Review: Toshiba's Tecra R850

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Toshiba Tecra R850

During the most recent calendar quarter, Toshiba registered a distinct achievement: It was the only Tier 1 vendor of Windows-based PCs to show year-over-year growth in unit shipments, according to Gartner Group.

And, Toshiba reached a double-digit growth at that: 10.9 percent. That performance defied what some have suggested will be tough competition for desktops and notebooks against the emerging smart tablet platform, so an evaluation of Toshiba’s Tecra R850 may show exactly what it is the PC maker is on to.

The Tecra R850 is the latest in a line of notebooks from Toshiba that aims to solve the needs of SMBs, and this unit does so with no feature, design or engineering compromises. The 15.6-inch display -- which is a HD TFT LED backlit display -- is bright, has a comfortably wide viewing area and a keyboard that truly does not compromise: it’s a full keyboard with number pad, a rarity in the market of late. On the CRN Test Center lab scale, it weighed in at a beefy 5 pounds, 6 ounces. It’s not an ultra-portable, but it’s fine for mobility within a building or a campus.

The Tecra R850 came to the CRN Test Center lab pre-loaded with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, an Intel Core i7 2620-M CPU at 2.70 GHz and 4 GB of RAM. Though more RAM would have helped its performance, the Tecra R850 does appear designed to squeeze every bit of performance out of the hardware: running Primate Labs Geekbench 2.1, it registered a score of 6888 -- more than doubling the performance of PCs that would have been deployed during a refresh cycle that took place three or four years ago.

And, even though the Tecra R850 runs a top-of-the-line CPU, Toshiba delivered nice battery life. Using the CRN Test Center’s standard battery test, which is to turn off all power-saving utilities and run a video from the hard drive until the battery reaches Zero percent available, the notebook delivered almost 5 hours of life. The performance-to-battery life ratio is top-shelf.

The Tecra R850 also supports the gamut of media: it’s got an optical drive, an SD card slot, three USB 2.0 slots, a USB 3.0 slot, HDMI and VGA. Frankly, we would not have been surprised to have seen a floppy drive. (We did not.)

The integrated Webcam and microphone, built into the LCD bezel is, to our pleasant surprise, of nice quality.

Toshiba has built the Tecra R850 with a black, metallic case that sports a neat look.

The price tag, $1,329 for a model with the specs above, is at the upper range in cost of acquisition for SMB notebooks. However, Toshiba has worked to take cost and complexity out of the equation by integrating so many features, with such high-level performance, that list price alone should not dissuade those evaluating it for business.

One slight demerit: Toshiba continues to pre-load security software -- in this case, Norton Internet Security -- that fills the screen with registration requests on initial use. This is a practice that VARs have long disliked, and should be unnecessary for a PC maker by now.

Bottom line: The Toshiba Tecra R850 is stellar, and provides significant value for small or mid-sized businesses. We strongly recommend it.

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