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Toshiba Portege 7010 CT 8/10

This is a sub-notebook. It has a 12.1 inch screen and a Pentium II 300 MHz. It is not the fastest machine you can buy, since much faster processors are now available. However, occupying the footprint of an A4 paper pad, the Portege is very light and is thin (approx. 2 cm). It so small, you might even lose it if you leave it between a few books or magazines. I have no trouble lifting the unit using one hand! Consequently, it can be moved about without little effort and is ideal for the virtual DJ who wants a cheaper machine that has enough power to run Virtual Turntables or WinAmp. It may not be quite quick enough to run Traktor though. Additional RAM to run programmes like Traktor is very expensive, so you must take that into account when buying this machine. <

Coated with a silver metallic finish, the Portege is more stylish than most notebooks. The 4 GB hard drive is big enough to store several hundred MP3 tracks, but its access time is nothing to write home about! To the left of the unit, there is a single USB port so you can add a USB soundcard easily for good quality sound output, no firewire output though. It would have been nice to see at least an extra USB port on such a machine. To the rear of the machine, there is a cylinder-like battery. This Lithium-Ion unit is better than a Nickel Metal Hydride. However after two years of use, the battery seems to be running down a bit quickly. I would recommend buying another battery at the time of purchase. It will probably be a lot cheaper than buying it two years down the line from a spare part department.

The internal soundcard is average and is only good for DJ mix monitoring. There is a small wheel at the front of the machine, positioned next to the mic-in and line-out, to control the volume. The quality of the recording from the inbuilt microphone is good only for dictating documents. Pluging in a mic into the mic-in does improve the sound quality, but it is still not "CD quality"!. The keyboard is solid and very springly. A Thinkpad style rubber trackpoint is the pointing device on the Toshiba. I prefer a fingerpad, but this is very much is question of personal preference. It is very difficult to use programmes like Photoshop with the trackpoint. Using music programmes such as Acid, which require extensive use of the mouse, is also a problem. I don't know why notebook manufactures don't bundle mice with their machines and solve the pointing device problem for good!

On the software front, Win95/Win98 is preinstalled but there are no other big applications. So if you are a first time buyer without any software, you'll have to consider the lack of an apps. If you want to run software through a network, you will also need to buy an additional PCMICA network card. There are two PCMICA slots, one ordinary 16 bit and one accelerated Cardbus slot, so you run 100 MBit network cards with full bandwidth. This also opens the possibility of adding Cardbus firewire cards etc.

The screen is not as good as other notebooks around, it certainly not as bright or rich in contrast as the Sony PCG-X9. Where the Toshiba really excels is quality of the build. I've dropped the machine by accident 1.5 M. The screen obviously cracked, which is not a surprise because all laptop screens are very fragile. However, the hard disk was not affected or the rest of the machine. The screen was promptly replaced and I was able to use the machine again.