Everest and Task Manager to dispaly how processor and memory are utilized when running Super Pi.

Memory Usage with No Super Pi Running Memory Usage with Super Pi Running
Tecra M6
(view large image)

(view large image)
Dell Precision M65
(view large image)

(view large image)

 

Keyboard and Touchpad


Toshiba Tecra M6 keyboard view (view large image)

I found the keyboard took a little getting used to for a couple of reasons: 1) key travel was less than I’m accustomed to, and 2) I had to keep searching for several keys I use pretty regularly, namely, the Windows key and the Page Up and Page Down keys. Generally, however, the keyboard was fairly comfortable. Key travel was never a huge issue, and I eventually got reasonably used to the placement of non-alphanumeric keys. The touchpad is quite tiny but still very usable, I found, and I imagine a little more time and I would have become fully acclimated to the keyboard and touchpad. One thing I did enjoy was the fingerprint reader, though I had never really cared one way or another about being able to swipe my finger instead of typing a password. It turned out to be a small pleasure to be able to pass my finger across the little sensor and get right back to Windows.

Battery Life

Based on fairly constant, intensive use, with the screen at full brightness and wireless enabled, I consistently got right around two and three-quarter hours out of the six-cell battery before approaching 100% depletion. As I generally say, another user would undoubtedly be able to squeeze significantly more time out of the battery, but, running the notebook at home, I have no compelling interest in optimizing battery life, and I like a very bright screen and a constant wireless connection.


View of the 6-cell battery on the underside of the Tecra M6 (view large image)

Heat and Noise

The entire notebook stayed fairly cool and noise was almost nonexistent. These are two areas where the Tecra M6 really excelled, in my opinion.

Wireless

I have now used a number of notebooks containing the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 and have never had a significant problem. Consistent with this, the Tecra M6 wireless performed as expected and desired.

Service and Support

I’ve had no occasion to call Toshiba support, but it is worth mentioning that a nice 3-year on-site business-type warranty will add considerably to the price of this machine. You can visit the Toshiba forums section of NotebookReview.com to see what other people think of Toshiba support and ask questions regarding this topic. Recently there have been consumer surveys reflecting badly upon certain aspects of Toshiba support, which is never a good sign, but support can vary by country region and by the type of service plan and product line you select.

Software

In addition to a host of useful utilities, a surprising amount of junk software was installed on the Tecra M6, given its business orientation: AOL was present, begging to be removed, in addition to a number of demo games that were little more than garish advertising. Nonetheless, everything ran smoothly at startup and shutdown, and there were no software-related glitches. Performance, as noted earlier, was in line with what one would expect from the hardware configuration.

Conclusion

The Tecra M6 offers a good screen and a solid mix of other standard notebook components, and it is nicely portable, all at a reasonable cost. The machine is well built, attractive and includes most anything an average business user or student might need or want, including TPM hardware-based encryption and a fingerprint reader. The TruBrite screen is very good, and while the keyboard and touchpad require some getting used to, due to key placement and size, respectively, they are for the most part comfortably usable. Aside from the LCD, which I especially liked, nothing really jumped out at me, good or bad. My overall impression is that the Tecra M6 is a fairly solid sub-$1500 thin-and-light machine, and its numerous security and protection features serve to enhance its value considerably. The included one-year warranty is a bit thin, but other, better options are available.

Pros:

  • Very nice glossy screen
  • Light and easy to carry around
  • Well built
  • Good performance (though somewhat limited by 512 MB RAM)
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Numerous hardware protection features
  • TPM hardware-based encryption
  • Runs cool and is very quiet
  • Nice built-in optical driver

Cons:

  • No matte screen option
  • Surprising amount of junk software
  • Only a one-year warranty standard


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