Overview and Introduction:The Toshiba S100is a thin and light notebook (bordering on ultra portable) that is part of the executive Portege series. It was introduced in unison with the Tecra M3 and shares many similar features but in a smaller and lighter frame. Given its intended use, the notebook has advanced security features as well as a more robust and durable chassis.
Toshiba S100 right front side (view larger image)Review System Specs:
- Pentium M-750 1.86Ghz
- Windows XP Pro
- 1.5GB DDR2 533mhz RAM (512MB stock)
- 60GB 5400RPM S-ATA HD
- DVD Multi-Drive (DVD-R 2.4X, Read DVD 8X)
- 14″ TFT 1024×768 non-glare LCD
- nVidia GO 6200TE 64mb
- 56k Modem, 100 Ethernet, 802.11a/g WAN
- 4.4lbs with battery
Reasons for Buying:
This notebook is to be carried daily and used for web-browsing, e-mailing, office applications, light gaming and mobile audio processing (GuitarRig and sequencing software). As such, it had to be light enough to be comfortable to commute with while having the horsepower to do the above. This automatically put me in the thin-and-light category rather than the ultra-light (integrated video, lack of CPU power and HD space). I worked with widescreen notebooks and don’t like the format unless it is over 19″, as I find that I scroll too much when working on a single long document. I wasn’t completely adverse to a widescreen, seeing that is the trend, but preferred the traditional 4:3 layout. I also wanted a notebook from a company that offered a reliable accidental warranty and with local repair depots.
- IBM T43
- Toshiba S100
- Toshiba M3
- Dell 600M
- Apple Powerbook 15″
- Sony S360
Originally my first choice was the T43. Although more expensive, I have heard only good things about Thinkpads and their durability. My only gripe at the time was the lack of firewire. After placing my order in early and having my delivery date extended for over a month and a half (and my e-mails ignored) with no solid delivery date in sight, I cancelled my order and went with my second choice, the S100. My dad has had over 5 Toshiba’s in the past 8 years with no problems with any of them of note, 3 of them are still actively being used today. The only issue was that there were very few reviews of the S100 online and the purchase was made near-blind, based solely on Toshiba’s reputation. Whatever Toshiba’s marketing group does, it wouldn’t hurt if they sent more of these out for review. Where and How Purchased: I purchased my S100 from Notebookdepot, in downtown Toronto. Stone, the manager, was very quick to answer e-mails and happened to have one in stock and ready to go. He was also very quick to field any questions I had on the product. Total paid, not including taxes, upgrades and accessories, $2,650 CDN. I got the warranty on top of that for 3 years accidental coverage. Given that Toshiba’s website has it listed for $2,799, I think it is a very fair price. I got the 1gb memory upgrade from Canada Computers for $150 and installed it myself. The entire process is very straightforward. In the end, 2hrs of driving around was enough to get my hands on the notebook I wanted. Sure beats waiting indefinitely.
Build & Design:
Toshiba Portege S100 front view (view larger image)The overall look of the S100 is very classy yet slightly understated. It doesn’t have the chic of the Powerbooks, but does have hints of it with its brushed magnesium casing, nor does it have the tank-like sharp cornered box design of the T43. Not surprisingly, it comes in somewhere in between. I find the notebook to be quite easy on the eyes, but it is not going to attract the same kind of attention as an Apple, Sony or the bright red Acer Ferrari.
At 4.4lbs, the notebook is very easy to carry around and use in the lap (although heat comes into play, more on that later). The screen is rigid with no rippling, twisting of wobble noticed. The hinge feels pretty solid. I find the S100 to be one of the better built notebooks I’ve come across, with only the T series feeling more robust (it does weigh an extra 0.5lbs). It has a spill-resistant keyboard, an active HD protection system, integrated security and reinforced corners around the casing. As well, the LCD panel is tapered in, to prevent it from being torn open or caught on stray objects. All removable parts (battery, DVD drive, etc) all fit very neatly with no wobble. With the magnesium casing, enhanced bumper zones and HD protection, this notebook is built to last. Overall construction is top quality. 9/10
Toshiba S100 above view (view larger image)
Toshiba S100 left front side LEDs (view larger image)
The 14″ screen is 1024×768 in resolution. I would have preferred a higher native resolution but it was not an option for this model. The LCD panel is of the traditional, non-glare type. The brightness is good, keeping in line with what I have come across from prior Toshiba’s, but not up to the color saturation and brightness of the high-gloss screens. For office/work use though, this type of screen works very well. The screen is visible under sunlight so long as it isn’t displaying hues of black, making working off a patio much more reasonable than with the high-glare types.
