The Toshiba NB100 – Does the Toshiba Mini Laptop Really “Lead Innovation?”

The first Toshiba mini laptop is pretty predictable on the whole. The Toshiba NB100 has a glossy 8.9 inch display with 1024×600 resolution, comes with a choice of XP or Linux Ubuntu, features a webcam, microphone, wifi, bluetooth (no 3G as yet), up to 120GB hard disc drive and of course an Intel Atom processor.

So perhaps Toshiba have identified what a netbook is, but what’s the differential? Toshiba, have already an impressive line of laptops, including the Toshiba Portégé R500-10U and are keen to keep its brand and build quality together hand in hand. That’s why, Toshiba claim, people will buy the NB100 – because it’s a toshiba mini laptop.

The NB100 starts at around £259; this is for the down-rated Linux model which has only an 80GB hard drive and 512MB of memory. The Windows XP model will cost nearer £299, but has a 120GB hard drive and a whole 1GB of RAM. The XP model does in this case seem better value for money.

Aesthetically it’s a bit of a mess. The lid looks like it’s been stuck on from another mini laptop, so the lines don’t match up. There are no tapered edges, so the whole thing looks like a box, not helping the lid dilemma. And with these “rough edges”, it does seem to be more susceptible to damage. As for the hideous battery sticking out of the back – Toshiba claim that it helps with grip, it looks to be a liability. The saving grace may well be the choice of three colours.

The battery itself, a 4-cell 5200mAh Toshiba say will tap 3 and a half hours of battery life. This is pretty poor compared with the latest offerings from Asus, but on the whole a pretty average figure among mini laptops. The choice to go for a 9 inch netbook has reaped its rewards in the way of weight – it’s a fantastically lean 0.99kg – that’s the number Toshiba has come up with anyway.

The keyboard is surprising large, perhaps helped by the battery extending out the back, so not to compromise on keyboard size like on the Dell Inspiron Mini 9. The keyboard does also extend all the way to the edges like the Dell and has no missing keys like the Dell. Elsewhere on the interface, the touchpad is again, of reasonable size – remember it is only about the size of a hardback book. The left mouse button is slightly longer than the right, presumably to reflect the amount one gets used more than the other. Beneath the touchpad are the indicator lights, very practical.

On the whole, the Toshiba NB100 is not too dissimilar to any other 9 inch mini laptop already available. Perhaps this is a point in its favour; how comfortable are you buying from relative unheard-ofs or from a big brand like Toshiba? None the less, it is uglier and slightly underpowered compared with the industry leaders. So whilst Toshiba is an established laptop make, it’s hardly front of the pack with netbooks – that goes hands down to Asus. Toshiba’s slogan, “leading innovation” could hardly be more inappropriate…

So could you do better? Yes, the Eee PC 901 – our #1 mini laptop we would still recommend over the Toshiba, and perhaps the Acer Aspire One. but if you want a simple, familiar brand name, ideally with XP then the Toshiba NB100 is for you.