Should Tablet PCs make noise?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005
There's been a lot of discussion about Tablet PCs and whether they are disruptive. (See also Michael Hyatt's thoughts. ) Good discussion; however, I still decided to order a new Tecra M4 Tablet PC and blogged about it.

What will change my mind about the Tablet PC is the noise level produced by CPU fan.  I frequently attend meetings with clients where, Tablet or not, the whine of a CPU fan would be very disruptive.  In one of my management classes, a colleague has a laptop with a very loud CPU fan. The whine of the fan is so disruptive that she usually turns her computer off during lectures. (So much for disruptive technology.)

I will be very disappointed if my new Tablet PC makes enough noise that I have to turn it off in order not to bother others.  If it does, I can give you 4900 reasons why I will send it back promptly.

Many readers have written to ask me what I know about the noise-level of the Toshiba Tecra M4. I don't know anything yet. I'm still waiting for my Tablet PC to arrive.

I decided to take matters into my own hands; I contacted my helpful Toshiba sales representative to find out what she had to say about this.

Here's a summary of our exchange.

My question to Toshiba re: possible CPU Fan noise with the M4:
I have some concerns about fan noise on the Tecra M4 - Is it OK for meeting/classroom use?

A few readers have written to me, or posted on my blog, with concerns about the noise level of the Tecra M4. The concern is that excessive fan noise might make the Tablet too disruptive for use in a meeting or a classroom. I share this concern. I've been in meetings where someone -- usually with an older laptop - has a loud fan. It's very disruptive.

My ThinkPad T42p fan is almost unnoticeable after startup. It is my hope that the new Tecra M4 fan will be as quiet.

Would you please respond to this issue for me?  I'd like to put these concerns to rest.

Thank you,

Eric Mack

Toshiba responded promptly:
Hello Eric,
I have been informed that the Tecra M4 does have a louder fan then some of the other models.  I do understand your concern, however if this remains a problem for you after you receive the notebook we have a 15 day return policy, there will be no penalty to you.  Thank you

My follow-up question:
Thanks, for the swift reply.

I'm looking forward to receiving the new Tablet, as I will use it for client demonstrations and in meetings in a conference room.

Can you tell me, subjectively, how much louder? Are we talking Jet engine-loud?

If you are sitting at a conference table, will the people across and adjacent to you be able to hear it?  My main concern is whether (or not) this will cause the Tablet to be a disruption.


And The response from Toshiba:
Toshiba does not consider the fan a distraction.  However due to the upgrade in the processing speed; the power in the new FSB generates more heat.  Therefore, the fan must regulate this increase. I am told it is louder then the Tecra M2.  To be completely honest with you I personally have not seen the new Tecra M4.  I have not heard any negative feedback.   I do hope that when you receive your notebook you will not find the fan to be a problem, I know this machine offers many new awesome benefits.  I want you to be happy with your notebook, so please let me know if this becomes a concern for you when you work with it.  
Thank you

There, you have it. Once I receive the M4, I'll compare the fan noise to the IBM ThinkPad T42p on my desk and let you know about my experience.

Discussion/Comments (14):

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

For what it's worth and I know we're talking apples and oranges here, the fan noise on my M200 has never been enough to cause a distraction. We all have different thresholds, so it will be interesting to see (hear?) what you discover.

When's the delivery scheduled to be?

Posted at 5/3/2005 1:06:54 PM by Warner Crocker

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

Sounds like a similar phone conversation I had with the Toshiba representive several days ago. Thanks for posting your recent exchange, it was quite helpful. Comparing the Tecra fan noise with your ThinkPad sounds like a great idea, and it's comforting to know Toshiba has a 15 day return policy. I wonder if they've ever worked with their notebooks in meetings to do a real world test re: disruptiveness...

Posted at 5/3/2005 5:47:43 PM by Michael Willits

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

The truth is that people react differently to certain pitched and frequency noise. I know some people that cannot stand to be around high pitched noise, even if fairly quiet. Other people won't even hear the noise, much less find it objectionable. Best to wait and see for yourself.

Posted at 5/3/2005 7:24:32 PM by James Kendrick

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

True, but understandably I'm willing to hear as many others' opinions as well before I drop $3 grand :)

Posted at 5/3/2005 7:48:57 PM by Michael

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

On my Toshiba m200 you can set the cooling performance to "Battery optimized" which will rather slow down the cpu than turning on the fan when it gets hot.

I guess the M4 will have the same feature.

Very useful for meetings. Still plenty of performance for taking notes with that setting.

Posted at 5/3/2005 11:41:43 PM by Thomas Boehme

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

Was really good to hear about your concerns on the fan noise, as it would greatly affect my own buying decision.

So, Eric, having used the M4 for a while, what is your conclusion? Is it disruptive? Is it a constant noise level or accelerating? And finally, can you avoid it by changing the cpu/cooling settings?


Posted at 7/18/2005 11:55:02 AM by Grizman

re: Should Tablet PCs make noise?

See previous posts on this. Yes, you can regulate it. I like the M4 hardware, software implementation is currently disruptive. ymmv

Posted at 7/18/2005 1:15:36 PM by Eric Mack

M4 Fan Noise! It’s a real distraction.

And, it's constantly changing pitch due to internal processes kicking off or heavy IO/CPU usage.

I get looks all the time and it's a pain!

Posted at 11/7/2005 8:25:28 AM by John

What settings did you change on the M4?

What settings did you change and what were the results? I want the readings in decibels please. :-)

Posted at 11/7/2005 8:27:37 AM by John

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

Just purchased the new TOSHIBA SATELLITE M60-164 (£1200), it too emits an incredibly anoying (yet subtle) high pitched whine, gets to the point where you need to turn on some sound/music etc before it starts to drive you insane. Very tempted to return this otherwise fantastic Laptop.

Posted at 11/14/2005 5:00:55 AM by Denis

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

I have the same problem with the high pitch noise. The worst thing is that it's getting louder to the point that I'm about to buy a heavy hammer.

Anybody knows what to do about this annoying issue?


Posted at 12/13/2005 1:28:00 PM by M.Albert

Should Tablet PCs make noise?


I purchased the A 105, and it too is emitting a high-pitched noise from the left-side of the laptop. I suspect the hard drive, but I notice that you control the sound level by controling the cpu processor speed. But it doesn't eliminate it.

But has anyone found the absolute solution to this problem? I would appreciate it if someone can share some thoughts on this.

Posted at 3/1/2006 5:13:04 PM by Mark

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

My tecra M4 is so damn loud and disruptive that i wished that i had not purchased it. When I called toshiba tech support they pretended like I was the first person to call in and complain. And the end result was I got no help but i still have a very loud very expensive notebook that is very irritating to be around...whether I am alone studying or in the lecture hall hiding from annoyed students that have to listen to this animal howl everytime it is on. It sucks and I would have not purchased it had I known...$3K...ridiculous!

Posted at 3/5/2006 1:49:41 AM by kevin

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

Some tablet computers are very loud, such as the Fujitsu that I have. We have researched the Motion Computing tablets for our meeting recording software and apparently they are very quiet (see { Link } Their older models had no fans. The current models have fans but customers have indicated that they are still very quiet.

Posted at 3/14/2006 1:00:54 PM by Alan Bartholomew

Discussion for this entry is now closed.