What's not: No ExpressCard slot. A little flaky running Vista 64-bit.
Review posted July 9, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The Portege series notebooks are the 12.1-inch ultra-light variety in Toshiba’s full range of notebooks and the Portege M750 is the only tablet PC in Toshiba’s 12-inch collection. The Portege M750 has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 12.1-inch WXGA backlit display that can work with pen and (optional) finger touch and a DVD SuperMulti optical drive. This convertible tablet notebook competes with tablets like the Fujitsu T5010 that are built on a 2.4GHz or higher processor and performs faster than the ultra-low voltage tablets like the Lenovo X200 and Dell XT2. Toshiba offers the Portege M750 in two pre-configured models and the option to build your own. We use the Portege M750-S7212 pre-configured version for this review and it has the Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor running at 2.40GHz with 2GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive and Windows Vista Business (both 32 bit and 64 bit options) pre-installed on the notebook.
The Toshiba Portege series starts at $1399 but if you have more money you can opt for a faster Intel Core 2 Duo P9600 (2.66GHz) processor with 4GB RAM and 128GB Solid State Disk ($350 extra). While the Toshiba Portege M750’s display can work with pen and touch, you can order it with active digitizer pen input only version.
Tablet PC Landscape
With Windows 7 on the horizon, we are seeing some tablet notebooks supporting not only finger touch but also multi-touch with a capacitive touch screen that utilize some neat features in Windows 7. These new features and functions will change the tablet PC market, and can be a little confusing when trying to choose the right one.
There are currently two tablet PC notebooks that have capacitive touch screens (like the iPhone) and they are the HP tx2 TouchSmart and the Dell Latitude XT2. The capacitive touch screen allows you to use gestures like pinch and swipe when running Windows 7 RC (check out our video in the HP tx2 review that demos a two-player air hockey game on the multi-touch screen). The Toshiba Portege M750 and the Lenovo X200t have non-capacitive touch screens and so won’t support multi-touch or many gestures even under Windows 7.
Another factor when choosing the right tablet is the weight. The Lenovo X200t and the Dell Latitude XT2 are thinner and lighter than the Toshiba Portege M750 and the light weight is great for those who need to carry a tablet on their arm, similar to a pad of paper, throughout a day. The thinner tablets are also built on Intel’s ultra-low voltage (ULV) CPU line for longer battery life which means it potentially can last through a day’s use without charging, like the Lenovo X200t’s 10-hour usage time (8-cell battery) on a charge. What these ultra-lights lack are an optical drive and higher CPU power, and that’s where the Toshiba Portege M750 and the Fujitsu T5010 come in. The cheapest tablet in the lot however is the HP tx2 (starting at $1,049 list) and it has processing power similar to the more powerful Core 2 Duo group, and it has a built-in optical drive and a capacitive touch screen. The HP’s drawback is its AMD processor that generates more heat and more fan noise.
Specs and Horsepower
The Toshiba Portege M750-S7212 has the Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor running at 2.40GHz with 3MB L2 cache and a 1066MHz FSB. The notebook has 2GB PC6400 800MHz DDR2 RAM with 4GB max capacity and two SODIMM RAM slots. The Portege M750 ships with Mobile Intel GPU (GMA X4500MHD) with 128MB-820MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory, a 160GB Serial ATA hard drive (5400rpm) and an ultra SlimBay DVD-SuperMulti drive (+/- R dual layer) supporting 11 formats. For connectivity, the Toshiba has Intel's Wi-Fi Link 5100AGN and Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR.
The notebook handles most tasks smoothly including running MS Office 2007, Outlook, IE, Toshiba DVD player and some drawing applications. The integrated graphics power can handle most casual games and even some first person shooter games like F.E.A.R. 2, but don’t expect to run games like Crysis. F.E.A.R. 2 ran smoothly most of the time at 20fps or higher with all effects, texture and sound quality set to minimum and resolution set at 1280 x 800. Even then, certain parts of the game got slow and we experienced noticeable frame rate drops. The notebook felt slow installing software from CD/DVD.
We put the Toshiba Portege M750 through PCMark benchmark tests and below are the PCMark scores and the Windows Vista Experience Index scores. The notebook was set at the “Balanced” power setting and plugged in. We ran the same tests on the Sony VAIO Z550 which has the same processor (2.40GHz) and provide its scores for comparison. (Please note, for some reason we had trouble with the Toshiba Portege M750’s memory and couldn’t get the benchmark score on memory tests.)
PCMark Vantage Benchmark results:
Toshiba Portege M750:
PCMark Suite overall score: 3035
Memory Suite: N/A
Gaming Suite: 1818
Music Suite: 3445
Communication Suite: 3457
Productivity Suite: 2848
HDD Test Suite: 2557
Windows Vista Experience Index score for the Toshiba Portege M750:
Total score: 3.3
Gaming graphics: 3.6
Primary hard disk: 5.2
PCMark Suite overall score: 3467
Memory Suite: 2121
TV & Movie Suite: 2619
Gaming Suite: 2377
Communication Suite: 3677
Productivity Suite: 2546
HDD Test Suite: 2800
Display and Ports
Tablet notebooks usually can’t compete in screen brightness and sharpness with regular notebooks because they have digitizer layers for the pen and finger input. The Toshiba Portege M750 has one of the least grainy screens compared to the HP tx2, Fujitsu LifeBook U820 and Lenovo X200t, though the Lenovo X200t’s display has more contrast than the Toshiba’s. The 12.1-inch WXGA display also has a very good viewing angle and is very responsive to the included EMR pen’s input. This is an active digitizer and that means it uses the EMR pen rather than a stylus and it’s more accurate than resistive touch screens. Drawing and handwriting work well on the Toshiba Portege M750, and the notebook knows if the EMR pen is in use or if you are using your finger (though you must keep the pen close to the screen for it to sense the pen). We occasionally experienced vectoring when we put our palm on the screen while writing with the EMR pen. The Toshiba does OK with finger touch, though it can’t compete with the capacitive displays on the HP and Dell tablets. It requires a firm touch and tapping web page links takes a precise and firm fingernail poke. There’s little support for finger touch in Windows Vista and even Windows 7 does much less with the resistive touch screen used on the M750 and ThinkPad X200t compared to the capacitive machines. Honestly, the touch input is a gimmick more than anything else, unless used for custom applications like point of sale or medical forms which have large buttons and targets.
