Toshiba Portégé R500 review
Slim, good-looking and affordable - and you can even work outside in sunlight. Just note the niggles.
Review Date: 13 Aug 2007
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: (£1,222 inc VAT)
On the face of it, the Sony TZ12 and the Toshiba Portégé R500 have plenty in common. They weigh practically the same, have similar-sized screens, and share ridiculously tiny dimensions. Both use Intel's ultra-low voltage range of Core 2 Duos and both will happily fit into the very smallest of shoulder bags.
Yet while the Sony costs £2,099 (inc VAT), the Toshiba weighs in at nearly £800 less. If you think that means there's no reason to be tempted by the more expensive Sony, though, think again - the R500's build quality is noticeably less impressive than that of the TZ12. In particular, the Portégé's chassis has a plasticky feel, with a little too much flex in the palmrest for our comfort. As such, the R500 is just that little less reassuring when the time comes to stuffing it in a bag or running for that train.
The different scale of budget shows through when it comes to usability, too: the keyboard in particular feels noticeably spongy. That said, the keys themselves are bigger leading to more accurate typing.
The big on-paper advantage the R500 holds over the TZ12 is the screen, for Toshiba has designed this Portégé to be used outside. It achieves this through transflective technology, and it definitely works: even in bright sunlight, we could see the screen's contents without any sort of strain. The 12.1in diagonal and 1,280 x 800 widescreen resolution is fine for office work, and we're also pleased that Toshiba has resisted a showroom-friendly glossy finish.
The transflective screen does have some weaknesses though. Horizontal viewing angles are poor, with a difference in contrast noticeable even when you view the screen from dead-on. Vertical viewing angles are no better, and the backlighting on our sample was noticeably uneven, with obvious amounts of light leaking from the top and bottom of the screen.
Another drawback of the R500 becomes noticeable when you pop it on your lap for a spot of train-bound work. Even when simply running Microsoft Word, the R500 gets uncomfortably hot. Toshiba wards off lawsuits from workers with burnt knees by including a warning sticker on the bottom, but the amount of heat is very unwelcome. The Sony TZ12 includes exactly the same processor, but has nowhere near the same amount of trouble dissipating the heat. Part of the reason for this heat build up is the R500's largely passive cooling - even when working hard it remains virtually silent.
The processor in question is Intel's Core 2 Duo U7600, running at 1.2GHz. 1GB of RAM is included, and although the R500's final application benchmark result is an underwhelming 0.56, we never had that wading-through-treacle feeling when browsing the internet or working on documents. Start photo editing with a couple of applications open, though, and it's a different story.
On the plus side, battery life improves as a result of the ultra-low power processor and a lack of battery-draining fans. In light use, we saw an excellent 6hrs 19mins. Intensive use saw the system's single fan kick in, and the amount of time it could survive away from the socket fell to 2hrs 23mins. Both times are impressive, albeit some way off the solid-state TZ12's amazing 7hrs 54mins under light use and 4hrs 19mins in intensive use.
One area where the R500 has a big advantage over the TZ12 is storage: 120GB coming courtesy of an old-fashioned mechanical hard disk. The drawback is a little more fragility (setting off the R500's protective hard disk sensor is incredibly easy at default settings) and higher power draw, but the result is a much lower price. Like Sony, Toshiba has managed to fit an optical drive into its tiny machine, with the drive capable of writing to all kinds of disc including DVD-RAM.
- Apple slaps down Google and police, as it takes high ground on user privacy
- Amazon releases high-end Kindle Voyage Touch
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Virgin carpeted again for broadband speed claims
- Microsoft set to make more job cuts
- Sony warns of massive loss on smartphones
- Dropbox app doesn't work properly with iOS 8
- Dark clouds for Adobe as profits slide by 46%
- Amazon and Microsoft spend big on Google ads
- Narrow trenches help Virgin expand fibre network
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Nexus 6 (X or Shamu) release date, price and specs rumour roundup
- Best of IDF: top tech and memorable moments from Intel's tech show
- How Apple Pay works and how to use it on your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
- Abuse magnets: the people behind corporate Twitter accounts
- Putting people at the centre of software design
- How to use remote-access software
- Tech support horror stories
- Become a tech support superhero
- Best of IFA 2014: what smartphones, tablets, smartwatches are expected to launch at IFA this year?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office