There were no dead pixels on my S100. However, there were lighting anomalies in the bottom corners of the screen. It looks almost like the corners are shaded. I don’t find it very distracting but others might. For the most part, it looks like the Windows toolbar is more 3D. There is also a bit of light on the bottom of the screen. The rest is very uniform.
I don’t find the issues noted above with the panel to be serious, but for a notebook of this price-range, I would score it as average in quality. 7/10
The speakers are located at the top corners, near the LCD panel, and quite large. I find this a good place to put them as they are unobstructed during use (as opposed to putting them under the palm-rest). Sound quality is definitely above average for a notebook but still lacking in bass and a bit piercing in the high-ranges. I was surprised to find the internal soundcard was free of hiss and pops when using high quality headphones (Sennheiser HD590’s). While sound separation wasn’t up to par to a quality pre-amp, it was miles above what is normally found in a notebook. I would recommend headphones for prolonged music enjoyment, although the speakers don’t do a bad job by any means. 8/10
Processor and Performance: For what I use it for, this notebook is plenty fast and always responsive. The 1.86ghz processor and 1.5gb of RAM can handle all day to day tasks with a lot of zip. The hard-drive spins at 5400RPM and, while not as fast as the 7200RPM drives, is good enough for anything except the most intensive I/O. You can get an optional HD that fits into the optical drive-bay and run the HD’s in a RAID with pre-installed Toshiba software. It is rare to find notebooks designed with modular HD upgrades in mind.
I play Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War on it with no problems. With the details on high, there is a bit of lag when the effects get intense. However, by turning down some of the options, the game runs exceptionally smooth. The bottom line though, is that this machine is not a gaming rig capable of massive pixel crunching. It will do in a pinch.
Of the limited reviews online, there were some complaints about fan noise and heat. Overall, I found the system to run a bit hot, very similar to other Toshiba’s I’ve come across. The air exhaust is at the top left of the keyboard, so is not in the way of a mouse, if you use one. I never found the machine to be so hot that it was uncomfortable to use, except when used directly on the lap for extended periods of time (use a notebook cooler for that). The fan is noticeable but not distracting. After tweaking the power management software, I managed to keep the S100 zippy while keeping fan noise to a minimum. The heat did become quite a bit hotter while running the benchmarks and the fan kicked in at high-speed. This is the machine when pushed to its maximum and not really reflective of its behavior in normal use. Even at this level of output, it was not overly hot or loud. 8.5/10
NotebookTime to Calculate Pi to 2 Million DigitsToshiba Portege S100 (1.86GHz Alviso Pentium M)1m 43sSony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)1m 53sIBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)
1m 45sFujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)1m 48sDell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Alviso Pentium M)1m 52sDell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)2m 10sSony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Dothan Pentium M)1m 57sGateway 7510GX (AMD Mobile Athlon 64 3700+ Processor, 2.4 GHz)1m 31sSony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 42s
Toshiba Portege S100 (1.86 GHz)
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz)
Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz)
Fujitsu N3510 (1.73 GHz)
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption
Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression
Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing
Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning
Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check
Web Page Rendering
DivX Video Compression
Physics Calculation and 3D
Graphics Memory – 64 Lines
HD Tune BenchmarksToshiba Portege S100 (5400 RPM)Sony VAIO FS680 (4200 RPM)Minimum Transfer Rate14.3 MB/sec6.9 MB/secMaximum Transfer Rate34.4 MB/sec30.3 MB/secAverage Transfer Rate27.0 MB/sec22.7 MB/secAcess Time18.6 ms20.0 msBurst Rate69.6 MB/sec–CPU Usage11.3%
Keyboard and Touchpad:The keyboard is very well-made, with no flex or sponginess. The keys are responsive and large enough to make typing very comfortable and fast. Some other reviews of griped about the placement of the delete key. I don’t find it to be much of an issue but a little adapting will be required. As for the accuracy and speed of my typing, I find it much better than my office issued Dell D600. The keys also feel more attached, hopefully meaning they will not fall off like they do on the Dell.
