What's hot: Great CPU power and gaming experience, good battery life for a 15.6" laptop and looks slim and attractive (this ain't your grandma's Tecra!).
What's not: Keyboard lacks travel, no direct HDMI port.
Reviewed May 24, 2011 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Toshiba offers many lines of notebooks, and the Tecra line is designed for business and professional users who need serious computing powers. In fact the tag line for the new Tecra R850 is "rethink your desktop replacement", and we've thrown everything we'd run on a desktop machine including serious 3D gaming at it, the Tecra R850 came through with flying colors. The new Tecra R850 models run on the second gen Intel Sandy Bridge CPU ranging from Core i3-2310M ($879) to Core i7-2620M ($1349). You can get the laptop with Intel integrated graphics or the AMD Radeon HD 6450M dedicated graphics with 1GB graphics memory. This 15.6" has the power of a desktop machine yet it's still portable at 5.29 pounds.
We looked at the Toshiba Tecra R850-S8540 model for this review and this model currently has top of the line specs and is a member of Toshiba's pre-configured series. The laptop runs on an Intel Core i7-2620M processor at 2.7GHz with 4GB DDR3 1333MHz memory. The Tecra R850 packs solid 2D and 3D power with AMD Radeon HD 6450M graphics and 1GB GDDR3 of dedicated graphics memory. The system comes with a 320GB HDD that's 7200rpm in speed. In real life tests, the Toshiba Tecra R850 flies through tasks like Photoshop CS5 image processing, movie making using Windows Live Movie Maker, and it plays 3D games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Mass Effect 2 at full speed without breaking a sweat. For those of you who are either on a budget or don't need the power of a Core i7, Toshiba offers the R850 with lesser CPUs, including a second generation Intel Core i3.
The Toshiba Tecra R850 comes with Windows 7 Professional. As this is a business notebook Toshiba bundles a full suite of security software including Execute Disable Bit, Infineon TPM pro version, multi-level password utility, Toshiba Secure Digital Token Utility and more to work with the fingerprint scanner and security cable lock slot on the notebook. Other Toshiba software includes Disc Creator and Recovery Media Creator. Third-party software is the usual: MS Office Starter 2010, Silverlight and Movie Maker as well as the Google Chrome web browser. Skype is included to work with the built-in webcam and a 30-day trial subscription of Norton Internet Security is also included.
Design and Ergonomics
Toshiba has updated the style of the formerly chunky Tecra line to look more modern and sleek. The R850 has clean lines with shiny chrome caps and accents. The black notebook has thin sculptured lines on the cover and on the wrist rest that look subtly stylish and the notebooks can open to a flat 180-degrees. Toshiba designed the Tecra as a durable business notebook, and they placed pillar reinforcements to provide more support for the frame and reduce PCB stress. The 15.6" matte display looks very bright, and it actually whites out if you turn the brightness to 100%. The widescreen TFT display has limited viewing angles and 1366 x 768 resolution to support 720p native content. We wish Toshiba offered a higher resolution option for this fairly large display but we're thrilled that they used a matte rather than gloss display.
Deals and Shopping:
The Toshiba Tecrea R850 has a standard keyboard with a 10-key number pad on the right. The keyboard layout is standard and you should have no trouble finding where everything is. The discrete keys on the keyboard are large and have good spacing, however they lack travel and feel very flat; the price we pay for a very thin notebook. The notebook has two sets of cursor/mouse controls: a large touch pad and two mouse buttons below it and a trackpoint control with two mouse buttons above the touch pad. The eraser stick pointer feels responsive and has a rough surface for better traction, and the mouse buttons are easy to find and have the perfect locations. We assume Toshiba is trying to lure Lenovo ThinkPad customers with this classic ThinkPad pointing device. The touch pad is offset to the left and supports multi-touch, and it has plenty of space to work with; the mouse buttons are large but a bit too flat. The fingerprint scanner lives in between the two mouse buttons below the touch pad and the scanner works well. The various indicator LEDs live under the mouse buttons. There is no backlight for the keyboard.
