Tecra range is firmly targeted at business users, and the A11 is perhaps the
most mainstream model in the range thanks to its 15.6-inch screen and Intel Core
i5 processor. Priced at around £730, it's a fair bit cheaper than the similar, but
smaller, 14-inch Tecra M11 we reviewed recently.
Boxy means business
Design-wise, the A11 is essentially a slightly larger version of the M11. Both models share the same pimply, matte black finish and both suffer from the same boxy design. Measuring 374 by 250.5 by 37.6mm, the A11 is certainly far from the smallest 15-incher we've come across, but at least it's not too heavy -- it tips the scales at a manageable 2.54kg. As with its smaller sibling, the A11's build quality is excellent. The machine feels extremely solid and sturdy when you pick it up, so it should stand up to the daily rigours of office life.
Most 15-inch laptops aimed at business types manage to cram a numerical keypad into the keyboard, but Toshiba has decided against this with the A11. It's not as though there's insufficient room -- there's a good inch and a quarter of unused chassis space on either side of the keyboard. Nevertheless, the keyboard does feel very solid. There's very little flex in it and this, along with the responsive, tapered keys, make it a pleasure to type on. The layout is good, too, although the 'enter' key is narrower than usual. It's a little annoying, but you soon get accustomed to it, so it's not a huge issue.
As with the other Tecra models in the range, the A11 has both a trackpad and a pointing stick. The trackpad isn't exactly huge, but its matte surface feels good under your finger and the twin chrome buttons are responsive. We had no problems with the pointing stick, either. As you would expect, there are separate buttons for this located at the top of the trackpad.
No time to reflect, just connect
For a 15.6-inch display, the screen's resolution of 1366x768 pixels isn't all that impressive, but at least it has an anti-glare coating. As such, it doesn't suffer from frustrating reflections like the glossy screens of consumer laptops. The display is LED-backlit, so it's very bright -- giving colours more of an impact.
The A11 isn't found wanting when it comes to ports, either. The right side is home to two USB ports as well as a Smart Card reader; and on the left-hand side you'll find another two USB ports -- one of which doubles as an eSata port for connecting external storage devices. There's also a mini DisplayPort socket here alongside an ExpressCard slot, which means there's a fair bit of expansion potential. On the rear, there's a standard VGA socket as well as an Ethernet port. Naturally, the laptop has 801.11n Wi-Fi on board, and Bluetooth 2.1 has also been chucked in for good measure.
Low on brains, high on brawn
Toshiba has kitted the laptop out with just 2GB of RAM, which is a little stingy. It's also opted for the 32-bit rather than 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional. On the processor front, the A11 uses a relatively muscular, dual-core Intel Core i5-520M chip that ticks over at 2.40GHz. In the PCMark05 test, this combination of processor and RAM managed to push the system to a score of 5,541, so it'll have no problem crunching its way through complex office tasks.
Business machines rarely offer up impressive 3D performance, and the A11 doesn't buck this trend. Rather than using a discrete graphics solution, Toshiba has stuck with bog-standard, integrated Intel GMA HD graphics. This resulted in a poor performance in our 3DMark06 test, only managing to score a lowly 1,754. Needless to say, you certainly won't be playing the latest 3D games on this machine.
Nevertheless, the A11's battery performance isn't too bad at all. It's certainly better than the M11, although that model does use a faster processor. In our Battery Eater test, the laptop managed to keep chugging away for an hour and 28 minutes, which is longer than average for a 15-inch laptop. This test is very intensive, so under real-world conditions you can expect the battery to last much longer.
Overall, the Toshiba Tecra A11 is a competent business laptop that offers good performance, a decent screen and an impressive range of ports. In saying that, the computer's chunky design and limited amount of RAM are a tad disappointing.
Edited by Emma Bayly