The Toshiba Tecra M9 is a very comfortable typing machine. The keys have a great feel, providing just the right amount of movement and feedback. Toshiba describes the M9's keyboard as spill resistant. The touchpad and pointer worked as expected, I also found that the left and right buttons used with the pointer control button were very nicely implemented. The keyboard and palm rest area exhibited a bit of movement when used compared to other laptops. However it wasn't enough to cause me any problems. The inclusion of a fingerprint reader for security also enhances the business-centric approach to the M9's design.
Moving around the M9, starting on the front, you will find the indicator light array, a wireless on/off switch, firewire connector, headphone/mic jacks, and volume knob. The left side of the laptop features a modem jack, Kensington lock slot, exhaust port, one USB port, PC-card Slot and the SD card slot. The back of the unit has a serial port, VGA connector, and AC plug port. The right side features two USB ports, the optical bay, and the LAN port.
The audio capabilities were what I expect from a laptop - clear and easy to hear. However I would always recommend using decent headphones for anything you really care to hear well. You can even try a pair of bluetooth headphones using the A2DP profile and the easy device discovery via Vista and Toshiba Bluetooth manager. The headphone jack had none of the telltale hiss and noise you would get from a sub-par connector, indicating good quality parts being used.
Starting up and shutting down the M9 was quick and painless. With this unit's 2GB of memory and the 2.2 GHz T7500 Intel Core 2 Duo processor and nVidia NVS 130M graphics card, I found no noticeable issues while using any of the standard productivity software or even the creative tools (and resource hogs) like Photoshop. Trying any of the graphically intensive games (like Crysis) was problematic and I found there was no point in attempting to squeeze any sort of advanced gaming out of the M9 as the graphics capabilities weren't up to the task. However, all of the games supplied with Windows Vista (quite a long list actually) ran quite well, indicating that the on-board Intel graphics chipset has more than enough horsepower for all the basic stuff. In any case, it's not much of an issue because the M9 is really meant to be a business machine.
Heat and noise didn't appear to be an issue at all for the M9. I kept the laptop running almost constantly for one day and found it quite comfortable to touch. The fan kept up quietly even when I took the laptop into a hot, noisy neighborhood pub to test it out on a public wireless network.
Battery life was as expected, with the standard battery giving about 2.5 hours use (on average). I did find the hard drive shock protection alarm a little on the sensitive side. The warning popped up with the slightest knock of the M9. This feature can be disabled/enabled by pressing the Toshiba Assist button located next to the power on/off on the top of the keyboard.
Cons: Premature drop-off in display brightness. Somewhat oversensitive shock protection alarm. It's a business machine not a game platform, but a bit more graphics horsepower would provide a better all around experience with what is basically a very good laptop. Excellent screen resolution, but off-angle viewing could be better.
Pros: Nice, spill resistant keyboard. Standard three year warranty. Excellent wireless support. Solid build quality. Runs Microsoft Office, Photoshop CS3 and most common business software very smoothly. I was initially a little afraid that the screen on the M9 would be a little on the small side, but after working with the unit for a few weeks I found that the high quality and high resolution more than met my needs. The Toshiba Tecra M9 is a nice business laptop that will more than do the job. Recommended.