The 85-key US keyboard has decent travel and the fingerprint scanner lives just under the display, a convenient place for users who use the notebook in slate mode. Stereo speakers are above the keyboard and are partially obscured by the display especially when the notebook is in slate mode. The webcam and mic live above the display for video conferencing. The Toshiba Portege M750 has 2 USB (2.0) ports an Ethernet port, modem jack, eSATA/USB combo for charging your mobile devices via USB, RGB out and a PC card slot (type I and II). There is no PC ExpressCard slot. The Portege M750 also has a card reader for SD, memory stick, and xD picture cards. If you’re fan of the Toshiba dock, you will find the docking connector on the bottom of the notebook. The modular DVD drive opens on the right; release the lock on the bottom of the notebook to remove the optical drive to save a few ounces of weight. Toshiba includes both a DVD bay door for the notebook and a case for the optical drive. For audio, the notebook has a mic input and stereo headphone output port.
The Toshiba Portege M750 comes with Windows Vista Business (both 32 and 64 bit, you choose which to install at first boot) and you can upgrade to Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit for $60. That initial software install takes about an hour; so don’t expect to use the machine 5 minutes after you’ve cracked open the box. The good news is that you can change your mind and use the recovery partition to switch to the other version if you wish (though you’ll lose all programs and documents you installed after the machine first finished self-setup).
There isn’t much extra in the software department on the M750, and that’s not a bad thing—there’s little bloatware. You get the usual Toshiba software and tools including the Toshiba DVD Player and Disc Creator, ConfigFree network tools, and other utilities. The Toshiba also comes with Infineon TPM (v1.2) Software Professional Package, TruSuite fingerprint managing software as well as Toshiba recovery disc creator. The Portege M750 also comes with recovery media for Windows XP Tablet PC edition. The notebook has a restore/recovery partition should you have the need to restore the notebook to factory state.
You will also get trial software: Microsoft Office Ready with Microsoft Office Professional 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 (60-day trial) and Norton Internet Security 2008 (60 day trial).
The Toshiba has unique lock-posts for the display on each side to prevent wobbling and twisting.
The Toshiba Portege M750 has a 6-cell Li-Ion battery that’s 4700mAh in capacity and it has decent battery life but not superb. The battery lasted for about 4.5 hours when working with Office documents, drawing programs like Corel Painter and taking notes with Windows Journal (all with Wi-Fi turned off). Playing a DVD via the optical drive with Wi-Fi turned on lasted 2:15 hours and playing F.E.A.R. 2 with Wi-Fi turned on lasted about 2 hours. Should you need more power, Toshiba sells a 6-cell docking battery that connects to the docking port at the bottom of the notebook like a tray for $200. The notebook recognizes the docking battery as secondary battery.
Controls and buttons on the tablet bezel.
The Toshiba Portege M750 is for those who want regular notebook power and design plus a tablet screen. It fits equally well in vertical markets such as medical, insurance, etc. and on the college or work campus. The notebook is powerful enough for most productivity applications, multimedia tasks and some gaming. It has plenty of ports, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make sure you are connected wirelessly. The optical drive also sets it apart from the ultra-thin tablet notebooks and the display is very good by tablet PC standards. The M750-S7212’s hard drive was a slow performer however, and installing applications via DVD was slow. You don’t get much extra software with the Portege (no complaints) and if you are doing a fair amount of multimedia, you will need to keep the notebook in.
Pro: Fast CPU, large hard drive, dual layer DVD burner, WiFi and Bluetooth. Good screen by Tablet PC standards. Enough power for most games.
Con: A little flaky when running Windows Vista 64-bit. Optical drive seems a bit slow.
Price: Starts $1399. The M750-S7212 configuration is $1699.
Display: 12.1” diagonal widescreen LED backlight LCD display at 1280 x 800 native resolution (WXGA) with indoor/outdoor enhanced viewing supporting digital pen and touch.
Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, 4700mAh. Ships with 75W 100-240V AC adapter.
Performance: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8600 running at 2.40GHz. 4 gigs of DDR2 RAM (4 gigs max) with 2 SDRAM slots.
Size: 12.0” x 9.41” x 1.47” /1.55”. Weight: 4.6 pounds.
Camera: 1.3 megapixel webcam with built-in mic.
Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with volume control dial. Has mic input and headphone output.
Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11a/b/g/draft-n, gigabit Ethernet, modem and Bluetooth v2.1.
Drive: 160GB 5400 rpm serial ATA drive. DVD SuperMulti (+/-R dual layer) drive supporting 11 formats.
Software: Windows Vista Business Edition 32/64-bit operating system with service pack 1. 60 day trial of MS Office Professional 2007 and OneNote 2007, and Norton Internet Security 2008 (60 day trial). Toshiba DVD Player, Toshiba Recovery Disc Creator, Toshiba Disc Creator and various Toshiba utilities. Infineon TPM (v1.2) Software Professional Package and TruSuite software included.
Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot that works with Secure Digital, miniSD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, MMC and xD Picture Card. SD slot supports SDIO.