- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2000

Take the functions of a good desktop computer, shrink them into a portable package, and the result should be universal satisfaction.

Certainly the Satellite 2775XDVD from Toshiba America Corp., a consumer-focused device recently launched, has the basics of a winning package: a Pentium III processor running at 650 MHz, a 14.1-inch active-matrix color display, a DVD-ROM drive and connectors to play DVDs and computer presentations on a television screen. There's even a handy "one touch" button to connect a user directly to the Internet, and it will play music CDs with the rest of the system powered down.

But the whole of this computer, price $2,199, is not really greater than the sum of its parts. Things that I have been able to tolerate on earlier Toshiba models have somehow become a bit more burdensome with this model. And there's one performance quirk the nature of which I haven't truly figured out just yet that is plainly annoying, so much so that it's tempting to say thanks, but no thanks to this computer.

Tempting, but not a firm "thumbs down," however; there are paradoxes aplenty with this computer. The price, which recently dropped by $200, is a strong attraction. Even though it's higher than many portables, there's plenty of value for money here. For the traveler or college-bound student, this unit can do double or triple duty as a computer, CD player and DVD entertainment system, working well in a small space.

Certainly there's nothing to complain about with the computer's display: the active-matrix screen is sharp and clear; graphics and text appear clearly. And a 12-GB hard disk drive is nothing to sneeze at: it's large enough to hold a fair amount of work. The sound quality of the system is ideal; whether playing streaming audio or music CDs, this machine can belt out tunes with the best of them.

So what's not to like? A couple of things. One is the memory. Out of the box, you get 64 Mbytes of RAM, and, frankly, that's just too little for most power users. I ran into constant, continuous latency problems with the screen redrawing when switching among several programs, something I don't encounter on a desktop PC with 128 Mbytes of RAM, nor on an older portable with only 64 Mbytes of RAM. Toshiba says the Satellite 2775XDVD can be upgraded to a maximum of 192 Mbytes at a cost of $229 (ordered separately), however.

Yet adding optional memory, in my opinion, doesn't make up for the basic flaw in this system, which is that more RAM should come as a standard feature. I would suggest 128 Mbytes as a minimum configuration, something today which can only be obtained with a $129 option.

My other letdown with the system is the recurring spinning up and spinning down of the computer's hard disk, which also seems to trigger a cooling fan of some stripe. The result is, again, somewhat jerky operation for a few seconds, but also for a fair amount of noise at the most distracting times, such as when clicking on a new Web page link or starting a new application.

The keyboard on the Satellite 2775XDVD is comfortable enough, but for some reason, this time around, the odd placement of the Windows menu key (in the upper right corner) was a bit irritating. The computer's pointing-stick mouse device is OK, but does take some adjustment.

On the plus side, users will want for very little with this computer. There's a built-in modem, and two PC Card slots, which nicely held several wireless antennas and an Ethernet adapter card. A built-in Ethernet adapter would be a nice touch, however.

Overall, the Toshiba Satellite 2775XDVD is a good machine, a solid performer, and certainly an excellent value. However, its quirks and quibbles were a bit off-putting to me during two three-day road trips, and you might want to very carefully examine this system sold at retail outlets before making a final decision. Your mileage may vary, as they say, and you might find this a thoroughly compatible traveling companion. But be warned: It'll take some getting used to.

More information on Toshiba portables can be found at www.tais.toshiba.com.

• Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002;e-mail [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.markkellner.com.

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