Tools of the Trade: The Tecra A2

Portable for the people: the Toshiba laptop that won't break your budget ... or your back

Toshiba's Tecra laptops used to be chunky, grey computers that looked as though they would last for ever. The company marketed the Tecra as a desktop replacement computer, built to withstand wear and tear but with few concessions to either aesthetics, portability or, for that matter, price.

This has changed. The latest Tecra, the A2, weighs in at a reasonable 2.6kg, and is delivered in a two-tone case with a silver clam-shell lid. It is by no means the lightest or smallest portable computer on the market, but neither is it going to cause back strain among its users.

The entry-level A2 laptop comes with a 40 gigabyte hard drive, 256 megabytes of memory, a 14.1-inch screen and a 1.4 gigahertz Intel Celeron M processor. None of this makes for turbocharged performance. In Toshiba's defence, however, the A2 machine costs only £799 (before VAT).

Even budget-conscious buyers expect new laptops to come with good connectivity options, and here the Toshiba machine does not disappoint. The wireless networking card supports both the 802.11b WiFi standard and the faster 802.11g version, which is a bonus considering the low entry-level price.

For wired connections, there is a built-in ethernet port and a V90 modem. The CD drive is a decent specification for an entry-level laptop: it records CDs and plays DVDs. Unfortunately, a manufacturer's claimed battery life of 2.55 hours does not allow for periods of extended movie watching.

This is just one of the compromises that make it difficult to take the measure of the A2. In some ways, such as the networking, this is a fully featured computer. In others - including the processor, the memory, the hard drive and battery - it is really quite basic.

There is nothing wrong with a basic computer at a basic price, of course. Toshiba offers faster computers in the A2 range, with Pentium M rather than Celeron processors and, in the top-of-the-range model (priced at £1,099), 512mb memory.

But the A2 range is let down most of all by its build quality, rather than by its features.

Toshiba laptops used to be known as virtually indestructible, if hardly pleasing on the eye. The A2 is much more neatly designed than the grey slabs that Toshiba was churning out a few years ago. However, the improvement in aesthetics seems to have come at a price.

The casing used for the A2 has a plastic feel both to the eye and to the touch, especially when the machine is compared with the current laptop ranges from IBM and Apple. It is heavier and larger than would be ideal for a frequent business traveller, but it does not feel sturdy enough to replace the desktop computer altogether. Moreover, the screen is neither as bright nor as crisp as we would like to see.

Toshiba has done well to bring the cost of its Tecra business laptops down to prices that most buyers can afford, and the A2 has some good features. But when it comes to laptops, paying a little more is often a sensible investment.

For our money, on a budget of £799, either Apple's iBook range or Toshiba's own iBook-like Portege A100 are better-designed, better-built computers with very similar specifications and a superior battery life.

Buying the A100 rather than the A2 means going with a smaller 12.1-inch screen and an 802.11b wireless networking card, but these are worthwhile compromises to make for a more solid computer.

THE VERDICT

Toshiba Tecra A2 laptop

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Price: £799 plus VAT.

Pros: 802.11g WiFi networking, competitive price.

Cons: basic specification, build quality and screen could be better.

Available from: www.toshiba.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links