The Toshiba Portege R600 is the follow-up to the Portege R500, famously claimed by Toshiba to be the lightest laptop in the world. The R600 boasts a number of improvements, including superior build quality, better battery life and better wireless capabilities. It's available directly from Toshiba and comes in four configurations, starting at around £1,100.
The R600 looks identical to the R500, which is no bad thing. It's pretty attractive for a business-orientated laptop, although, if it's all-out sexiness you want, you should probably consider the Sony Vaio TZ series.
The R600 is just as light as the R500, which is no mean feat. The R600-108 variant -- which uses a solid-state drive and has no optical drive -- tips the scales at 773g, while those with mechanical hard drives and optical drives weigh just 1.1kg.
Despite weighing so little, the R600 is better-built than its predecessor. The wrist rest doesn't buckle under the weight of your hands, and there's much less flex in the keyboard. The screen still flexes, but not to the same disconcerting degree as the R500's.
The keyboard seems unchanged from the previous model. It's still fairly comfortable to use, it's still spill-resistant to 100cl of liquid, and the left shift key is still slightly too small for our tastes.
The mouse trackpad causes us slight consternation because the dedicated vertical scroll strip, which lets you move vertically through documents with a swipe of a finger, is a touch too sensitive. We often found our documents zooming up or down randomly while we were undertaking the simplest of cursor tasks, meaning we had to adjust the sensitivity manually via software.
Secure logins seem to be high on the R600's list of priorities, and that's no surprise considering the audience it's aimed at. Not only does it have a fingerprint reader nestling between the mouse selector buttons but it also packs face-recognition software that uses the integrated webcam to distinguish between authorised users and potential data thieves. Both login methods are pretty effective, but we were drawn to the facial-recognition feature for the sheer novelty factor.
The R600 is available in four separate configurations. The £1,100 entry-level machine uses a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 CPU, while the three remaining models, costing around £1,300, £1,600, and £1,700, all use the slightly quicker SU9400, running at 1.4GHz. All use 3MB of DDR2 800MHz RAM but can be upgraded to 5GB of RAM should 3GB start to feel sluggish.
Storage on the entry-level system is a paltry 160GB. The next model up gets a 320GB disk, while the two top-rung systems make do with a 128GB SSD. SSDs provide less storage, admittedly, but their lack of moving parts means they're less prone to damage, draw less power and weigh less than mechanical drives. All versions except the £1,600 R600-108 ship with a DVD rewriter drive.
The R600's wireless capabilities are very good. All versions except the entry-level model include an integrated mobile-broadband modem, so users can access the Internet in any location covered by a 3G mobile-phone signal. All flavours of the R600 come with high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi support, as well as Bluetooth.
Those who do attempt to go online outdoors should find the R600's 12.1-inch transflexive screen easy on the eye. The image quality isn't very good -- there's considerable backlight bleeding from the bottom and top edges of the panel, and the viewing angle is very limited -- but its matte finish is well-suited to outdoor use.
In addition, because the screen is of the transflexive variety, it can use ambient light instead of the built-in backlight to prolong battery life. A button on the top left of the keyboard enables or disables this feature. It's not a perfect solution, though -- there's often insufficient ambient light to see the screen properly, so you end up using the internal backlight anyway.
Like the R500 before it, the R600 comes with a three-year international warranty. Software includes Windows Vista Business, InterVideo WinDVD, Norton Internet Security 2009 (with 90 days of free updates), Ulead DVD MovieWriter and a variety of Toshiba's own software.
Our £1,300 R600-11B review sample incorporates an SU9400 CPU running at 1.4GHz and 3GB of RAM. That this is a pretty solid foundation for an ultra-portable, business-orientated laptop is borne out by the PCMark05 benchmark score of 3,843. It's noticeably quicker than the R500.
Toshiba says the R600's battery will last for just short of 8.5 hours. That's an advance on the 7.5 hours claimed for the R500, but, in our tests, it failed to get anywhere near either mark. It lasted 2 hours and 14 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test -- an improvement on the 1 hour and 37 minutes achieved by the R500. Bearing in mind that netbooks like the Asus Eee PC 1000HE lasted nearly 6 hours in the same test, it's hardly that impressive.
The Toshiba Portege R600 has plenty to offer. It's tremendously light, has a good keyboard, and offers a screen you can use in most lighting conditions. The battery life isn't as impressive as we'd hoped, but, alongside the Sony Vaio TZ series, it's among the best ultra-portables currently available.
Edited by Charles Kloet