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Toshiba thinks it has a Surface competitor in the DynaPad

It's nice enough that even the Microsoft Store is selling it.

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Yes, it's another Surface competitor. So far, before today, we've seen a slew of companies copying Microsoft's tablet-and-keyboard-dock formula, from Apple to Lenovo to Dell to HP. Not keen to sit out a trend, Toshiba is also trying its hand with the 12-inch DynaPad, which the company claims is the world's lightest 2-in-1. It's up for pre-order now, and Toshiba seems confident that it's good enough to win over American consumers. The fact that it's even being sold in the states is notable; the "Dyna" brand isn't exactly a household name here. It's so promising too that even the Microsoft Store will be selling it, and say what you will about Microsoft, but they tend not to sell junk. (When's the last time you saw one of Toshiba's crappy bargain-basement notebooks sold there?)

Gallery: Toshiba DynaPad hands-on | 12 Photos

First, the good stuff. Though its specs indicate that the DynaPad is a fairly low-end product, you wouldn't know it by the design: The 1.28-pound tablet feels at once luxuriously light and reassuringly well-built. The secret ingredient is a carbon fiber frame that's coated in a soft, rubbery paint that makes the device easier to grip than a big-screen tablet ought to be. It also helps that the device has a mix of rounded corners and flat, slightly chamfered edges. I even like the easter egg on the back cover -- the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword," written in Latin. If you're looking for a device that's a tablet first and laptop second, the DynaPad makes a good first impression.

The pressure-sensitive pen also appears to be of good quality. It's made by Wacom, for starters, which should be of some comfort to the pen snobs out there (I know you're out there). All told, it recognizes 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, and there's a special coating on the screen that adds just enough friction to -- say it with me -- make it feel like you're writing on paper with a pen. (It's a cliche, but true.)

I'm mostly a fan of the keyboard too. The buttons are well-spaced and have a generous 1.5mm of travel, making them feel nice and pillowy when you type on them. The metal keyboard also feels as sturdy as the tablet itself, which meant that when I did try typing, I didn't feel much give or flex from the underlying panel. My only gripe is that when you insert the tablet into the keyboard dock, the screen angle isn't adjustable. Based on my experience with similarly designed devices, I've found this can sometimes be a problem when you're trying to use the thing in your lap; that's why I'm so glad Microsoft has honed the Surface kickstand over the years.

Spec-wise, the DynaPad seems on-par with tablets like the Surface 3. Both, for instance, have an Intel Atom-series processor, 1080p display, 4GB of RAM ad 64GB of internal storage. But the prices are stacked in Toshiba's favor. The DynaPad starts at $650 with 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and the keyboard in the box. The Surface 3 starts at a seemingly cheaper $499, but that doesn't include the optional (but may-as-well-be-mandatory) $130 keyboard. That brings the total to $629, and even then the entry-level model has half the RAM of the Toshiba.

I'll stop short of telling you to buy the DynaPad, because I haven't had the chance to live with it; I can't vouch for performance, battery life or ergonomics. But at least as far as specs go, Toshiba seems to be working hard to undercut its bigger rival.

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