Since the Tablet PC (with a capital ‘T’) appeared in 2002, we’ve seen various ‘slate’ models come and go - but perhaps the more interesting version is the ‘convertible’, which can serve as a regular laptop or as a tablet PC. The Toshiba M700-110 is just such a beast, a well-specified tablet laptop that is relatively low in weight, powerful for business tasks and possessing good battery life.
With the Toshiba M700-110 used as a regular laptop, we find the usual complement of features we expect of a modern portable, including 802.11 networking (a, b, g and draft n), a dual-layer DVD-writing optical drive, Bluetooth and 5-in-1 card reader. Powering all this is an Intel Core 2 Duo processor clocked at 2GHz, supported by 2GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive.
The screen is a 12in widescreen display, 1280x800, driven by an integrated graphics card - so many 3D games are essentially off limits. Not that that should be a problem for a machine that’s well-tuned to the needs of business users. Windows Vista Business is the OS of choice here, and other features include a fingerprint reader and hard disk lock encryption to keep data safe in the event of loss.
For use as a normal folding laptop, we find a small trackpad with two recessed mouse buttons, making this interface less ergonomic than we’d like for daily use. The screen also suffers a little from being a touchscreen type, leaving it mildly occluded and soft-focus by the extra layer of touch-sensitive clear film.
To convert the Toshiba M700-110 to tablet use, you simply set the screen to the vertical, rotate it by 180 dgrees, then lay it flat against the body. Onboard sensors mean it will sense if it’s being carried in landscape or portrait mode.
Control of the system is then entirely through the touchscreen, either by fingertips to select and double-click icons, or with the plastic stylus that tucks into the side like on a PDA. Using the stylus also simplifies right-clicking, using a button on its stem.
For text input, Microsoft’s Tablet PC software gives the option of a floating keyboard on screen, or handwriting recognition in a floating palette. And this handwriting input method works impressively well, able to intelligently read even our less than perfect scribbling skills.
In bench tests the Toshiba M700-110 acheived a WorldBench 6 score of 77, an averagely good figure for a compact laptop, but more impressive was the battery life. Using MobileMark 2007’s more strenuous ‘productivity’ setting, we acheived over three hours (185 minutes) of true wirefree use.
This earnest laptop is a jack of many trades, with a good selection of features and relatively impressive battery life for untethered productivity. The price premium over a comparably specified regular laptop will be a good investment if you need a versatile laptop-cum-tablet that works well in either guise.