The Toshiba Portege range of ultra-portable laptops has entered its seventh generation since launching back in 2004 – the R700 arrived late last year and we got our hands on one to find out if traditional laptops still have a future in today’s tablet-crazy world.
The R700 comes in a full range of specs, and our demo unit happened to fall right into the middle of the available lineup, boasting a Core i5-560 CPU, which is a dual-core chip running stock at 2.66GHz. It also supports Intel Turbo Boost technology of course, which can see the CPU bumping up to 3.2 GHz when processor-hungry apps demand it.
Although there is a range-topping model featuring the full power of a Core i7 chip, this i5 has all the compute power you’re going to need on a highly mobile workstation. Go for the i7 only if you must have more CPU than you need, or are trying to future-proof your investment.
There is 4GB of DDR 3 installed by default, upgradeable to 8GB, although this would also need the user to upgrade to Windows 7 64-bit. A 32-bit version of Windows 7 is the preinstalled standard. There’s a sizable 320GB HDD, and the 13.3” screen is clear but not impressive at a maximum resolution of 1366 X 768.
Then, considering the very handy size of this Portege and easily handleable 1.5kg weight, Toshiba has crammed a lot of connectivity in. Two USB ports, one Sleep-and-charge USB port which is also an eSATA port, 2 audio jacks, the Gigabit LAN RJ-45, VGA and HDMI for an external monitor, multiformat card reader, and even a PC-Card slot. The PC-Card slot is quite inconveniently positioned just underneath the Multi-Drive tray. There is 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 for wireless connections.
The 6-cell battery manages to deliver excellent life considering all the hardware crammed into the chassis. Moderate to light usage (standard journalist’s day-out sort of stuff) saw a real life of just over 6 hours, which is excellent in my book. Gaming on the Intel HD integrated graphics chipset isn’t inspiring, and heavy usage does drive the battery life down below 2 hours, but this latest Portege incarnation manages its power very well overall.
Moving over to the negative aspects of our time with this unit. You do get a very noisy vibration kicking out of the chassis when you’ve got a disc in the Multi-Drive. The slimness of the chassis combined with a palm rest which flexes just a little when you rest your palm on it interferes directly with the operation of the optical, which isn’t great.
Then there’s the keyboard. It’s called an ‘isolation keyboard,’ and although you do get used to it, I never got entirely comfortable with the feel of the convex keys. The layout is fine, but the rounded top edges just feel strange.
Beneath the keyboard is a good-sized touchpad, which can be disabled at the click of a button which is nice, with a tiny fingerprint reader nestled between the buttons.
It’s a good looking machine, although it hasn’t changed all that much from the older model in terms of chassis design. Toshiba has used a nice new metal finish for the lid at least, which feels good and cool to the touch but seems to flex very nearly as much as the old plastic one used to. The chrome hinges are carried over from the previous model.
Overall, the Portege R700, in this spec, argues a strong case. It’s very lightweight, very portable, boasts a working days’ worth of battery and packs enough grunt to not keep you waiting in your productivity suite. You won’t be blown away by the resolution of the screen or the overall build quality, and the keyboard will take acclimatisation, but if you’re very mobile but don’t yet want to give away the compute potential of a full-blown laptop on the road, the R700 is a very appealing solution.
CPU: Intel Core i5-560
Clock speed: 2.66 GHz stock, max 3.2 GHz Turbo Boost
No of cores: 2
RAM: 4GB (upgradeable to 8) DDR3 1066MHz
HDD: 320GB SATA-150
Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless-N and WiMAX 6250
Display: 13.3 “ TFT Active matrix
Max resolution: 1366 X 768 (WXGA) Widescreen
GPU: Intel HD Graphics Dynamic Memory Sharing 5.0
Optical: DVD-RW supporting DL and DVD-RAM
Installed OS: Windows 7 32-bit
Value-added features: 5-in-1 card reader, integrated Webcam, fingerprint scanner.
Toshiba Portege R700 << Comments and views