One More for the Road
by Andy Sim
When we first heard that Toshiba was planning to enter the mini-notebook category, we were half expecting them to reinvent the wheel instead of attempting the radical. In truth, we weren't far wrong. Abiding by the now-standard formula, Toshiba has ultimately chosen a conservative blueprint for its maiden attempt.
Simply put, the Toshiba NB100-A100B is an 8.9-inch submission crafted with the typical Intel Atom N270 processor, a 120GB shock-absorbing hard disk, 1GB RAM and a 4-cell battery. Currently, the NB100 comes in two flavors, mainly the black base model and a gold variation (NB100-A100G). In a typical move by Toshiba, our review unit brandishes a shimmering black top with the unmistakable brand name etched across.
We were surprised to discover a relatively thick lid though the display (1024 by 600 pixels) actually proffers an LED backlight. Hence, it has a comfortably sharp and bright screen. Additionally, the horizontal viewing angles are commendable as well, albeit on a rather reflective panel.
Itsy Bitsy Keys
If comfort is top of your priority, then the Toshiba is not for you. Firstly, the keys are really tiny, even when compared to other similar models such as the HP 2133 Mini-Note or the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, which have more luxuriant keyboards. A fistful of our female colleagues had a brief spin on the NB100 and they agreed that the typing experience was not exactly pleasant, as even their slender fingers had a hard time attacking the minute keys.
All's not lost though, for despite those sore fingers, Toshiba has managed to stick close to the 1kg mark for its 8.9-inch offering. The speakers are lined just under the screen, which produced shipshape audio fidelity, though they sounded just slightly louder than a mobile phone's speaker. On top of that, the whole unit managed to stay relatively cool after a few hours of use.
Interestingly, although the NB100's touchpad proffers multi-touch support, the tiny sized pad restricts multi-touch operations, like when resizing images.
Strange Beginnings and Endings
Oddly, we encountered some bizarre moments when we first powered on the NB100. It proceeded to install Microsoft's SQL Server once the Windows XP initialization has been completed. This is highly unusual for machines of this class, and we were left wondering if Toshiba might have just pulled out one of their notebook's master disk image and customized it, before applying it to the NB100 with its own set of drivers. Similarly, we noticed a Toshiba DVD Player amongst its applications when the unit has no DVD drive, which further confirmed our suspicions. Of course, this could very well just be an oddity on our review unit.
Quirks aside, Toshiba has predictably gone with the Atom formula for its mini-notebook. It did well with the PCMark05 benchmark, clinching a decent score of 1,574 PCMarks which is roughly what we expected for such a configuration. The NB100's 4-cell battery lasted for 155 minutes on our XviD playback test, meaning that it has enough mileage to sustain a decent length movie.
At just S$799, the NB-100 appears to be priced slightly higher than other 8.9-inch models. Then again, you're getting the Toshiba brand name along with it. That may be a small price to pay for reliability you can count on.