Businesses need laptops that are as well-rounded as their employees, but all that the Toshiba Tecra Z40-C has to offer on its résumé is great battery life, which makes it hard to recommend. The $1,178 Z40-C ($1,323 as tested) is built on a foundation of compromises, including a low-resolution display, a stiff touchpad and odd-shaped key caps, all of which make it a lackluster tool for getting work done.
The Toshiba Tecra Z40-C shows up to work hoping to impress, but it looks like it's wearing an ill-fitted suit borrowed from its dad. The dark, gunmetal-gray lid and deck are made from magnesium but have a dull matte surface that looks more like plastic. A lone Toshiba logo in the lower-left corner serves as the only adornment.
Inside, you'll find a keyboard with black, Chiclet-style keys; a blue pointing stick; mouse buttons; and a trackpad. The bezel around the 14-inch, 1366 x 768 display is thick and cumbersome.
With dimensions of 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches and a weight of 3.4 pounds, the Z40-C is roughly the same size as the HP EliteBook 1040 G2 but larger, and 0.4 pounds heavier, than the Lenovo ThinkPad T460s. The Tecra is 0.44 pounds lighter than the Dell Latitude E5470 (13.2 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches, 3.88 pounds) but has a similar footprint. Lenovo's ThinkPad T460 (non-S) is bigger and thicker but has a removable battery that lets it achieve epic endurance.
Security and DurabilityAs you'll find on most business laptops, the Tecra Z40-C has a number of security and manageability features that IT departments require. All of its available processors employ Intel's vPro technology, which allows administrators to log in and manage a system remotely. Toshiba's laptop also has Trusted Platform Module (TPM) encryption and a fingerprint reader that works with Windows Hello or Toshiba's included fingerprint utility.
Unfortunately, unlike competitors from Lenovo and Dell, the Z40-C is not MIL-SPEC 810G tested for durability. However, as on other business laptops, its keyboard is spill resistant.
Because it uses a mechanical hard drive, the computer also employs vibration-detection software that stops the disk during jolts to prevent damage. As I used the Tecra Z40-C, annoying alerts from this application kept popping up. However, if Toshiba's laptop had a solid-state drive, it wouldn't even need this feature.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Accupoint
The keyboard on the Tecra Z40-C isn't one that I would want to use if I were trying to write an article under a tight deadline. When I tried my hand at the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I clocked 93 words per minute, which is below my average typing speed of 100 to 110 wpm, and my error rate jumped from my usual 1 to 2 percent up to 5 percent. The keys have 1.44 millimeters of travel, which is a little on the low side, but the real problems are the stiff feel and relatively small key caps.
The touchpad was smooth and easy to navigate with, though it wasn't always receptive to gestures in Windows 10. Scrolling with two fingers and switching between apps with three fingers usually worked, but I would occasionally find myself frustrated when programs refused to change or when websites continued to scroll after I lifted my fingers.
The built-in mouse buttons were so stiff and shallow that I had to press very hard for clicks to register. After using the Tecra Z40-C for just half an hour, my finger hurt a bit.Situated between the G, B and H keys, the small, blue Accupoint nub allowed me to navigate around the desktop without lifting my hands off of the keyboard. Lenovo's famed red TrackPoint touch sticks are larger and have a nicer texture, but the Accupoint is sufficiently grippy.
There are two clicking buttons above the touchpad to use with the nub (right and left click), but the lack of a middle button for scrolling slowed me down and made me feel like I was using the mouse I had on my Gateway desktop with Windows 95. Competing machines from Lenovo and Dell have middle mouse buttons, which makes their pointing sticks significantly easier to use.
The 14-inch, 1366 x 768 screen on the Z40-C is ridiculously low-res for a $1,300-plus laptop. It also lacks color, accuracy and detail. I watched the teaser trailer for Doctor Strange and didn't feel any of its wonder. Lights in the hospital where Stephen Strange works were washed out, and the colorful orange-and-green tunics of the Ancient One's trainees appeared dull. In fact, the entire trailer was dark. The Display Utility software offers Resolution+, a feature Toshiba claims improves image quality during video playback, but I didn't notice any difference with it on.
The display's brightness measured 208 nits on our light meter, which is less than the thin-and-light-category average of 247 nits. The Lenovo ThinkPad T460s and T460 were also below the average, at 240 nits and 239 nits respectively, while both the HP EliteBook 1040 G2 (264) and the Dell Latitude E5470 (278) were brighter.
The Tecra Z40-C's display reproduced 72.1 percent of the sRGB color gamut, beating the Lenovo ThinkPad T460s (66 percent) and the ThinkPad T460 (67 percent). However, it was still less than the category average (81 percent). The EliteBook 1040 G2 (105 percent) and the Dell Latitude E5470 (113 percent) provide access to a wider array of colors.
Toshiba's business notebook registered a Delta-E color accuracy score of 5.98 (the closer to 0, the better), while the EliteBook 1040 G2 (1.3), Latitude E5470 (1.1) and ThinkPad T460s (0.5) had much better scores.
Ports and Webcam
The Tecra Z40-C has plenty of ports for peripherals, including external monitors and storage drives. The left side of the notebook is home to a VGA port, a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI output port and an SD card slot. The right side features the headphone and microphone jack, two more USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a security lock slot and room for the AC adapter. A dock connector can be found on the bottom.