Toshiba S100 keyboard (view larger image)
Toshiba Portege S100 touchpad (view larger image)The touchpad is large and placed right in the center. This seem odd but some notebooks have them off-center for whatever reason, which irritates me to no end. It is usually very responsive but I have noted a few moments where movement did not register, especially when opening windows or switching applications. The keys seem to be made of metal and have a very nice and stiff click to them. Once again, the overall feel of the keyboard and touchpad give the impression that the notebook will hold up well over time. There is no pointing-stick or scroll regions (that allow scrolling up and down a document) but gestures and such can be programmed separately. There are programmable buttons on the side of the keyboard which by default pull up Toshiba Assist. 8.5/10
Input and Output Ports:
Starting from the right-hand side, the S100 has a VGA out and the optical drive-bay housing the DVD drive. The front panel has the latch to open the lid (which closes with a solid reassuring click), the volume knob, infrared port, microphone-in and headphone out, the wireless on/off switch and an array of nice little lights. On the left is the PC card slot, mini-firewire, security cable slot, exhaust vent and LAN port. At the rear is the modem jack, the AC port and 2 USB ports. Overall, the S100 has enough connectivity options to satisfy just about everyone. A few more USB ports would be appreciated but given the size of the system, there isn’t much real estate to work with. 9/10
Toshiba S100 right side (view larger image)
Toshiba S100 left side (view larger image)
Toshiba S100 back left side (view larger image)
Toshiba S100 back side (view larger image)
Wireless: I used the S100’s 802.11a/g card to scan for wireless access points on a patio in downtown Toronto. Toshiba ships the S100 with a set of very useless and cool looking applications which make connecting to networks more intuitive. The wireless radar application managed to pick up over 12 access points. As well, I was able to get a very strong signal one floor up from my router. Performance is as expected and connecting to networks is greatly simplified. Infrared is included although Bluetooth is not. 8/10Battery: The battery life of the S100, a 6-cell, is capable of driving the notebook while streaming video over a wireless network at full brightness, for about 1h45m. For general web-browsing and office-work, with intermittent wireless use and brightness set to 6/8 (which I find is most comfortable for such tasks), the notebook can last 2h45m. I’m sure with optimal battery settings, the life of the battery can reach 3-3.5hrs, but under normal usage patterns, 2-2.5hrs is more reasonable. While not abysmal, it is below average.
An optional 12 cell battery pack is available at a reasonable price ($110USD) for true road-warriors. Even with the added weight, the S100 would still be a highly portable machine, then capable of nearly 7+hrs of continuous use. 6/10Operating System and Software:
The S100 comes standard with Windows XP Professional and OneNote 2003. As well, there is a trial version of Norton Antivirus. Pre-installed Toshiba software includes ConfigFree, an application that troubleshoots network connections, SUMMIT (which I think is some kind of wireless file-sharing application), modem dialer, HDD protection utility, echo canceller (for use with the microphone), Toshiba Application Installer (drivers and upgrades), PC Diagnostic tools, RAID console, Recovery Disk Creator and Wi-Fi Detector (the cool looking radar application). I find the applications that I use to be very useful and intuitive. Most of them simply give a more customizable, user-friendly way to manage standard Windows functions. After seeing the Mac OS though, improvements on the Windows interface are very welcome. A partition is made on the HD that allows for a system refresh. Also, the backup software makes system images onto CD or DVD whenever you want. 9/10Customer Support: I have yet to contact customer support about anything other than activation of the warranty. They responded very quickly via e-mail (within 24hrs). This was after being frustrated by Lenovo’s customer support (who didn’t respond to e-mails), so it was a breath of fresh air. I know Lenovo is supposed to have a solid reputation for end-user service, so be my experience was isolated in nature.
Conclusion: I fully recommend this laptop to those looking for a light functional notebook that is durable and handsome. The balance between weight and performance is exceptional and is a key selling point. The S100 straddles the fine line between ultra-portables and the thin-and-light category, and does it very well. Pros:
- Top quality build and materials
- Very light and easy to carry
- Fast performance
- Good internal audio
- Capable of light gaming
- Average screen
- Below average battery life
Pricing and Availability
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