Toshiba's Tecra C50 series isn't just any new crop of laptops. The product line also marks a shift in the company's mission, as Toshiba seeks to broaden its business footprint.
Toshiba announced last week that it was reducing its PC workforce by 900 people, but the company has since clarified that its "U.S. consumer business will remain intact and we will continue our focus on both the consumer and enterprise markets." In a conversation with Cindy Zwerling, the product marketing manager for Toshiba's new Business Solution Division, I learned the PC manufacturer intends to redouble its effort to sell PCs to small and medium-sized businesses.
"A lot of manufacturers will take a consumer device, put a professional operating system on it, and say 'Here's an SMB laptop!'" said Zwerling. "We've always been very strong in the enterprise market. We wanted to take the enterprise-class Tecra that we've done so well with and bring that to the SMB market."
The result is the 15.6-inch Tecra C50-series laptop, which will be available with an Intel Core i5 processor, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) V1.2 for added security, 4GB of DDR3L/1600 memory, a 500GB hard drive, and a built-in DVD burner for $700. A SKU with a Core i3 processor (but without TPM support) will also be available for $580.
"We've done all the same durability testing with this machine that we do at the enterprise level," Zwerling said. Being targeted at small business owners, a crowd that tends to be more conservative when it comes to changing operating systems, the Tecra C50 will come with Windows 7 Pro pre-installed, but with a Windows 8.1 Pro license (and recovery media) should the buyer want to make the switch.
Toshiba backs the systems with the typical one-year warranty, but the company is offering an additional quality guarantee. "We wanted to put our money where our mouth is," said Zwerling. If the laptop's LCD panel, hard drive, memory, or system board should fail in the first six months of ownership, Toshiba will replace the entire unit. You'll have to ship the unit to Toshiba first, however, so you'll be down one laptop while you wait for it to get there and a fresh unit to wend its way back to your door. But that might take less time than waiting for a machine to be repaired, and it will reduce the chances of your getting a lemon that will have additional problems down the road.
PCWorld already has a Core i5 review unit, and I had a chance to play with it before handing it off to the lab for benchmarking. I noted that its 0.95-inch, 5-pound enclosure is fabricated largely from a textured plastic that resists fingerprints. And unlike the majority of Toshiba's consumer-oriented notebooks, the Tecra C50 has a user-removable battery, so business travelers may swap it out for a second battery on the road. Zwerling said the 45-watt-hour battery will deliver 6 hours and 48 minutes of useful life.
The Tecra C50 is outfitted with both HDMI and VGA ports, so it's well suited to both new consumer displays and legacy monitors and video projectors. DisplayPort, on the other hand, is not supported, and the 15.6-inch display is a TN panel that delivers poor off-axis viewing and relatively low native resolution of 1366x768 pixels. The machine does have three USB ports (two of which are USB 3.0), a gigabit ethernet port, an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter, a headset port, a media card reader, and a Kensington security-lock port.
The new C50 series laptops will be distributed exclusively through Ingram Micro, so Toshiba will not be offering them for direct sale from its online store. "We'll list the C50 series on our website, but with links to specialist resellers such as CDW," said Zwerling. "These resellers provide soup-to-nuts services to support small businesses, ranging from asset tagging to tech support. They can do image loads, perform monthly service updates to take care of the customer's anti-virus needs--they can even etch the lid."
We're benchmarking and battery-testing Toshiba's Tecra C50-B1503 now and will have a full hands-on review soon.