Built for business users on a tight budget, the 14-inch Toshiba Tecra C40-C1430 combines acceptable mainstream performance with helpful legacy technologies, such as an optical drive and a VGA port. At $650, this Core i5-powered laptop is less expensive than more powerful machines from the likes of Lenovo and Dell. However, it has more than its share of trade-offs, including a low-res display, a shallow keyboard and below-average battery life.
Design and Durability
The Tecra C40's black plastic case has a textured surface with a simple, striated pattern that makes it easy to grab and hold. Its simple, unadorned look appeals to my minimalist taste, but many users will find it bland.
Likely because of its optical drive, the Tecra C40 (4 pounds, 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.9 inches) is a little bigger and heavier than 14-inch competitors like the Lenovo ThinkPad T460 (3.8 pounds, 13.35 x 9.15 x 0.83 inches), the Dell Latitude E5470 (3.88 pounds, 13.2 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches) and the HP EliteBook 745 G3 (3.4 pounds, 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.74 inches). The consumer-targeted Lenovo Ideapad 300S weighs just 3.6 pounds and measures only 13.38 x 9.45 x 0.77 inches.
Disappointingly, the Tecra C40 is not MIL-SPEC 810G tested for durability. Both the Latitude E5470 and the ThinkPad T460 have been designed to meet this standard for enduring extreme temperatures, shocks and vibrations, but Toshiba makes no such claims about its laptop. However, like almost every other business system, the C40 does have a spill-resistant keyboard.
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While small businesses and consumer users will probably find the Tecra C40's security options adequate, enterprise customers could find them lacking. Like most business laptops, the C40 offers a Trusted Platform Module for encryption and remote access. However, it lacks an Intel vPro-capable CPU for device management -- something large IT departments require.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Because of its shallow keys, which offer only 1.26 millimeters of travel (1.5 to 2 mm is normal), the Tecra C40 is far from a touch typist's dream. Using the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I banged out a feeble 40 words per minute, and I wasn't particularly comfortable doing so. The spill-resistant keyboard also lacks a backlight, so forget about finding the tilde key on a dark airplane.
The 3.6 x 2-inch touchpad had a light texture and responded immediately to my swipes and taps. Multitouch gestures, such as pinch to zoom, worked flawlessly. Normally, we prefer touchpads with discrete buttons, but the C40's left and right clickers felt way too stiff.
The Toshiba Tecra C40's 14-inch, 1366 x 768 display outputs dim, bland images with minimal screen real estate. While common on inexpensive laptops, a 1366 x 768 panel has 29 percent less space for viewing documents and multitasking than the 1920 x 1080 screens on many competitors. (A 1080p screen is not even an optional upgrade.)
So, if you get the C40, make sure you practice your two-finger scrolling, and forget about placing two full-size windows side by side. By contrast, the $499 Ideapad 300S comes standard with a 1920 x 1080 display, while both the ThinkPad T460 and the Dell Latitude E5470 have full-HD panels as an option.
Despite the limited number of pixels, I could easily make out details on this display, such as the bushes and broken rocks in the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, images weren't particularly colorful, as the normally azure sky in the Dawn of Man sequence was rendered as a muted blue.
According to our colorimeter, the Tecra C40 can reproduce 67.9 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is nearly identical to the scores from the Ideapad 300S (67 percent) and the ThinkPad T460 (67 percent), but below the EliteBook 745 G3 (84.1 percent), the Dell Latitude E5470 (113 percent) and the thin-and-light average of 84 percent. The Tecra C40's panel isn't particularly accurate at displaying colors, either, as it notched a Delta-E accuracy score of 5.06 (0 is perfect). That pales in comparison to the thin-and-light category average (3.1), the ThinkPad T460 (0.5) and the Latitude E5470 (1.1).
Don't expect a particularly bright screen, either, as the Tecra C40 garnered a barely acceptable 205.4 nits of brightness, making it far dimmer than the Latitude E5470 (278.2 nits), the EliteBook 745 G3 (317 nits), the Ideapad 300S (225 nits) and the ThinkPad T460 (240 nits).
The Tecra C40's front-mounted speakers were loud enough to fill a conference room and accurate enough for spoken-word programming, but too hollow for music. When I played the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band," the C40 lost the richness of Jerry Garcia's acoustic guitar, though other instruments came through more clearly. When I boosted the voice, bass and treble in the preloaded DTS Studio Sound software, the audio quality improved slightly.
The Tecra C40 has almost every port that business users could need, including VGA video-out for companies with old monitors and projectors. On its left side, Toshiba's laptop has an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 port, a Kensington lock slot and an optical drive. The VGA, HDMI, Ethernet and two more USB 3.0 ports are on the right.
