I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to play with a tablet PC, and I was excited when I got the opportunity to test the latest one from Toshiba, the Protégé M700. Having finally used a tablet though, I have to say in my view the reality doesn’t live up to the hype.
I dislike taking notes on paper as my handwriting is atrocious, so the idea of a tablet converting my notes to a text document was compelling. Recognizing my handwriting wasn’t the issue, the engine did a very good job of that even without my completing the training engine.
Taking the notebook to a conference though, and attempting to write notes on the screen during a speech, I found the process physically awkward and slow. After a few minutes, I converted back to laptop mode and decided to type my notes.
Where I did enjoy using this notebook as a tablet was watching video and surfing the Web. Folded into a tablet resting on the lap using the pen, which fits neatly into the side for safekeeping, was a nifty way to watch a movie and, as long as no typing is needed, surf the Web.
The M700 is designed to be portable which means a compact design, weighing just 2 kilos with a 12.1-inch display. To keep the notebook compact though Toshiba opted to squish the keyboard a bit, such as smaller left shift and enter keys. I found the keyboard layout awkward and difficult to get used to, and the display on the small side.
I also wasn’t pleased with the pointing experience. The track pad was fine, but the mouse buttons were made of the same material as the notebook body and were at the same level, making clicking more difficult than it needed to be.
The various ports and buttons were well laid-out. There are three USB ports, two side by side on the left side and another on the right. The usual features are also included, such as a memory card reader and a PC Card slot, as well as Bluetooth support. The M700 also includes an integrated Web cam. Toshiba made the choice to go low tech with some of the buttons; the WiFi on/off switch is literally that, a switch, and the external volume control is a wheel.
For security the M700 is equipped with a fingerprint scanner. The setup for this feature was relatively easy and I had no troubles with recognition once it was set up. My only beef is with the reader’s location: horizontally underneath the display. This works well when in tablet mode, but makes it awkward to use when in notebook mode.
On the inside the M700 ships with Intel’s Core2 Duo T7500-2.2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive. I also burned a few DVDs with the 8x Super-Multi Double Layer DVD drive. Battery life was pretty good; I got about five hours in power save mode with medium brightness, about three and a half hours with WiFi on.
This is a solidly built notebook; it feels well built and able to stand up to the wear and tear that comes with portable use. Toshiba claims the keyboard is spill resistant; I’ll take their word on that.
Besides the small keyboard, the M700 is a pretty nice tablet. The question to ask yourself, though, is if you really need a tablet. With Toshiba Canada pricing the M700 in the $2,300 range, depending on configuration, you are paying a healthy premium for the tablet functionality. Whether or not that premium is really worth it will be up to you.