Before the influx of low-cost Netbooks, small, thin laptops (then called ultraportables) were typically very expensive. Now, however, it's a little trickier to slap a high price on something just because it's small and light. Toshiba is banking on people realizing that small is one thing, but small, secure, and powerful is quite another.
The Portege R600-series notebook continues the company's run of pygmy portables that provide a level of performance necessary for serious productivity work in an extraordinarily compact, lightweight chassis that won't have you feeling like your making sacrifices for mobility. Note that unlike Netbooks, this high-end ultraportable includes a Core 2 Duo processor and a DVD burner.
The model we tested--the R600-ST520W--didn't leave us wishing we had more or less of anything. Well, unless you include its WiMAX readiness and the fact that we don't live and work in Baltimore.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$2,149/$2,099|
|Processor||1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9400|
|Memory||3GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||128MB Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Business|
|Dimensions||11.1 inches wide by 8.5 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||12.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.4/3 pounds|
The R600's size will get you more stares at the airport lounge than its overall design, but it is an attractive laptop. The biggest issue with the chassis is the amount of flex. The palm rests have a lot of give, and the screen can easily be bowed. We can't say this makes it weaker or more prone to damage than an LCD backed by a stiffer material, but it can't be a good thing.
The notebook is petite without being uncomfortable to use. Its keyboard, touch pad, and complementary buttons are quite usable for frequent extended use, though as an everyday-all-day laptop you'll likely long for something just a little bigger. The same could be said for the 12.1-inch wide-screen LCD, which is just enough room to work comfortably without too much squinting. It offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size and, thankfully, it doesn't have a glossy screen. Actually, it's a transreflective display that allows you to shut off the backlight (there's a button at the top of the keyboard's right side) and use direct light such as the sun to light up the screen. The screen is topped by a Webcam and microphone, as well.
Since the R600 is made for business, it's no surprise there is only a single small speaker next to the power button at the top left of the keyboard, and there are no media controls; at least there's a volume dial at the front-left side of the body. There's also a fingerprint reader between the touch pad buttons for extra security. Toshiba includes its Security Assist software as well for data encryption and password protection of the BIOS and hard drive.
|Toshiba Portege R600-ST520W||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||VGA-out||VGA-out, mini-HDMI or Mini-DVI|
|Audio||Mono speaker, headphone/microphone jacks||Headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, USB/eSATA combo, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Xohm WiMAX||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||None, or DVD burner|
We don't consider this a system people would use as their main computer, despite its cost. That's why it's not a big deal to us that the hard drive is only 160GB. If you've got $3,500 and want more storage and better performance, you can get the R600 configured with a 512GB solid-state drive; $2,500 gets you a version with a 128GB SSD. (That 160GB hard drive just got a lot more attractive, right?) More importantly, you get a built-in DVD RW drive and an ExpressCard slot, giving you backup storage and expansion options. Plus, the USB/eSATA-combo port features Toshiba's Sleep and Charge technology for, you guessed it, charging a device while the notebook sleeps.
Along with Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, Toshiba includes a Xohm WiMAX radio in this build of the R600. We'd love to tell you it works great, but unless you live in Baltimore, Md., or Portland, Ore., (we don't) there's no access to this next-gen wireless Internet service. It gives the laptop a bit of future-proofing should the network continue to roll out into areas in which you live and work.
Despite running on an ultralow-voltage processor, it's an Intel Core 2 Duo capable of some very good performance. It did particularly well on our multimedia multitasking tests, where it outpaced the Dell Adamo and its Core 2 Duo U9300 CPU. In our informal testing, we found the R600 to be adequately powered for typical productivity tasks, including managing large spreadsheets and word processing, working with Web apps, and basic photo editing. We also found it be a much more robust experience than using an Intel-Atom-powered Netbook.