With an Intel Core i5-6200U processor; 4GB of RAM; and 500GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, the Toshiba Tecra C40 is fast enough for mainstream productivity tasks. Over a week of daily business use, the system never locked up or lagged as I edited Excel spreadsheets, wrote emails and created presentations.
Toshiba's laptop scored 5,783 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's ahead of the AMD A8-powered EliteBook 745 G3 (5,494), but well off the pace set by the quad-core Core i5-6440HQ-powered Latitude E5470 (9,760), the Core i5-6300U-enabled ThinkPad T460 (6,708) and the thin-and-light average of 6,271. The Ideapad 300S notched a similar score of 5,753.
The C40's 7,200-rpm, 500GB hard drive finished the Laptop Mag File Transfer Test, which involves duplicating 4.97GB of mixed files, in 3 minutes and 7 seconds. That's a rate of 26.9 MBps, which is similar to the rate delivered by the hard-drive-powered Tecra A40 (27.9 MBps) and the Ideapad 300S (28.1 MBps) but miles behind SSD-enabled competitors like the Latitude E5470 (150.7 MBps), the EliteBook 745 G3 (124.1 MBps) and the ThinkPad T460 (175.5 MBps).
On our OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, which sorts through 20,000 names and addresses, the Tecra C40 finished a second before both the Ideapad 300S and the Tecra A40, with a time of 4 minutes and 30 seconds. That's much faster than the EliteBook 745 G3's time of 6:36, but still well behind the Latitude E5470 (3:38) and the ThinkPad T460 (4:13).
While adequate for playing videos and using office software, the Tecra C40's integrated Intel HD 520 GPU isn't fast enough for gaming or serious graphics work. The laptop scored 52,972 on the Ice Storm Unlimited test, which is on a par with the Ideapad 300S (52,840) but lower than the 55,432 average. That places it ahead of the EliteBook 745 G3's 44,377, but it's not in the same league as the Latitude E5470 (84,394) and the ThinkPad T460 (65,981).
You won't be able to go a full workday on the Tecra C40 without an electrical outlet nearby. The notebook tapped out of our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness) after 6 hours and 49 minutes. That's about on a par with the Tecra A40 (6:44) and slightly ahead of the Ideapad 300S (6:25), but way behind the category average (7:53) and the Dell Latitude E5470 (7:16). With its extended battery, the ThinkPad T460 puts Toshiba and Dell to shame, lasting 13 hours and 12 minutes on a charge.
However, you can swap out the Tecra C40's batteries -- that is, if you're willing to fork over $100 for a replacement.
Over a week of use, including a short business trip, the Tecra C40 didn't feel too warm. Despite registering a peak temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit along the undercarriage, the chassis felt fine on my thighs. The touchpad and keys were a cooler 84 and 88 degrees, respectively, which is below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
Toshiba has preloaded several useful utilities on this business laptop. Service Station integrates updates with recalls and warnings. In fact, the software alerted me to a Toshiba battery recall, although it didn't affect our review unit. The laptop also ships with Toshiba Eco Utility, for saving power; Toshiba PC Health Monitor, for keeping the system in working order; and a 30-day trial of the McAfee LiveSafe security app.
The Tecra C40 includes a standard one-year limited warranty. Toshiba also backs the laptop with its Quality Replacement Guarantee, which promises that the company will replace any laptop that experiences a major component failure during that year. However, it's not clear whether getting a replacement system would be any faster or more advantageous than having your existing laptop repaired.
Toshiba currently offers only one configuration of the Tecra C40, which is the C40-C1430 model we reviewed. For $650, this unit includes a Core i5-6200U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
It's not the prettiest laptop at the party, but the $650 Toshiba Tecra C40-C1430 delivers adequate performance, which should allow you to edit documents, crunch spreadsheets or tend to your email. Businesses that still need CDs and DVDs or have VGA-only projectors will find Toshiba's laptop even more useful. However, short battery life, a low-res display and a shallow keyboard make the C40 less pleasant to use than slightly more expensive options. Companies that require serious durability and manageability options will also have to look elsewhere.
If you can afford to spend a couple hundred dollars more, go for the Lenovo ThinkPad T460 ($809 to start), which has an excellent keyboard and epic battery life, or the Dell Latitude E5470 ($779 to start), which has a truly vibrant display. Or, for just $499, you can get the Lenovo Ideapad 300S, which is marketed as a consumer system but provides the 1080p screen and snappy keyboard that Toshiba's laptop lacks. However, businesses with very tight budgets and the need to read DVDs should give the Toshiba Tecra C40-C1430 a serious look.