Tech: Toshiba M205 Tablet PC Review Feature - The Next Level

Tech: Toshiba M205 Tablet PC Review

We take Toshiba's newest Tablet PC for a test-run.

Article by Louie Tran (Email)
February 3rd 2005, 04:33PM

Tablet PCs have been around for about two years already, but they still have yet to capture a wide market range due to poor performance and impracticality. They were pretty much oversized PDAs with the Windows OS built-in and didn't appeal to a lot of people. The majority of the tablet PCs back then used the mobile Pentium III processors to prolong battery life, but this also sacrificed a lot of speed leading to unsatisfactory performance. In essence, early Tablet PCs were simply horrible and overpriced.

Of course, technology improves over time (most of it anyway) and Toshiba has come out with the Portege M200 series Tablet PC. Those who already own it can tell you that this is a very well thought out device. At first glance, The M200 seems like a standard ultra-portable laptop that just opens up with a full sized keyboard and touchpad. However, there is a swivel hinge at the base of the display that lets you flip and fold the screen into tablet mode with everything shifted vertically. The touchpad screen is very accurate and the spring ejected pen slot built into the case is a very nice touch. The M200 comes with the full version of Microsoft One Note, which is a very useful "pen and paper" style program where you can easily write and organize your notes. This comes in handy in situations where typing is inappropriate such as some meetings.

Also, if you wish to write directly into programs such as Word or chat online on AIM, you can bring up a screen to handwrite your own text. Unlike the handwriting recognition found on today's PDAs, you don't have to learn "graffiti" or write letters awkwardly to get accurate text conversions. In fact, I write in the sloppiest cursive and the Tablet accurately converts what I write into legible typed text, which is very impressive. It's not always perfect but it's pretty damn close. Using the tablet with Photoshop is excellent for people who like to freehand rather than use the mouse, making endless possibilities for graphics artists. Speaking of Photoshop, the M205 handles the program very well without any load problems or system slowdown.

One thing that I didn't like about the design of the laptop is that it does not come with a TV-Out port. This certainly puts the multimedia capabilities of this fine machine to waste. Also, quite a few people will not like the 1,400 x 1,050 resolution on the small screen, but most should get used to it. The M200 does comes with a standard VGA port for an external display, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and an RJ11 port for the tablet's built-in 56Kbps modem. On the front panel, there's an analog volume wheel microphone and earphone jacks, and an SD media slot. There will be times when the tablet will seem heavy because a lot of the weight is on the screen itself. It may take awhile to get used to but the functionality of the laptop is well worth the minor inconveniences.

The Tablet PC that I have comes with an external DVD/CDRW combo drive that can run on a rechargeable NiMH battery or be plugged into an outlet. The battery life on the drive itself is excellent. I've gone almost a week without having to charge the unit. You can buy the M200 without the external drive for $100 less but why would you, unless you have an external drive already?

Although it performs slower than laptops with similar system configurations, such as the Compaq X1030, the Toshiba M200 delivers solid performance in games and multimedia. My Unreal Tournament 2004 demo ran without any problems. Also Counterstrike and Splinter Cell had no slowdown whatsoever. The GeForce FX 5200 Go is sufficient enough to supports the latest games, including World of Warcraft. On 3DMark 2001 SE benchmark, the Portege M200 scored 4850 points. And just to see how hardcore the M205 could get, it scored a decent 731 points in 3DMark 2003.

As mentioned from the start, this is a very well thought out device with some minor issues that will hopefully be improved upon in the future. However, at the premium price of $2,000+, video out is not too much to ask for. Technology freaks, college students, and traveling business people will find this laptop a great investment. In fact, the M200 will even satisfy most hardcore gamers. Moreover, after you try out the handwriting recognition at first hand, you may never go back to writing on the keyboard ever again.

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