Jewish World Review June 5, 2003 / 5 Sivan 5763

Toshiba's Twisting Tablet PC

By Mark Kellner | Toshiba's Portégé 3500 is a tablet PC tailored, one imagines, to the needs of corporate workers. That it'll fit in well for many home or school users - albeit ones with somewhat deep pockets - is an added plus.

Toshiba's notebooks are very well regarded in the business world as rugged, reliable performers and such they have been. The Portégé 3500 is a solid traveler and hard worker, with a number of useful features. With pricing starting at $2,025, it's an affordable alternative among notebooks.

At the heart of the computer is a mobile Intel Pentium III running at 1.33GHz, and equipped with that firm's "Speed Step" technology, which adjusts power use for various situations, saving (one would hope) some battery life. There's a 12.1" XGA (1024 x 768 pixel resolution) display, which is larger than some Tablet PCs I've seen. A 40 GB hard disk drive and 512 MB of RAM completed the review unit.

The computer is also equipped with slots for a PC Card, a Compact Flash card and a SecureDigital (stet) or "SD" media card - the latter two being part of today's digital camera scene. In fact, teamed with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, I was able to easily take an IBM Microdrive 384 MB hard disk, slip it into the CF slot, and transfer a day's worth of photographs to the computer for editing and e-mailing.

Lacking, however, is a FireWire connection, although the unit does contain two Universal Serial Bus, or USB, ports, as well as an internal modem and built-in Ethernet connectivity. There is an external VGA video port for hooking up to a projector and audio output and input jacks as well. Wireless networking, in the form of 802.11b wireless capability, is built-in, and Bluetooth connectivity is an optional add-on.

Sadly, the computer did not come with a built-in, or unattached, CD-RW or DVD drive. Toshiba is now offering these as either a free option (for the CD-RW drive) or a $99 option (for a DVD drive that reads and writes CDs) through the end of the year. However, these devices require use of the PC Card slot, instead of a USB port.

The screen of the Portégé 3500 is not only good in laptop mode, it's essential, of course, when the computer is used as a Tablet PC. Unlike some other models, this screen easily turns to fold over for tablet use, and controls on the side enable a user to handle most tasks; a built-in program called "Symbol Commander" can summon up other functions and even Web sites such as the Google (stet) search engine.

Having a swiveling display screen is also a nice thing for those giving presentations to small groups - you can turn it around for easy viewing by those sitting around a conference table.

In operation, the Portégé 3500 is a solid machine. It powers up quickly, performs well - over weeks of rather hard testing in various locations and under a range of circumstances, I had no problems. I had no hiccups when running Windows programs, even some esoteric ones. And its claimed weight of 4.1 pounds seems to be easy to handle when roaming an office complex, or schlepping through an airport en route to one's next stop.

By ordering directly from the manufacturer (, users can get an external optical drive either for free or at low cost, solving my one complaint about the unit. Order the Portégé 3500 with 512 MB of RAM - which I'd consider a minimum for any portable PC these days - and the price is $2,205, which, all things considered, is a very good deal on a machine likely to last a very long time.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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