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Toshiba M400 Tablet PC Review
Posted on 6-Jun-2006 16:14 by H Willan | Tags Filed under: Reviews

Toshiba New Zealand recently sent me a Portégé M400 Tablet PC to have a play with and so we did.

M400 showing off the swivelling screen

The M400 is a business machine that offers a powerful notebook bundled into a compact form. The specifications of the M400 are as follows:

Standard features
  • Intel Core Duo T2400 (1.83GHz) dual core processor
  • 512MB of DDR II memory at 533MHz
  • Intel 945 GM chipset with Intel GPU features using Unified Memory Architecture UMA
  • 80GB 5400rpm SATA I 2.5" Toshiba HDD
  • 12.1" TFT Active Matrix SXGA Wide view tablet touch screen LCD (1400x1050)
  • Expansion bay for: DVDR/CDRW combo, DVD Multidrive or second HDD
  • 84 Key keyboard and Touchpad device
  • 3x USB2.0 (480Mbps)
  • Bus replicator port, aka docking port
  • 1x Type II PC Card slot
  • 5-in-1 Media Reader, SD/SD mini, XD, Sony Memory Stick/Pro
  • Magnesium alloy case

    Power features
  • Primary 6 cell, 4700mAH Lithium Ion battery
  • Additional expansion battery (Slice), 6 cell, 4000mAH Lithium Ion battery
  • 75W worldwide power adapter

    Audio, Video features
  • D-Sub 15pin VGA output only
  • STAC 9200 software sound
  • Integrated stereo speakers
  • Stereo 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Microphone in
  • Volume control dial

    Networking features
  • V45 Intel 10/100/1000 wired Ethernet
  • Intel Golan ABG PRO 802.11 wireless
  • Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) Bluetooth 2.0
  • Infra red
  • IEEE 1394a Firewire (400Mbps)

    Security features
  • Biometric finger print reader with support through either Toshiba utilities or BIOS support
  • Kensington cable lock slot
  • Hard disk password protection
  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM) v1.2 for hardware encryption
  • IEEE 1394a Firewire (400Mbps)

  • Windows XP Tablet PC edition
  • Microsoft OneNote 2003
  • Intervideo WinDVD Creator 2 Platinum
  • Sonic Record Now
  • Symantec Norton Antivirus 2006 (90 day license)
  • Toshiba tools, including HDD shock avoidance

  • 3 years International Parts and Labour for Australia/New Zealand
  • Complimentary courier pick up and return

  • 295mm x 249mm x 38.9mm
  • Weight, 2.038Kg with battery
  • Primary battery ~300g

    Toshiba Port Replicator offers
  • Additional 4x USB2.0 (480Mbps)
  • D-Sub 15pin VGA output
  • DVI video output
  • Wired Ethernet connection

  • RRP $4,708inc GST
  • Ascent (28-May-06) $4,536.70inc GST

    Initial impressions
    The first things I noticed when I unpacked the M400 was both the size and the weight. I guess this is partly because I'm using to my massive Dell D800 with a 15" Widescreen LCD.

    M400 when physically compared to a Dell D800

    Weighing in at only ~2Kg (with battery) you begin to see this as a far more portable machine. Once you then consider that you have a dual-core processor (T2400@1.83GHz), two memory expansion slots (default of 512MB with one free) and an 80GB hard disk you start to think twice about the power being offered in this compact form.

    Closer look
    First off, let me make it clear that the intent of use for this as a business computer. It's not priced as a casual user's notebook, nor is the hardware geared towards multimedia or gaming users.

    So with that in mind, let's take a closer look at this system and what it offers. Staring with the physical construction and features. Descriptions are left to right.