The 1080p webcam took a crisp, color-accurate photo of my face and our office. It captured the exact hue of the powder-blue stripes on my shirt and caught individual hairs on my head, unlike most webcams, which usually show them as more of a blob. I even got a pretty clear view of my boss drinking a Diet Coke behind me.
The bluegrass sounds of the Avett Brothers were clear on the Tecra Z40-C's speakers, with coherent vocals and loud highs and mids. The bass was a little weak for my taste, but it improved when I dragged the bass slider up in the DTS Studio Surround app. (This did muddle the mids a bit, so you may just want to leave the app alone unless you want to do a lot of experimenting.)
The Z40-C's 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6600U CPU; 8GB of RAM; and 7,200-rpm, 500GB hard disk drive make it a competent office performer, but the lack of a solid-state drive left it behind in some benchmarks. I had 14 tabs open in Google Chrome, one of which was streaming a 1080p episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, while I wrote in OpenOffice, and I saw no sign of lag.
On Geekbench 3, a synthetic overall CPU performance test, the Tecra Z40-C notched a score of 6,836, beating the Core i7-5600-powered EliteBook 1040 G2 (6,408), the Core i5-6200-enabled ThinkPad T460s (6,796) and T460 (6,708), and the thin-and-light-notebook average (6,419). However, it was defeated handily by the Core i5-6440HQ-powered Dell Latitude E5470 (9,760).
The Z40-C's traditional hard disk put the notebook at a serious disadvantage in our file-transfer test, at least when compared to competitors with SSDs. It took 2 minutes and 47 seconds for the 500GB HDD to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. That comes out to a rate of 30.1 MBps, which is a lot slower than the 114.4-MBps category average. The EliteBook 1040 G2 reached 110.6 MBps, while the Latitude transferred at 150.79 MBps. ThinkPad T460s was the quickest, at 152.3 MBps.
When it came to number crunching, the Z40-C did well, pairing 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 41 seconds. That's just short of the Latitude E5470's time (3:38) but much faster than the thin-and-light-category average of 5:27. The EliteBook 1040 G2, the ThinkPad T460s and the T460 (non-S) all took just over 4 minutes.
MORE: Best Toshiba Laptops
You won't be using this laptop's integrated Intel HD 520 graphics for gaming after work. With a 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark score of 58,445 (the average is 56,266) the notebook is better suited for Facebook games like Words with Friends than more intense titles like Quantum Break or Dark Souls III. The Dell Latitude E5470 broke away from the pack, with a score of 84,394, which is enough for some really low-end gaming, like World of Warcraft on the lowest settings.
Toshiba blew its business competitors out of the water on battery life. The Tecra Z40-C lasted 9 hours and 21 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of constantly surfing the web over Wi-Fi. The category average for thin-and-light notebooks is 7:57, and the EliteBook 1040 G2 (7:11), ThinkPad T460s (7:32) and Latitude E5470 (7:16) were all below average. The ThinkPad T460 (non-S) lasted 13 hours and 12 minutes with its extended battery, but it weighs 0.8 pounds more than Toshiba's laptop.
Toshiba's Tecra Z40-C can stand up to high-pressure situations in the office and still keep its cool. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the notebook measured 87 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 82 degrees between the G and H keys, and 79 degrees on the touchpad. All of these measurements were well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
This business laptop is littered with links to apps you won't use at work. Several shortcuts to the Windows 10 store are pinned to the Start menu, including FarmVille 2: Country Escape, iHeartRadio, Flipboard and Microsoft Jigsaw.
Toshiba offers some of its own software, but not all of it is helpful. Toshiba Central is a giant ad for the company, including a catalog and company social media. The Eco Utility monitors power consumption and lets users make adjustments to decrease their energy usage. The Display Utility promises to enhance picture quality with its Resolution+ mode, but it didn't make a difference in my tests. The Fingerprint Utility lets you enroll your digits for biometric login.
Toshiba offers a three-year standard warranty on the Tecra Z40-C, which is more than the one-year base warranty on most of its competitors. See our Tech Support Showdown to see how well the company solves consumers' problems.
The configuration of the Z40-C we reviewed, the Tecra Z40-C1420, included an Intel Core i7-6600U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. It costs $1,322.99.
Another configuration, the Z40-C1410, comes with a Core i5-6300U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD, for $1,177.99.
Toshiba's website says the Tecra Z40-C has "no-compromise mobility," but if you choose this laptop, you'll definitely have to lower your expectations. Though it has long battery life, the Tecra suffers from an uncomfortable keyboard, a stiff touchpad and a dull, low-res display. A laptop that costs well over $1,000 should have both an SSD and a full-HD screen, rather than entry-level components like a 1366 x 768 panel and a 500GB mechanical hard drive.
For just an additional $30, you can get a Lenovo ThinkPad T460s(starts at $980) with equivalent specs; a vivid, 1080p display; and a lightweight chassis. For $1,480, you can get a Dell Latitude E5470 with powerful performance and a great display and keyboard. The Lenovo's ThinkPad T460 (non-S, starts at $809) weighs more, but it offers much longer endurance, as well as a superior keyboard and touchpad. All things considered, the Z40-C just isn't good enough to be worth the premium.