After the arrival of Eee PC rivals from HP, Acer and MSI, the talk of laptop town is all about the next installment of ‘Who’s Got the Tiniest Notebook’. We love the little things as much as the next gadgeteer, but it’s worth remembering that better-specced notebooks are clocking in at outrageously reasonable prices, without compromising on looks or build quality.

Take Toshiba’s new U400. Tipping the scales at less than two kilos, it looks ace. It’s an all-plastic notebook, but the shiny graphite finish has that carbon-fibre feel of a high-class sports car, and the panel of touch sensitive media controls across the top is brightly backlit.

Slippery customer

It’s not all good, though. The keyboard has the fake shine of Simon Cowell’s Photoshopped smile rather than the feel of quality construction, while the slightly raised and textured mousepad not only feels strange to the touch, it has your fingers skidding of the edge all too often.

Despite the performance styling, there’s not a lot to shout about inside the Tosh, either. Wireless-N is notable by its absence, and the 1.8GHz processor is the equivalent of putting a Micra’s engine in a Ferrari.

Further furrowing our brows is the quality of the screen: apparently it has ‘TruBrite’ technology, which must be a synonym for ‘poor viewing angles, washed out contrast and low resolution’. Mind you, it is very bright.

Good value

There’s one more thing that undermines the U400’s stylish pretentions, and that’s the phenomenal amount of bloatware that comes pre-installed.

When we first powered the machine up there were no less than 18 icons in the clock area and 15 on the desktop, plus two gaudy adverts for eBay and Amazon in the Sidebar. Perhaps without all that rubbish running battery life would be slightly better than the two hours we got out of it.

Having said all that, though, the Tosh does offer fair value for money. Compared to the rather less attractive but equally light bargain-tops from Advent and Philips that you can pick up from PC World these days, it’s not a bad choice at all for the style conscious on a shoestring.

On the other hand, a MacBook with a slightly smaller hard drive and memory is the same price, while Dell’s XPS m1330 offers all the same features with a faster processor and even better design for just £100 more. And with a battery that lasts over twice as long.


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Toshiba U400 review

Its sports car looks hint at nimble performance, but the U400’s slow processor and poor battery mean it can’t keep up with the competition