Toshiba Jumps on Sonoma bandwagon with new M45 and Tecra A3

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Intel has caused a stir with the unveiling of its latest Centrino Mobile Technology, the so-called Sonoma chipset. Several PC makers, such as Dell and IBM, have jumped at the chance to package the Sonoma technology in new notebook models. Now Toshiba joins the fray, introducing its Tecra A3 and Satellite M45 laptops in January 2005.

It’s easy to get drawn into the Sonoma hoopla. An Intel Pentium M processor with 533 MHz front-side bus, DDR2 memory, a Mobile Intel 915 Express Chipset, and integrated Media Accelerator 900 graphics – the Sonoma is like an aged California cabernet for those of us with digital proclivities. For the typical home or business user, the new Intel technology is just as intoxicating. The chip package can power a laptop to dizzying new heights in wireless connectivity, mobile security, and audio and visual performance.

Out of the new Toshibas that offer these capabilities, the Tecra A3 notebook is the more affordable of the two, with an estimated base price of US$1,099. For the investment, you get an array of standard hardware, beginning with the eyes and ears of Intel mobile technology, the Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 BG Network Connection card, a 802.11(b)b/g wireless LAN. The hard drive packs 40GB, the memory 256MB, which can be expanded to 2GB.

The Tecra A3 features a unique one-touch undocking feature, which simplifies desk-to-mobile working. Its standard optical disc drive is an integrated CD-RW/DVD-ROM. Enjoy your latest movies and games on the Toshiba’s 15-inch XGA display. Another of the computer’s major multimedia features is ConfigFree, a utility for managing your wireless world, along with the three USB ports and 10/100 Ethernet.

With a base price of US$1499 to US$1729, the Toshiba Satellite M45 notebook packs your briefcase with all of the above Sonoma technology, along with a more advanced array of features and more powerful hardware. Case in point: the M45 offers an 80GB hard drive in the M45-S331 model or a 100GB hard drive in the M45-S351 model. The more powerful version zips along with a 1.73 GHz Intel Pentium processor, compared to the 1.60 GHz in the M45-5331 and the Tecra A3.

The M45’s multimedia components are more extensive, as well. Not only does its IEEE 1394 Firewire port facilitate data transfer, but this Toshiba also simplifies digital data movement, such as from a camera or MP3 player, with its bridge media adapter, which is compatible with SecureDigital, Multimedia, MartMedia, MemoryStick, and other memory cards. Then there’s the DVD-SuperMulti drive for reading and writing on most CD and DVD formats.

To fully appreciate a DVD and all of your digital video files, you have the M45’s 15.4-inch wide-screen display and its 1280×800 TruBrite resolution. To feel your audio files, turn up the Harmon/Kardon speakers with SRS virtual surround sound capability.

When compared to the M45, the Tecra A3 may seem lacking. Even the M45 may seem wanting when compared to other notebooks (e.g., where’s the built-in Bluetooth?). What the new Sonoma-based Toshibas may have on their competition, though, could be their unique service and warranty options. For both the M45 and the Tecra A3, you can choose from the standard one-year warranty, extended warranties with at-home support, carry-in support at local authorized service providers, mail-in support at a UPS shipping store, or, finally, Ask Iris Online, an instant connection between you and Toshiba engineers and technical support personnel.

With such service to support all of the above features, one of these new Toshibas should match your computing needs, whether you’re a co-ed, a university professor, a homemaker, or a businessperson.

By Matthew Brodsky