The Toshiba Tecra R850 has stereo speakers above the keyboard, and they sound very loud though not terribly full. The Toshiba Tecra R850 measures 14.9 x 9.9 x 0.82/1.19 inches and weighs 5.29 lbs. For a 15.6" notebook, the Toshiba looks reasonably slim and doesn't feel very heavy either.
Horsepower and Performance
The Toshiba Tecra R850-S8540 is powered by a second gen Intel Core i7 CPU running at 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz. The system has 4MG Cache and the Mobile Intel QM67 Express Chipset with AMT 7.0. The Tecra R850 comes with 4GB memory with 8GB max in 2 SODIMM memory slots, and a 320GB SATA drive with Toshiba's Hard Drive Impact Sensor, a 3D sensor that tells you if the hard drive is being moved too violently. It's quite sensitive and you can turn warning notices off if it bugs you too much. The built-in optical drive is a DVD SuperMulti drive with 11 formats supported.
We put the Toshiba Tecra R850 through PCMark Vantage tests and 3DMark 06 graphics tests, and provided the scores below. The third set of scores is the Windows 7 Experience Index.
PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results:
Toshiba Tecra R850-S8540 (2nd gen Intel Core i7-2620M, 2.70GHz):
PCMark Suite: 8113
Memory Suite: 4562
TV and Movie Suite: 4119
Gaming Suite: 3375
Music Suite: 7841
Communication Suite: 11131
Productivity Suite: 6342
HDD Test Suite: 3862
3Dmark 06 Benchmark Results:
Toshiba Tecra R850-S8540 (AMD Radeon HD 6450M Graphics): 4389
The Windows 7 Experience Index: (on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9)
The PCMark score is very impressive and all tasks that require serious CPU power perform well on the Toshiba. Productivity software runs smoothly as do multimedia creation tools like Windows Live Movie Maker. Internet video streaming has excellent performance. Hulu and Netflix movies streamed at solid high frame rates in our tests.
Due to the lower screen resolution we couldn't run the new 3DMark Vantage so we had to fall back on 3DMark 06. That benchmark score does not do the system justice. In real life gaming, the Toshiba Tecra handled FPS games with plenty of power and grace. The AMD Radeon HD 6450M card with 1GB GDDR3 dedicated graphics memory combined with the Core i7-2620M means that everything ran smoothly at a solid frame rates with modest to high graphics settings.
We tested several FPS including Left 4 Dead 2 and Mass Effect 2 and TBS games such as Civ V, all ran at near maximum frame rates for both cutscenes and during gameplay. Some serious firefights in Left 4 Dead 2 and Mass Effect 2 that gave other notebooks trouble didn't slow down the Toshiba. Sid Meier's Civilization V ran at 21fps-24fps, but even with many nations at war, the game didn't feel slow or lag. We've captured some of the firefight scenes from the FPS games on video for you and we've included the settings in which the games were played when shooting the video.
Left 4 Dead 2 settings:
Resolution: 1024 x 768
Frame rate: average 60 fps
Anti-aliasing mode: None
Filtering mode: Trilinear
Wait for vertical sync: Enabled
Shader detail: Low
Effect detail: Medium
Model/Texture detail: High
Paged Pool Memory Available: High
Mass Effect 2 settings:
All effects and shadows turned Off
Resolution: 1280 x 720
Frame rate: average 30 fps
Enable high Quality Bloom: Yes
Enable Dynamic Shadows: No
Light Environment Shadows: Yes
Film Grain: Yes
Serious gaming doesn’t raise the system’s temperatures very high thanks to the effective fans on the Toshiba Tecra. After playing FPS games for an hour, the Toshiba’s core temp got up to 61 degrees Celsius from its normal 38 degrees. You can certainly feel the hot air coming out of the heat vent, but the system is never hot to the touch.
