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Toshiba unveils new laptops, tablets and netbooks for 2011

Updated ultra-portable laptops and netbooks with improved audio lead the way at Toshiba's UK preview event.

Toshiba has announced an updated range of laptops and netbooks at a preview event in London. As well as thinner and lighter laptops based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform, we also got to hear some impressive audio from the upcoming NB500 netbook range.

Replacing the older Portégé R700 ultra-portable laptops, the R800-series models are thinner, lighter and all have increased battery life. Three different screen sizes will be available, all using the latest Intel processors; the 13in R830, 14in R840 and 15in R850. During our brief hands-on session we noticed the R850 felt very light for its size – at 2.4kg it should be very portable.

Toshiba Portege R850 laptop

All three models can expect to see an extra hour of battery life over the older models and include optical drives and USB3 support, plus the choice of a hard disk or SSD. Although primarily aimed at business users, the magnesium alloy design should also appeal to home users. No-one from Toshiba could give us a confirmed price for any R800-series laptop, but estimates of around £600 depending on screen size and specification were mentioned.

At the more budget-friendly end of the scale, Toshiba also demonstrated a new line of netbooks. As well as the Intel Atom-powered entry level NB500, the dual-core NB520 offers a small boost in performance. Both models have Harman Kardon speakers, which sounded fantastic for such a small system. We were impressed with the lack of distortion, even at high volume, and although we only heard a few test tracks we could definitely hear a clear bass line.

Toshiba NB550D netbook

For the first time, Toshiba will also be offering an AMD-based netbook in the form of the NB550D. With a new 1GHz AMD C-50 processor and ATI 6250M graphics, performance should be higher than the equivalent Intel Atom-based machine but with a comparable battery life. The AMD model is one of only a few netbooks we’ve seen that includes an HDMI out port and it should be able to play high-definition video on an external display, although there wasn’t an opportunity to test it. The chassis is mostly unchanged from the Intel-based models and also includes the improved speakers.

Again there was no indication of price, but we expect the Intel-based netbooks to closely match those from other manufacturers. AMD-powered units will likely command a price premium because of the increased performance and extra functionality, but should still remain affordable in comparison. Both the R800-series laptops and N500-series netbooks will be available around April. We’ll be looking at both in greater detail soon.

Several tablets were also on show at the event, including the recently announced (and unnamed) tablet based on Android Honeycomb. The 10.1in, Tegra 2 powered slate includes both front- and rear-facing webcams, as well as an HDMI output for playing 1080p video on a compatible display.

Toshiba tablet 1

Unfortunately the latest version of Google’s operating system wasn’t available to test, so we’ll update with a more detailed hands-on when we get more time with the unit closer to its Spring release date.