Notebooks haven't changed much in size over the years, which is partly due to the fact that making a keyboard much smaller will also make it harder to type on and a smaller screen usually means it is harder to read what you're typing. A few manufacturers however do take the effort to make smaller notebooks simply to fulfill the demand of those users that can appreciate a smaller notebook. Toshiba is one of those manufacturers and the new Libretto is what I'm referring to. Although Toshiba has had a Libretto product, of about equal small size, a few years ago, this is a whole new notebook, designed from the ground up.
The Libretto is powered by Intel's Pentium M 753 ULV processor which, clocked at 1.2GHz, offers plenty of punch for all your portable computing needs. Despite the fact that many notebooks are equipped with PCIe chipsets these days, Toshiba equipped the Libretto with the tried-and-tested Intel 855 chipset which features the built in Extreme Graphics 2 graphics. Of course the Libretto doesn't set a new record for 3D speed with that chipset, but it has plenty of power for all your mobile needs.
Typing on the Libretto takes a bit of practice before you get it right.
Its 7.2" WXGA, 1280x768 pixels, resolution screen has a novelty as it is backlit by leds, light emitting diodes, instead of the cold cathode tube normally used on notebooks, which should cut back on power drain somewhat. Toshiba also supplies a magnifying loop in the form of a software tool, which is especially handy in well lit environments where the small screen becomes rather unreadable. Another utility that comes pre-installed is the Toshiba Hard Disk Drive Protection, which senses shocks and vibration and subsequently parks the harddisk's pickup heads to prevent damage and possible loss of data.
Although the Toshiba Hard Disk Drive Protection utility seems like a great feature to have it quickly became rather annoying as whilst operating the notebook on your lap and typing on the small keyboard it more often than not parked the pickup heads, causing for our programs to stall and the whole notebook to become unresponsive. Fortunately it can simply be disabled which makes for a much more enjoyable computing experience.
Due to the high resolution and small screen size it is often a bit hard to read.
Although Toshiba quotes the Libretto as having a five hour battery life we couldn't get ours to keep on running for much longer than three. That’s with the screen brightness at maximum and both the wifi and harddisk purring along, and naturally using it just like we would use any other notebook. But obviously we could definitely do better if we reduced the screen brightness, disabled wifi and all other power consuming features, but that makes the notebook a whole lot less useable doesn't it?
As for the keyboard and mouse I have but only one complaint; the pointing device is simply not very well suited to navigate a screen that small, with such a high resolution. And obviously typing blind on such a small keyboard will have you checking for typing errors constantly, but as with all things practice makes perfect, and after having spent a few days with the notebook we could see ourselves improving. The pointing device however remained an issue; hence we connected an optical usb mouse, which made for a huge improvement.
The pointing device, only suitable for the seasoned pointing device user.
Overall the new Toshiba Libretto certainly delivers on packing as much features as possible in a very small notebook. It is about half the size and weight of a normal notebook but offers about 70 to 80% of the performance. The price tag associated with owning something that small and portable is about 20 to 40% more than you’d pay for that full size notebook though, so it doesn't come at a small prize. Nevertheless the Libretto has tremendous appeal for those that want something ultra-portable, yet can't dispense with all the needed features such as wifi, bluetooth, firewire, usb, modem and lan connectivity. If you're looking for something small and portable, yet powerful and complete do check out the Toshiba Libretto, it could just be your ticket.