Slim Down at School
If you’ve been lusting after Toshiba’s super-slim KiraBook, but can’t figure out how to hide its price tag in your school’s budget, there’s another way. Many of the advances that Kira boasts can be had in its slightly bigger and heavier cousin, the Tecra Z40. Starting at $750, the Z40 is an Ultrabook that’s priced for schools.
At 3.3-pounds, the Z40 will be one of the lightest notebooks at your school, which means that it will be easier to carry from class to class than that 6-pound benemoth you have. On the other hand, it is slightly heavier than Kira. Its gray plastic case is sturdy and should stand up to daily abuse at school. The system is 0.8-inches thick and takes up 13.2- by 9.2-inches of desk space. With the system’s small AC adapter, the Z40 has a travel weight of 3.8-pounds.
The Z40 has a big advantage: rather than the KiraBook’s 13.3-inch screen, the slightly larger Z40 carries a 14-inch display. It can show 1,366 by 768 resolution, which is much more pedestrian than Kira’s 2,560 by 1,440 display. It should be fine for most schoolwork and Toshiba has a 1,600 by 900 screen option that adds a mere $30 and is money well spent. The Z40’s screen uses Intel’s HD Graphics 4400 hardware, but the display isn’t touch-sensitive.
Around its edge, the system has great connections, including ports for three USB 3.0 devices, audio and the system can accommodate projectors old and new with HDMI and VGA ports. The machine can be snapped into Toshiba’s $140 port replicator that can make desk work a lot easier by charging the system and consolidating all of the machine’s cables.
The good news is that you can chuck the cable because the Z40 works with Intel’s WiDi wireless audio-video system for projecting a lesson without wires. The bad news is that the software doesn’t come installed. You’ll need to find and load the WiDi yourself and have a receiver connected to a monitor, TV or projector.
Unlike many Ultrabooks, the Z40 has a wired LAN adapter, along with 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. The system has a comfortable 18.4mm keyboard with backlighting, a big bonus for those who teach in the dark or are night owls.
It has a large touchpad and a pointing stick with separate actuation buttons for each. Rather than above the keyboard, the Z40’s speakers are under the front edge of the system that aims the sound at the user. With DTS it sounds good with bright and clear sound that doesn’t sound tinny.
As opposed to most new machines, the Z40 has security well covered. In addition to a fingerprint scanner, the system has a Trusted Platform Module for secure remote access.
There are Tecra Z40 systems that start at $750 with a Core i3 processor, but I looked at the A1402 model, which is top shelf all the way and will likely be overkill at schools. It brings together a 2.1GHz dual-core Core i7 4600U processor and 8GB of RAM with a 500GB hard drive. That makes it one of the most powerful notebooks at just about any school.
It has an SD flash card reader, but like so many slim systems these days, it does without an optical drive. Toshiba sells a $60 DVD SuperMulti drive that connects with a short USB cable, but the black drive doesn’t match the design of the Z40.
Ironically, the Z40 outdoes Kira and most other notebooks when it comes to battery life. Its 4,100 milli-amp hour cells were able to power the system for an astounding 7 hours and 11 minutes of playing YouTube videos without a break. That’s more than an hour and a half longer than Kira and plenty for a day or two of schoolwork without a recharge. On the downside, the Z40’s battery pack can’t be changed when it’s out of juice.
While the Z40 came with Windows 7 Pro, it includes a license and the discs to upgrade it to Win 8.1. The system has Norton Anti-theft and Internet Security software preloaded with 30-days of service and updates.
The system’s warranty offers a big bonus. Rather than a standard one-year of coverage, the Z40 has a three-year warranty, an add-on that can be worth as much as $300 on other notebooks, making the Z40 a high-performance bargain.
Even with the three-year warranty and its exceptional configuration, the Tecra Z40’s $1,429 price tag is out of reach for most schools. On the other hand, the base Core i3 Z40 model at $750 is the perfect balance between power and price.
+ Size and weight
+ 3-year warranty
+ Exceptional battery life
+ 802.11ac WiFi
- No touch-screen
- Can’t change battery