Toshiba Tecra Z50-A-11H review
15.6 in 1,366x768 display, 1.8kg, 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, 4.00GB RAM, 128GB disk, Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit
The Toshiba Tecra Z50 A-11-H is a business-focused 15.6-inch Ultrabook with a comprehensive specification and exceptional battery life. The laptop feels tough despite its slim 20mm thickness. The brushed metal-style plastic shell has just a little bit of give to it, while the internal chassis is made from magnesium which should mean the device survives a little bit of mistreatment while on the move. Toshiba claims the laptop has been drop-tested from a height of 76cm, as well as being able to withstand a small amount of liquid spillage. However, we were a little concerned about the small gaps between the lid and the screen bezel where the two don't seem to fit together flush.
The Z50-A-11-H has four USB ports, three of which are USB3. In addition, there are VGA and HDMI connectors, which means the laptop can be plugged into a variety of display devices, including older projectors such as you might find in office meeting rooms. The keyboard has well-spaced keys and a useful skinny numeric keypad. It's fairly easy to type on, although we would have liked a little more travel in the keys.
The laptop's touchpad is responsive, even though it's slightly recessed in the wrist rest. We found ourselves accidently clicking on the pad while typing, although how much this problem will affect you is very much down to typing style. If you can't get on with the touchpad, you can always disable it and use the touchstick positioned towards the centre of the keyboard. There are two sets of buttons, above the touchpad and built into its lower edge, making it easy to reach them whether you're using the stick of the pad. Unfortunately, the bottom buttons felt oddly loose, so weren't that pleasant to use.
Below the touchpad is a fingerprint scanner. These security devices are often quite fiddly to use, and this is true for the Tecra's. However, once we became used to the very specific scanning technique required to use our fingers as security credentials, the scanner was quick to recognise us and log us in to Windows.
The Z50-A-11-H comes with Windows 8.1 Pro and has a 128GB SSD, 4GB RAM and a dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U processor. In our benchmark tests, the laptop scored 40 overall, which means that it'll smoothly and capably handle everyday tasks such as web browsing, creating documents and presentations and editing photos. In Dirt Showdown, at a resolution of 1,280x720, with 4x anti-aliasing and High quality graphics settings, the processor's Intel HD Graphics 4400 on-chip GPU achieved a jerky frame rate of 17.6fps, but you'll get playable frame rates if you reduce quality settings to Ultra Low. This isn’t the laptop for you if you're serious about gaming, though.
The Z500-A-11H's battery life is superb. In our light usage battery test, the laptop lasted a seriously impressive 14 hours and 52 minutes. In real terms, with the screen brightness at medium down and on a battery saving power plan, you should easily make it through more than a full working day on a single charge.
It's a shame the Tecra's 15.6in screen doesn’t have a higher resolution.1,366x768 pixels is rather low for the screen's size and makes everything a little cramped if you want to work on more than one application at once. Unfortunately, the screen is also flawed in terms of colour accuracy. In our tests with a colour calibrator, we measured the screen as displaying only 57.9 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, which is towards the lower end of laptop screen quality, and the sort of performance we'd expect from a cheaper unit. Contrast levels were a disappointing 290:1, meaning high-contrast photos don't look as clear as they should. On the plus side, the matt display lends itself well to working in brightly lit environments and even direct sunlight.
The Tecra Z50-A-11-H is a competent business-orientated ultraportable, and its battery life is great. The price you pay for this longevity is the sub-standard screen, which has too low a resolution for a laptop of this size, and a touchpad that's hard to avoid striking by accident. If you're after an all-rounder ultraportable laptop, you're better off with the Best Buy-winning Asus Zenbook UX302, while business users are more likely to be won over the Fujitsu Lifebook S904.