Toshiba's Tecra C50 is a dependable, no-frills business notebook at an affordable price, but its low-res screen and mediocre touchpad leave something to be desired. Still, this $600 notebook offers plenty of power at the right price point, making it a pretty good choice if you're outfitting a small- or medium-size business with a fleet of midlevel workstations.
The Tecra C50 isn't much to look at, with a pragmatic appearance that lacks the design flourishes of pricier notebooks. Still, its dark-gray polycarbonate shell isn't bad-looking, and the ridged pattern on the lid makes the machine easy to grip.
The C50 feels surprisingly light for a notebook this large, thanks to its lightweight polycarbonate construction. At just 5 lbs., it feels considerably lighter than the Lenovo ThinkPad E550 (5.4 lbs.) and Aspire E5-571P (5.95 lbs.).
Toshiba's notebook is also thinner and has a smaller footprint than its closest competitors, measuring 14.9 x 10.2 x 0.95 inches. The ThinkPad E550 is chunkier (14.84 x 10.08 x 1.06 inches), and so is the Aspire E5-571P (15.02 x 10.08 x 1.04 to 1.24 inches). It's not a machine you'll want to carry on your daily commute, but the C50 is one of the smallest and lightest 15.6-inch notebooks in its price range.
Buying a large notebook at this price point involves some compromises, and the biggest compromise you'll make with the Tecra C50 is screen resolution. The notebook's 15.6-inch screen comes with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, which makes the display feel surprisingly cramped, considering its large size. It's more than adequate for basic office work like editing documents and responding to email, though. Split-screen multitasking feels fine, too, though the low resolution kept me from viewing too much content on-screen at once.
The C50 isn't alone in offering a low-res display. Competing notebooks in the price range, including the Aspire E5-571P and ThinkPad E550, offer similarly underwhelming screens.
The screen also comes with a matte finish, which blocks reflections but has the unfortunate side effect of giving the display a slightly dull, washed-out look. On the bright side, it all but eliminates glare from overhead office lights.
The C50's screen isn't very bright, topping out at 157 nits of brightness at its maximum setting. That's quite a bit dimmer than the 242-nit category average, making the C50 a bit harder to use outdoors or in direct sunlight. But again, it's absolutely fine for office use.
Also note that you can’t get the C50 with a touch screen. That's okay, since a touch panel would make the notebook heavier and more expensive.
Keyboard and touchpad
A good keyboard is an essential part of any business notebook, and the C50 mostly delivers on that front. While I prefer an island-style keyboard, The C50's standard layout features large keys with beveled edges for easy touch typing. There's also a full 10-key number pad to the right of the standard QWERTY layout, which is a big perk if number crunching is part of your job.
The individual keys offer enough feedback to avoid feeling mushy, but key travel is a bit shallow. That's unfortunate, since deeper keys are generally more comfortable to use for extended typing sessions. Still, the C50's keyboard is pretty good overall.
The touchpad, on the other hand, is one of this notebook's big low points. It has a hard, textured surface that didn't allow my finger to glide easily over it, and I frequently found my fingertip "skidding" over the pad in an unpleasant way.
The touchpad also features scrolling zones along its bottom and right edges that let you scroll vertically or horizontally by running one finger over them. Unfortunately, the horizontal zone is much too large, causing me to frequently scroll left and right when I simply wanted to move the mouse. The touchpad already supports two-finger scrolling, so this issue could have easily been avoided.
For those reasons, I recommend that office workers use a USB mouse instead.
I like the dedicated mouse buttons beneath the touchpad, though; many newer notebooks incorporate the buttons into the pad itself, but I think discrete buttons allow for more precision. I also like that the buttons don't produce a loud clicking noise when pressed.
Specs and performance
The Tecra C50 notebook comes in two configurations. The C50-B1503 model, reviewed here, comes with a fourth-generation Intel Core i5-4210U processor, 4GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4400 and a 500GB spinning hard drive for $700. Toshiba also sells the C50-B1500 model — which is powered by a slower Intel Core i3 chip but is otherwise identical — for $580.
Our C50-B1503 offers fine performance for everyday business tasks, though it sometimes felt a bit sluggish during heavy multitasking. I noticed some minor slowdown when I was streaming music from Google Play Music while editing a spreadsheet with about a dozen Firefox tabs open in the background. Performance felt zippy most of the time, however.
Acer's Aspire E5-571P offers nearly identical specifications, but Lenovo's ThinkPad E550 notebook can be outfitted with a slightly speedier fifth-generation Core i5 processor for about the same price as the Tecra C50.
Ports and connectivity
All the ports you could want on a business notebook are here. The left edge has an Ethernet port for wired Internet, a USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack and a DVD drive, a feature you won't find on most smaller laptops. The right side, meanwhile, offers two USB 3.0 ports, as well as an HDMI port and VGA port for linking your notebook to a larger monitor. The VGA port in particular is a nice bonus, since it lets you connect the C50 to many older projectors that use the format. Finally, there's a 6-in-1 card reader on the front edge of the notebook.
The Tecra C50 delivers somewhat disappointing battery life. It ran for just 5 hours and 30 minutes on our battery life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi with the screen set to 100 nits of brightness. That's not terrible for a 15.6-inch notebook, but it's a bit below the category average of 6 hours and 19 minutes.
An integrated front-facing webcam at the top of the C50's lid captures video with good clarity for basic videoconferencing. The speakers deliver clear audio without distortion, so you should have no trouble hearing the person on the other end of the call.
While most modern PCs ship with Windows 8, the Tecra C50 comes with a mostly clean installation of Windows 7 instead. That might be a perk for business users who prefer that operating system's more traditional desktop interface. It's also good for offices, since many businesses haven't upgraded from Windows 7. And since the Tecra C50 lacks a touch screen, you won't miss the touch-friendly controls in Windows 8.1.
The Tecra C50 is exactly what it's meant to be: a basic, dependable notebook for small- and midsized businesses. The machine offers solid performance, a good keyboard and all the ports you could need, including a VGA port.
On the other hand, I wish that Toshiba offered a higher-res screen, though competing notebooks have the same issue. I also strongly dislike the touchpad's rough, unpleasant texture and annoying scroll zones, though a USB mouse can solve that issue easily. Finally, the battery life could be a bit better.
Despite those issues, the notebook's relatively affordable $699 price point makes it a pretty good option for small- and midsize businesses in the market for some new work machines.