    Front: Wireless (on/off), microphone pick-up, Mic/Headphone jack, Volume dial, LCD release & second microphone pick-up

    Left: CPU exhaust, Kensington lock point, 2x USB, IEEE 1394, PC Card slot

    Right: Tablet pen housing, ROM bay / 5-in-1 memory reader

    Rear: Power connector, USB, VGA out, RJ45 modem, V45 Ethernet

    View of keyboard layout. I personally found the Windows key being in the upper right hand corner annoying. This is probably because I'm a fan of shortcuts like Window+E (Explorer), Window+M(desktop) and just tapping it for the Start Menu so I can choose a new program or do a very fast shutdown/reboot/standy (Window,U,(U/R/S))

    The M400 Touchpad is pretty standard, and unlike the A100, this does not include an illuminated backlight or configurable shortcut buttons

    The front has 6 Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to show status for:

  • DC in. Flashes orange if there is a problem with the supply
  • Power indicator
  • Battery indicator
  • Second battery indicator (Toshiba Slice battery)
  • Hard disk activity
  • Wireless, indicates either Wireless LAN or Bluetooth activity

    The LCD has a nice sturdy alloy latch, that flicks over to lock the LCD into place

    Toshiba Slice battery. Photo from

    Optionally available, is a second battery. The "Slice" second battery, connects to the notebook via plug points and provides power through the docking connector. It will set you back around $130 inc GST and is a 6 Cell, 4000mAH lithium ion battery. In the photo of the underneath (below), it would cover half the notebook from the centre to the back, leaving the front battery bay and HDD accessible.

    Finally, we have a shot of the underneath with the various parts exposed. Battery compartment on the left, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) on the right and wireless device in the middle. It is important to note that YOU CANNOT easily gain access to the main memory. Should you desire an upgrade, it would be best to approach your retailer or Toshiba service agent than attempt this yourself.

    What makes a Tablet PC?
    So what, other than the fact it runs Windows XP Tablet edition, makes this Tablet PC special? Well for one, there's the ability to input directly through the LCD, writing with electronic ink, and the ability to swivel your LCD around, close and lock it so the notebook become a "tablet".

    Turn your LCD right around...

    that's it, keeping going...

    okay, now flick the LCD locking latch over and ...

    *click*, you've now got a Tablet PC

    As you can see in that 3rd rotating picture, the M400 comes with a clear plastic cover on the back of the LCD. This is there to stop the rubber pads on the chassis from marking the back of the LCD. Note also, the finger print reader is now exposed and there are new a new set of buttons that are there to make life easier.

    Power, Cross Function, ESC/Rotate, Windows Security Tablet, Assist and Presentation button

    Definitions of these M400 LCD buttons taken from the users manual (2-10)

  • Power, slide to turn the computers power on or off
  • Cross Function, same as the enter key when tapped, screen menu when pressed for more than a second
  • ESC/Rotate, Functions as ESC key, or press for more than 1s to change orientation
  • Windows Security Tablet button, performs same function as CTRL+ALT+DEL
  • Assist Button, using Toshiba software utilities, you can specify an action
  • Presentation Button, used to switch to multi-monitor display mode. Displaying image to internal and external devices.

    Another nice thing about the Cross Function button was that it acted as a "slider" too. All you needed to do was place the tip of your pen into the groove on the top and you can operate the button in any direction.

    The Toshiba pen that comes with the notebook is operated by either tapping the screen or simply writing directly on it. You can move the mouse pointer around by hovering the pen above the screen and not actually touching it.

    Pen uses magnetism, has an alternative select button and an 'eraser' on the end

    Clearer shot of the 'right' pen button

    The pen itself is quite comfortable to hold and makes using the PC in tablet mode very easy. In fact I even found myself using the pen when in normal notebook mode.

    HDD protection dialog

    Without this kind of feature, the portability of the tablet PC would be severely limited. Being the light weight that it is and a tablet, means that you are more active with your use of it. I would often find myself siting around with it, doodling away in Microsoft Journal.

    Very brief example of application. Baldy drawn stick man, hand written notes, erasing, highlighting & writing comments in "pasted" picture.

    The usefulness of this device becomes more apparent as you use it. As mentioned in the conclusion, I think the Tablet PC concept is ideal for people who are involved with teams and meetings.

