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Toshiba Tecra Z40-A1401 review: Too little for too much

Nate Ralph | Jan. 21, 2014
Business computers usually cost more than consumer machines. But if you're a small-business owner, you need to determine if the features in a laptop designed for the enterprise are worth the added cost. That question is particularly pertinent when comparing Toshiba's Tecra Z40 to considerably cheaper consumer-oriented laptops from the likes of Dell and Lenovo.

The Tecra Z40 relies on the Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated into its CPU to drive its 14-inch display, which has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The display feels a little dim even at the brightest settings, and while the viewing angles aren't bad, colors start to look a little washed out if you aren't staring dead on — stick to projectors if you want to show off that presentation.

The integrated GPU shares some of the machine's 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory with the CPU. Considering the Tecra Z40's price tag, I was surprised to find that it arrived with just a 320GB mechanical hard drive and not a zippy SSD. The drive does spin its platters at 7200 rpm, but $1229 is a lot of lettuce for a business laptop that doesn't include an SSD. On the upside, Toshiba included Intel's Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 network adapter, so you can take advantage of the speed of the 802.11ac router in your office (it's a 2x2 device, so its physical link rate will top out at 867 megabits per second).

The keys on the Tecra Z40's backlit keyboard are comfortably sized, albeit a bit cramped. Its top row of function keys default to that purpose, so you'll need to hold down a second key to adjust volume or screen brightness, or to control any media-player software. There's an old-school pointing nub in the center — the kind of nub that was de rigeur on "serious" laptops back before Apple showed us trackpads didn't have to be uniformly terrible. It's smaller than the red pointing nub you'll find on Lenovo's business laptops and a bit more prone to picking up lint, but it's plenty accurate and comfortable to use.

The Tecra Z40's trackpad is an odd beast. The left and right mouse buttons sit above it, as if to suggest that the pointing nub should be your primary means of mousing. A solid silver bar below the pad harbors a fingerprint reader, but my brain sees the contrast between the silver bar and the dark gray trackpad and assumes "button," which inevitably results in a thumb repeatedly mashed against an unforgiving slab of metal. No, you'll want to click the left and right corners of the trackpad. The fingerprint utility can store up to 20 fingerprints, and it recommends that users store at least two "in case of a finger injury," which is amusing in a morbid sort of way.

Toshiba's machine has three USB 3.0 ports (one of which can be used to charge a smartphone or other device, even when the laptop is sleeping), an SD card reader, and a full-sized ethernet jack (oriented upside down, so you can press down on the retainer clip with your thumb). Video outputs include HDMI and VGA (useful mostly for connecting to old video projectors), but it lacks DisplayPort — a common feature on business-oriented laptops.


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