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Toshiba Portege R700 review: Hands-on with a high-performance thin-and-light laptop

Meet the Toshiba Portege R700 -- a remarkably light, remarkably thin laptop that should offer remarkable performance too. Oh, and remarkable battery life thrown in for good measure

We're impatient little oiks here at CNET UK, prone to throwing temper tantrums if our computers take longer than five seconds to boot up. But we're also incredibly lazy, and dislike lifting anything heavier than a doughnut. So when Toshiba announced the Portege R700, a laptop that promises both speedy performance and a pleasantly light build, our curiosity was piqued...

Srs bid'ness

The R700 wears a businesslike suit -- matte black being this season's must-have -- and aside from a couple of LEDs by the trackpad and some chrome highlights on the screen's bezel, there's not a whole lot of flashy stuff going on around the R700's magnesium chassis. Note the fingerprint scanner, in case you need to feel like a slightly boring spy.

We're informed that the palmrest features a honeycomb structure that gives added protection to the internal components. Toshiba didn't allow us to hurl the R700 into a brick wall (our standard stress-testing benchmark), so sadly we can't confirm whether this makes much of a difference. It does, however, promise the R700 will stay cool, thanks to 'Airflow Cooling Technology' which should keep fan noise to a minimum by channelling heat more effectively than the disgusting, sweaty laptops we're used to.

Things get a little more exciting when we check out the screen. That's a 13.3-inch LED backlit display with a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. We have to say it was looking very nice indeed, and pleasingly we didn't notice any vision-ruining reflections on the demo model.

Checking out the R700 from the left side, our beady eyes spy a multiformat card reader, VGA out and USB and HDMI ports. There's an eSATA/USB combo port too, should you feel the need to attach an extra hard drive to the laptop. We can't see that coming in handy too often, but it's a useful feature to have in your back pocket.

Hefting the R700, it does indeed feel very light -- in its lightest configuration it weighs in at just 1.3kg, which is lighter than many netbooks. It's thin too, at just 17mm at its thinnest point, 26mm at the thickest.

We're impressed that the R700 features a DVD drive, as normally the optical drive is the first thing to go when manufacturers are on a mission to save space and make machines lighter. We also spy another USB port, Ethernet port and twin 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a microphone. These last two will work happily in tandem with the built-in webcam above the display for Skype conferencing and other businesslike, definitely-non-sexual video-calling applications.

Toshiba reckons the R700 will keep working for up to 9 hours with a six-cell battery. If true, that would be pretty impressive, but wait for the full review when we'll really put that claim to the test.

Core blimey

So -- it's light, and it's thin. Normally this is the point at which we'd tell you about the ultra-weedy super-boring processor that waits inside the laptop, shivering like a frightened mouse and praying nobody asks it to do anything strenuous. The R700 breaks from thin-and-light tradition, however, with the inclusion of Intel's decidedly manly Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. Backed up by a hearty 4GB of RAM, the R700 has proper computing potential.

Portable laptops are all about usability. We like this isolated keyboard, and those large gaps between individual keys are sure to cut down on on accidental mis-types. We're also grateful to see a proper-sized Return key, a great big spacebar and proper arrow keys -- again, all things that tend to be thrown out in the name of saving space and shaving a few grammes off the total weight. As for storage, you'll have the choice of a 320GB hard drive or a 128GB solid-state drive, which we expect to be more expensive.

Stay tuned for the full review in the coming weeks, when we'll fully get to grips with the R700 and find out if it really delivers on its promises of battery life, portability and performance.

The Portege R700 will be available to buy this July -- pricing information is yet to be announced.