Tools Of The Trade: The Toshiba Tecra A6 laptop

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Intel's Core Duo processors are finding their way into a growing number of laptops in the £700 to £900 price bracket. That is creating good choice as the chip offers a number of advantages, not least better performance and reduced power consumption.

Toshiba's Tecra A6 laptop comes with an Intel Centrino Duo processor running at 1.66GHz, as well as 512Mb of RAM (main memory), a 60GB hard disk and a DVD drive.

It is not a high-performance configuration but perfectly adequate for day-to-day business tasks. And the machine is well equipped for multimedia applications as it comes with an IE 1394 (or FireWire) interface for connecting video cameras and other devices, as well as a media slot that can read a range of memory cards from digital cameras.

The 14-inch screen, while not the sharpest available, is also perfectly usable. The widescreen display is handy for large spreadsheets as well as watching DVDs.

The laptop also comes with a good suite of communications, including wireless LAN, wired ethernet and an integrated modem for internet telephone calls.

From an ergonomic point of view, however, the A6 has some drawbacks. It is relatively bulky - there are sleeker models on offer with 15-inch displays - and at 38mm deep it will take up a fair bit of space in a briefcase. The Tecra is not especially heavy, at 2.46kg, but nor is it that lightweight for those users who are always on the move.

There are also some awkward aspects to the overall design of the A6. The mousepad is deeply recessed in front of the keyboard,and is quite small. This makes it a little hard to use comfortably.

The way the underside is designed, meanwhile, with recesses to the front and two feet in the corners, makes the machine unstable on a small surface, such as a train or aeroplane tray table.

Toshiba positions the A6 as a good-value business computer. This is about right. The frequent traveller will probably want to pay a little more for better portability, and a 15-inch laptop is a better bet for home multimedia use. But for the price, the A6 is a solid buy.

RATING: 3 out of 5.

PROS: plenty of features included.

CONS: somewhat bulky, some ergonomic drawbacks.

COST: £799 plus VAT.