The Toshiba Tecra A11-S3540 notebook  is a solid performer that offers a large display and powerful graphics with a nearly full-size keyboard and good ergonomics. The unit is small and light enough to be carried easily, but is comfortable enough to serve as a user's primary desktop computer.
The Tecra A11-S3540 is a solid, sturdy device that is both portable and expansive enough to use for long periods of time. While relatively lightweight at only 5.6 pounds, the Tecra has a solid feel and does not warp or twist when the screen is raised. The keyboard is almost full size and is very comfortable even during periods of extended use. The Tecra A11-S3540 also includes a numeric keypad, an unusual feature that places the user slightly off-center while typing, but which is still useful.
Toshiba's Tecra A11-S3540 ships with a 2.66 gigahertz Intel i7-620M processor, 4 gigabytes of DDR3 memory and a 320GB hard drive. It also has an integrated DVD-R, a 15.6-inch widescreen display driven by an Nvidia NVS 2100M graphics adapter, and an integrated webcam and microphone. A number of connectivity options are offered, including 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), and an integrated Intel 82577LC Gigabit Ethernet adapter. The Tecra also has ample device connectivity with three USB 2.0 ports, one shared e-SATA/USB combination port, an ExpressCard slot and a Mini-DisplayPort interface.
The Tecra is well suited for mobile users, with a 6-cell battery capable of up to five hours of use and USB Sleep-and-Charge functionality that lets users charge USB devices even while the notebook is powered down.
Toshiba includes a number of features in the A11-S3540 intended to help IT support mobile users. The EasyGuard technology offers shock, vibration and fall detection and will automatically park the drive heads to limit damage. A moisture-resistant keyboard protects against all but the most serious spills, giving the user time to save files and shut down before a liquid-related incident can result in permanent damage. The magnesium alloy case with incorporated internal padding and air pockets is designed to protect important system components in the event of a fall. Other components, such as the hard drive, optical drive and memory, are easily accessible for service or replacement.
The Tecra A11-S3540's energy consumption is a low 75 watts using the AC adapter and 55 watts using the battery, earning it both Energy Star and EPEAT Gold certification. The Tecra also includes Toshiba's Eco Utility software, which lets the IT staff manage power profiles and define energy consumption levels and also graph this information over time to quantify energy savings.
IT will appreciate the notebook's integrated security features, which include a fingerprint reader, the ability to set separate BIOS and hard drive passwords, and the integrated Trusted Platform Module. The Tecra has an alarm that users can set to go off if the notebook is moved, and users or the IT department can also restrict file copying to external media. Finally, a reinforced security cable slot makes it possible to physically secure the device against theft.
While an integrated numeric keypad is an interesting feature, the keyboard/keypad arrangement will take some getting used to for users of traditional notebooks. However, once users become accustomed to it, the numeric keypad is a definite asset. Users will also find that the default touchpad settings are extremely sensitive, causing the pointer to jump easily, and the positioning of the fingerprint scanner between the left and right mouse buttons makes the touchpad somewhat awkward to use. But these are minor downsides to what otherwise is a very functional product.
Tom Jordan is the network operations center manager at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.