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3. Hardware description

There are three models of the Libretto currently available outside of Japan. The Libretto 50 (a.k.a. 50CT) has a 75 MHz Pentium and an 800 Mb disk; this model is still widely available although its production has been discontinued. The Libretto 70 (70CT) has a 120 MHz Pentium MMX and a 1.6 Gb disk. Both weigh about 850 grams with their standard batteries, which provide around two hours of use (an optional double-capacity battery, which adds about 100 grams and a 15 mm ``lip'' at the front of the keyboard, powers either model for about four hours). Shortly after I wrote the first version of this document, Toshiba introduced the Libretto 100 (100CT), which has a 166 MHz Pentium MMX and a 2.1 Gb disk; it's a bit larger (1 mm thicker, 17 mm more from front to back) and 100 grams heavier than previous models, and is said to run for 3 hours on its standard battery, or 5 hours with an optional high-capacity battery.

The Libretto 50 and 70 are sold with 16 Mb of EDO RAM (you can and should add another 16 Mb -- currently available at around US$90). The side-lit active matrix screen is about 120x95 mm (the specification is ``6.1 inches diagonally''), with a resolution of 640x480 pixels. The video chip set is a C&T 65550 with 1 Mb of video RAM; using either the port replicator that comes with the Libretto, or the separately available dock, you can drive an external monitor at 1024x768 in 8-bit (256) color mode, or at 800x600 in 16-bit color mode. These Librettos, and earlier models that were distributed only in Japan, come with a single type II PCMCIA slot; the optional dock includes a type III PCMCIA slot that can accommodate a second type I, II, or III card (it's not possible to load the type III slot with 2 type II cards, however). The 16-bit PCMCIA interface does not support CardBus cards. The port replicator and the dock both supply a standard DB-25 parallel port and a DB-9 serial port as well as an HD-15 video port; the dock adds connectors for a PS/2 keyboard and mouse. Librettos have an IrDA 1.0 compliant serial infrared port usable with or without the port replicator or dock. These machines also have built-in 8-bit Sound Blaster Pro-compatible and 16-bit Microsoft Sound System-compatible audio, an internal (monaural) speaker and an odd little stereo headphone jack (an adapter for a standard stereo mini-jack is supplied). There is no sound input, although the necessary pins are accessible on the sound chip if you are willing to void your warranty.

The Libretto 100 comes with 32 Mb of EDO RAM, to which an additional 32 Mb may be added, and an 800x480 active matrix screen driven by a NeoMagic NM-2160 video chip set with 2 Mb of video RAM. The Libretto 100 can accommodate one type III or two type I or II PCMCIA cards internally, and it supports CardBus cards. The optional Libretto 100 dock provides an additional type III slot and an additional type I or II slot, as well as a USB port. I don't have any information about the sound support in the Libretto 100, but it is apparently different from that in earlier models.

The pointing device is a nice bit of engineering, IMHO. It's basically the same pointing-stick device Toshiba has used in its laptops, but mounted on the right side of the screen, with the buttons (two of them) mounted behind the pointer (i.e., on the outside of the case). The pointing stick is covered with a felted rubber bumper about 1 cm in diameter, and you operate it with your right thumb while the other fingers of your right hand fall naturally on the buttons. (It took me only a game of Windows solitaire on a demo model to get used to it, and I'm left-handed -- so no whining, OK? We all hate these things, but the alternatives are worse.) I noticed that the well-used bumper on the demo unit showed signs of wear; Toshiba enclosed six spares with my Libretto, and I imagine that I'll be using them if I don't lose them first.

The external floppy drive (included with US and European models, but reportedly an extra-cost option in Japan) is a proprietary design with a permanently attached PCMCIA card. This turns out to be problematic for installing Linux (more on this subject later). The drive itself is admirably small, but the captive cable makes it a bit awkward to pack up. The floppy drive is not currently accessible from Linux (but see What's new? above for information about an alpha version of a Linux driver). Spare or replacement floppy drives are available for around US$140.

The forerunners of the current models (the 20, which had a 75 MHz AMD 486 CPU, up to 20 Mb of RAM, and a 270 Mb hard drive; and the 30, which had a 100 MHz AMD 5x86 (486-class) CPU, up to 20 Mb of RAM, and a 500 Mb hard drive), and an intermediate model (the 60, which is a 50 with a 100 MHz Pentium) were available only in Japan. These models have apparently been discontinued, although it may still be possible to purchase one via mail order.

A significant advantage of models 60, 70, and 100 over the earlier models is that it is possible to charge the batteries while the computer is in use. Toshiba supplies a very compact universal (100-240V, 50-60Hz) AC adapter/charger. A less compact but still reasonably small auto adapter/charger, also usable in airplanes equipped with Empower in-seat power supplies, is available from Xtend Micro Products,; for the Libretto 50 or 70, get model E407 (15 V, 2 A). Toshiba has recently introduced a similar product (model PWCF302). Libretto 100 owners should check compatibility with both vendors.

At introduction in the US, the 50 sold for about US$2000 (rather expensive compared to other notebooks of similar capabilities); it is now available for less than US$650. The 70 was also introduced at about US$2000, and has dropped to less than US$1600 since the advent of the 100 (currently about US$ 2200). For about US$2550, the Libretto 100CT/NT comes with Windows NT preinstalled; it is otherwise identical to the 100. All other models of the Libretto come with Windows 95 preinstalled.

After reviewing my choices, I took a deep breath, pulled out my charge card, and ordered my Libretto on the web. At the same time, I ordered a Sony PRD-650WN CD-ROM drive, which is packaged by Sony with an Adaptec SlimSCSI PCMCIA adapter. They arrived via FedEx about 18 hours later (really! -- but YMMV). I unpacked the Libretto, set up its AC adapter, started charging its battery, turned it on, answered the few questions needed to finish the Windows 95 setup, and played solitaire. (I lost. I wish Windows 95 came with reversi, like 3.0 did -- now that was a reason to run Windows. Can anyone think of any other reasons?)

I chose the 70 because I expected to keep a Windows 95 partition on my Libretto, and the 810 Mb disk available on the 50 seemed unlikely to be big enough. As it turns out, it's not particularly difficult to replace the disk drive (see, for example, Adorable's Libretto Page,, for information about replacement drives with capacities up to 3.2 Gb).

The choice is now a bit less clear. The Libretto 50 is an amazing bargain at current prices. Even after replacing the original disk with a 3.2 Gb drive for about another US$240, the total cost is less than half of what it was a few months ago, and for many applications, the speed difference would not be noticeable. At the other end of the lineup, the larger screen and longer battery life of the 100 are attractive features (the speed difference and the support for 64 Mb of RAM are also minor advantages), which IMHO are offset by the greater size and weight of the 100 (OK, there's not much difference, but the Libretto is attractive in the first place because of its size).

These notes about installing Linux on the Libretto 70 should be applicable to the Libretto 50, except for the details about partition sizes. Much of this material should also apply to the Libretto 100, but the details of setting up the X server will be different because the NeoMagic chip set is not supported by XFree86 (but see NeoMagic X Server for Linux on Laptops,, for a free but unaccelerated X server that has been reported to work on the 100). Sound support on the 100 may also require different settings.

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