Ports and Slots
The Toshiba Tecra R850 comes with 4 USB ports, and one of them is a combined USB and eSATA combo with USB Sleep and Charge. Three of the USB ports support USB v2.0 and the 4th one (on the left) supports USB v3.0. The Toshiba comes with both a VGA port and a DisplayPort for higher resolution monitors. But there isn’t an HDMI out port. Toshiba sells a $20 HDMI adapter that provides a DisplayPort male to HDMI female connector, and it allows you to use your HDMI monitor, TV or projector with the notebook.
For connectivity, the Toshiba Tecra R850 has a RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet LAN port on the right and a docking connector on the bottom that connects to a docking station for more port and connection options. The system has built-in WiFi a/g/n (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230) and Bluetooth v3.0 + EDR. The Toshiba has two expansion slots: an ExpressCard /34 slot and an SD memory card reader that works with Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Mini SD Card, Micro SD Card, SDXC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Pro Duo and Multi Media Card.
The Toshiba Tecra R850 has good battery life for a 15.6” Core i7 notebook. It comes with a 6 cell 66Wh Lithium Ion battery that should last you through a day (7 hours 17 minutes according to MobileMark Productivity 2007) for productivity tasks, web browsing and checking email. When playing DVDs, the machine lasted us 4 hours and streaming Hulu movies lasted about 4 hours as well. We had the power management set to the default Balanced power setting and screen brightness at 75%.
The Toshiba Tecra R850 comes with a 75W AC adapter that’s world power compatible. The 19V 3.95A charger is reasonably small for a 15.6” notebook and weighs 0.68 lbs.
If you are looking for a 15.6” notebook that’s very responsive for most tasks and good at gaming, the Toshiba Tecra R850-S8540 stands out with its fast CPU and strong GPU performance. As more and more notebooks come out with Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture, the competition will get more exciting, but the Core i7-2620M processor will be future proof for a few years. The notebook looks professional and sleek with a bright screen and it’s reasonably slim and light. Toshiba should take a page out of Lenovo’s playbook when it comes to keyboard design, but other than that, the Tecra R850 is a very nice system that starts at $879.
Pro: Great CPU power and gaming experience, good battery life for a 15.6” laptop and looks modern.
Con: Keyboard lacks travel, no direct HDMI port.
Price: $1,349 for the R850-S8540; $879 for the base model with an Intel Core i3 CPU.
Display: 15.6” widescreen matte TFT display, 1366 x 768 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio. LED backlit. AMD Radeon HD 6450M graphics with 1GB DDR3 with 1GB dedicated graphics memory and 2.8GHz total memory.
Battery: 6-cell 66Wh Lithium Ion battery. Power supply: 75W, 19V 3.95A, 100-240V.
Performance: Intel Core i7-2620M at 2.70GHz (3.40GHz with Turbo Boost Technology), 4MB L3 cache, 1333 MHz FSB. 4GB DDR3 1333MHz memory, 8 gigs max. Two main memory slots, both may be occupied. 320GB Serial-ATA drive, 7200rpm.
Size: 14.9 x 9.9 x 0.82/1.19 inches. Weight: starts at 5.29 pounds.
Networking: 10/100/1000 Ethernet, WiFi 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR, webcam with built-in mic.
Ports and Slots: 4 USB, VGA, Display port, Ethernet RJ45, mic input and headphone combo port, multimedia reader and Security Lock. Multi-media card reader works with SD, mini SD, microSD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Multi Media Card, Secure Digital and xD-Picture Cards.
Audio: Stereo speakers.
Software: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. Microsoft Office Starter 2010 included, also Windows Media Player and Microsoft Silverlight preinstalled. Toshiba Recovery Management software, Execute Disable Bit, Infineon TPM pro version, multi-level password utility and Toshiba Secure Digital Token Utility. 3rd party software includes Adobe Reader, Google Chrome and Skype. Norton Internet Security 30-day trial included.