Toshiba Portégé R600 review

26 Nov 2008

A super-light laptop with great battery life, but the screen is both its stand-out feature and - for some - its Achilles heel.

Price when reviewed: 
1,282(£1,310 inc VAT)
5

Toshiba HQ probably looked on a little bemused when the MacBook Air was announced. A slim silver lightweight laptop, you say? But one that weighs more than 1.4kg, doesn't include an optical drive and has a battery life of five hours? With the Portégé R500, Toshiba could whip Apple on every one of those points, and the R600 - updated with a new processor, higher spec and tweaked chassis - continues where it left off.

In fact, it's understating things to say new processor. A Centrino vPro 2 sticker sits proudly atop this machine, a sign of Intel's latest campaign to bring vPro to laptops. Larger businesses may well have already invested in the technology, but there are good reasons for SMBs to investigate it, too - one key benefit being its ability to establish a secure connection to the laptop even when it's on the wrong side of the firewall.

On a day-to-day basis, though, users will be more interested in speed. Toshiba does its best to help, pairing the 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo US9400 processor with 3GB of RAM, and its score of 0.72 shows it can handle office applications with ease.

Users should be pleased with the battery life. Under our light-use test, the R600 kept going for 6hrs 30mins. That's not quite up there with the obvious alternative, the Sony VGN-Z21, which managed 9hrs 32mins under light use, but it's almost enough for a cross-Atlantic trip.

The R600's big advantage is you can easily use it outside, courtesy of transflective screen technology. Even on a bright, sunny day, the Portégé's 12.1in, 1,280 x 800 screen was easy to see without any backlight on. All but the most basic version of the R600, the R600-10Q, includes a built-in 3G modem as well, and unlike some laptop vendors Toshiba doesn't try to tie you in with one network operator: just slide a SIM into the slot that hides behind the battery, and you can browse the internet at HSDPA speeds wherever you are.

WLAN is as good as it can get: 802.11abg plus draft-n. There's Bluetooth as well, but you're more likely to use one of the three USB ports sprinkled on the left- and right-side of the chassis. In fact, one of those USB ports isn't all it seems: it doubles up as an eSATA connector.

There could be plenty of data to transfer, with a 200GB disk in place with our review unit, the R600-101. If you want a solid-state disk, you'll need to opt for the R600-108 or R600-109, which include a 128GB SSD and cost an extra £500 and £600 exc VAT respectively. The difference between the two is that the 109 includes a DVD writer and weighs 1.1kg, the 108 doesn't and weighs 773g.

Not that the R600-101 is heavy. It weighed 1.16kg despite including a DVD writer of its own, and it's also incredibly slim: 25.5mm at the rear, 19.5mm at the front. In fact, this is the only specification where the MacBook Air does beat it, as the Apple offering is 19mm thick at its porkiest.

The MacBook also feels sturdier than the R600. Although the R600 actually boasts a magnesium alloy chassis, the chassis bends when you prod it, and the screen flexes tremendously. That said, a flexible lid doesn't mean the screen isn't protected: since it's able to bend so well, there's arguably just as good a chance the screen won't break as it would behind a metallic lid, and Toshiba shows its confidence by giving a three-year international warranty. Another nice inclusion for the accident prone is a spill-proof keyboard.

We're fans of that keyboard, too. This may be an ultraportable laptop, but Toshiba uses the chassis' entire width to ensure the keys are large and there's minimal awkward function doubling. The trackpad is also well-sized, and notably houses a fingerprint reader below it.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,115
Price inc VAT £1,282
Overall rating 5 stars

Warranty

Warranty 3 year(s) return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 283 x 216 x 25.5mm (WDH)
Weight 1.2kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400
RAM capacity 3GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 12.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500MHD
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 200GB
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes

Other Features

Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3MP
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 420
Battery life, heavy use 188
Overall application benchmark score 0.72
Office application benchmark score 0.73
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.79
Encoding application benchmark score 0.62
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.73

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business 32-bit
OS family Windows Vista