    Input panel. Lives in the bottom of the screen, allowing you to paste input into applications.

    There are of course additional Tablet PC enhancement packs including games and additional tutorials that can help you get the most out of this notebook concept. Be sure and visit the Microsoft Tablet PC home page for additional software.

    So... you've got this ultra portable device, what's stopping someone from nicking off with it?

  • Password features on the HDD
  • Biometric finger print reader
  • Motion sensing alarm

    The motion sensing alarm is pretty cool. You activate it and if the notebook senses movement, it lets out quite a loud alarm. Ideal if you wanted to leave it alone in your cubicle or in the meeting room if your needed to step out for 5 minutes. The more I use the finger print reader enabled notebooks, the more I miss it when I hand them back. It's certainly a feature that I've come to love. Once you learn the art of the swipe, I find that it works 90% of the time and have tended to encode additional fingers.

    Of course nothing is infallible, but with these additional features built-in, it will certainly reduce the risk.

    When comparing benchmarks, you have to consider this is a 1.83GHz dual core Centrino processor (Pentium M), so it's no surprise it performs roughly twice as well as the single core version of the older Pentium M. Still, that said it holds its own against even some of the older dual core processors from Intel and AMD.

    SiSoft Sandra benchmarks for CPU Arithmetic, T2400 @ 1.83GHz

    SiSoft Sandra benchmarks for CPU and Multimedia, T2400 @ 1.83GHz

    SiSoft Sandra benchmarks for Memory Bandwidth, DDRII @ 533MHz

    SiSoft Sandra benchmarks for Toshiba HDD

    I ran 3DMark 2006 across the Intel GPU (945 mobile chipset) just to see what it would get. It certainly pushed the notebook hard, the fan kicked into 100% immediately and at 1024x768 3DMark crashed. Still, I managed to bench the system at 640x480

    3DMark 2006, 640x480 benchmark results

    That result was just sad when compared to the 7300GPU performance of 1098 the Toshiba A100 got. Again, this machine is geared towards business users.

    If I worked back at the corporate or attended a lot of meetings where discussing things with a team and sharing digital forms of those discussions was important, then look no further than the Toshiba Portégé M400 Tablet PC.
    Armed with this notebook, you can take screen grabs of working items, make notes directly onto it, pass it around, output this display through a projector and even record the actual discussion.

    Microsoft One Note also has advanced features that allow you associate audio with drawings and other features that really bring out the power a Tablet PC can offer.

    This was my first experience with a Tablet PC, and I have to say I was quite impressed. The Toshiba Portégé M400 offers a compact yet powerful system that allows for a very different style of notebook use than what I'm used to. It's light weight makes it extremely portable and using either Journal or One Note seemed to become quite natural for jotting down ideas. This isn't exactly the ultimate solution that will provide the "paperless office", but it's certainly a big step in the right direction.

    Of course an amalgamation of a Tablet PC and rollable displays just makes perfect sense to me. Consider your Tablet PC outputting to a wireless access point embedded in the meeting table, which has rollable displays at each seat. Sounds like science fiction? Perhaps not in a few years.

  • Powerful notebook for business use
  • Good battery life and optional dual battery mode
  • Sturdy feel with alloy chassis
  • Clear display for a touch screen
  • Hand writing recognition worked well for me
  • Tablet PC pen was good size and easy to use. Handy with storage compartment built-in

  • Very noisy CPU fan, not exactly something you can use in bed late at night quietly
  • No DVI out directly in the notebook, you need to buy the replicator
  • No chassis finger print reader, making it difficult to use in notebook operation. Screen wants to swivel when trying to use, and is awkward to try and swipe
  • Windows key in an annoying place. Personally years of standard placement has made me a creature of habit
  • No Touchpad shortcuts, additional controls or illumination like the A100

    Of course, it wouldn't have been a true test unless I had a quick game of Solitaire, using the pen as a means of playing.

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