Powerful and portable laptop for everyone but gamers
Toshiba's laptops tend to be designed for business users, but they are still suitable for home users.
The Tecra R840 is at the top end of the company's business range. It's a well-built, impressive computer that combines power with portability and style. The 14in screen is a widescreen display that looked good. It's a matt display with an anti-glare coating rather than glossy. A webcam, with a built-in microphone, is set into the top of the screen.
Inside the computer there is an Intel Core i7-2620M processor, 6GB of memory and a 500GB hard disk. On one side of the case there are VGA and Displayport sockets for connecting monitors. Displayport is rarely used at the moment but it will become more popular, and adapters are available for other kinds of screen.
It also has a USB port, headphone and microphone sockets and an eSata socket for attaching external storage, which doubles as another USB socket. The USB/eSata socket can also be used to charge devices while the computer is in standby or off (though still plugged in), which is handy.
On the other side there is a DVD drive that reads and creates all CDs and DVDs, an Expresscard slot, SD memory card reader, USB 3 socket and a network socket. The laptop can also connect to wireless networks and Bluetooth.
The keyboard was shallow but pleasant, with well-spaced out keys but no numeric keypad (it's not quite wide enough). Unusually, it has both a touchpad and a ‘nipple' controller for the mouse pointer. The latter is a small blue point in the middle of the keyboard – lightly moving it with a finger moves the pointer. It used to be common on business laptops but it's less so now. The touchpad was fine but, annoyingly, our fingers kept brushing it while typing, though a handy button above the pad turns it on and off. There are two sets of left- and right-click mouse keys (one for the ‘nipple' and one for the touchpad), which was confusing.
Otherwise the Tecra R840 was well designed, with a comfortable textured palm rest, bright and clear but unobtrusive status lights and good keyboard shortcuts for various functions, including a special button that puts the computer into a power-saving Eco mode.
It has good security features – there is a fingerprint reader for signing into the computer and websites, and it uses Trusted Platform Module technology, which means you can encrypt the entire hard disk so data on it is useless to anyone else.
At 2.1kg it was easy to carry around, and thin enough (2.7cm at most) to slip into a bag. It includes the 64-bit edition of the Windows 7 Professional operating system. It doesn't have a separate graphics card so it wasn't much use when it came to games, but for otherwise demanding tasks such as video editing, it coped well.
It took 29 minutes to complete our DVD copying test, a realistic assessment of a home computing task. That was faster than its predecessor the Satellite R630 and faster than most laptops we've seen. Battery life was reasonable – we managed to get over six hours out of it in moderate use, and more in Eco mode, though the latter dimmed the screen a lot.
One clever feature is hard disk impact detection, which stops the physical disk from moving if it detects the laptop has been dropped. This can prevent damage to your data. However, this and other features contributed to the on-screen messages that kept appearing frequently. They can be dismissed but it was annoying overall.
Several versions of the Toshiba Tecra R840 are available, but the R840-12F one we looked at is good value for people who want a serious computer that's powerful but portable.
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Despite the high price, this laptop is worth buying if you need a small size and lots of computing power
Slim and light; well designed; good keyboard; lots of computing power
Strange mouse button arrangement; on-screen messages were annoying
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