Toshiba Portege R200
A CNET editor hit the nail on the head when she described the ultraportable Toshiba Portege R200 as a "thing of beauty." This featherweight laptop for frequent business fliers has a razor-thin, muted-gray case that weighs less than three pounds. The Portege R200 adds plenty of function to its fine form, including a wide keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and a Wi-Fi on/off switch. It also offers sufficient speed and battery life for most business tasks. All in all, the Toshiba Portege R200 makes a smart, albeit a bit costly, addition to any mobile employee's carry-on.
Measuring 11.3 inches wide, 9 inches deep, and 0.8 inch thick, the Toshiba Portege R200 is a bit wider, deeper, and thinner than competing ultraportables, such as the Dell Latitude X1 and the ThinkPad X41. The very light 2.74-pound Portege R200 still weighs nearly a quarter-pound more than the Latitude X1, which includes a smaller battery, but over a half-pound less than the ThinkPad X41, which comes with a bigger cell.
Fortunately, the Portege R200 is more than just a pretty case. The system's 12.1-inch display with a standard 1,024x768 native resolution provides enough real estate to open two application windows side by side. The laptop lacks the usual stunted ultraportable keyboard, shipping instead with a broad keyboard that allows you to type comfortably for hours at a time. Two programmable buttons sit to the keyboard's left; the first launches the application of your choice, and the second exports video to a TV or an external monitor at the resolution you determine. A convenient fingerprint sensor along the bottom edge helps protect your data without forcing you to remember an alphanumeric password. Our only issue with the Portege R200's design is with its weird mouse buttons, which are molded from a thin piece of plastic covered with a reflective metallic coating. Not only does the coating show off every fingerprint smudge, we suspect it may crack and peel over time.
The Toshiba Portege R200 features all of the ports and slots that the average business traveler requires. The list includes VGA and two side-by-side USB 2.0 ports; Gigabit Ethernet, 56K modem, and headphone jacks; one Type II PC Card slot; and one slot for Secure Digital flash memory cards, which we wish also supported other flash memory types, such as Sony's Memory Stick.
The Microsoft Windows XP Professional operating system kicks off the Portege R200's software package. Like most business laptops, the Portege R200 omits an expensive productivity suite, though it does include the minisuite and Sonic RecordNow 7.0 for use with an optional external CD or DVD burner. In addition, Toshiba bundles several utilities for managing important system functions, such as locating available wireless networks, protecting the hard drive from damage, and altering the included Trusted Platform Module chip that encrypts your sensitive data.
You can buy the Portege R200 via Toshiba's Web site or through a number of retailers. Our test configuration, which is the only one currently available, comes with a fairly high $2,099 price (as of July 2005) for its decent component selection: an ultra-low-voltage 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M processor; 512MB of fast 400MHz RAM; a cost-saving Intel 915GM graphics chip that swipes up to 128MB of main memory to use as VRAM; an average-size 60GB hard drive that spins at a slow 4,200rpm; a 12.1-inch screen with XGA (1,024x768) native resolution; a standard Atheros 802.11b/g wireless mini-PCI card; and integrated Bluetooth. An external secondary optical-storage drive is not included in this price, so you'll have to shell out $249 for a CD-RW/DVD-ROM or $349 for a DVD burner should you want either one.
The Dell Latitude X1 costs $97 less than the Portege R200 for roughly the same parts. It includes an external CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and higher WXGA (1,280x800) screen resolution but a slower 1.1GHz ULV Pentium M processor. And the ThinkPad X41 includes a dock with a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and a faster 1.5GHz Pentium M, though a smaller 40GB hard drive, for just $50 more than the Portege R200.