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Toshiba Portégé R600 review

30 Jan 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,334
inc VAT

Less costs more. Stunningly light, but too far from perfect.

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Specifications

If you need a laptop that's light as a bag of feathers, yet still powerful enough to do some serious work, a netbook might not fit the bill.

For £300 you can't expect everything. Small keyboards, low resolution screens and equally low performance are the order of the day. If you fancy stumping up over 1300 quid on an ultraportable laptop, however, things look very different.

The Portégé R600 is about as slim and light as they come. In fact, it could give even the most lithe of laptops an eating disorder. There are models that do away with the DVD drive, but this, the more sensible R600-101, has one on its right flank. Even so, pop the R600 on the scales and its 1.12kg troubles them no more than a lowly netbook.

And make no mistake, this is a laptop which is designed to be taken everywhere. Not only is it light, but the use of an energy efficient processor means it can carry on for more than six hours away from the mains. It's much more usable than your average netbook, too. Toshiba has stretched the keyboard right to the edges of the chassis, so it's full size and comfortable to type on, despite a little flex in the base.

Why so serious?

Power on the Portégé for the first time and you might be underwhelmed by the 12.1 inch display. The native resolution of 1280x800 pixels is far from generous, and although the screen is impressively bright, there's a noticeable graininess. Viewing angles aren't very wide, either: move your head even slightly away from dead-on, and the picture fades away noticeably.

But wait, there's a good reason for the display's curious traits: it's transflective. OK, that probably elicited a blank stare, but it means the screen can be read even under direct sunlight. In fact, with the aim of increasing battery life yet further, you can turn off the display's backlight completely and rely solely on ambient lighting. Nifty.

In a further attempt to justify the R600's inescapably high price, Toshiba has laid on an impressive range of other features. The 200GB hard disk and DVD writer get off to a good start, but they're complemented by pretty well every wireless technology: 802.11a/b/g/n rubs shoulders with Bluetooth, and there's also a 3G modem for broadband on the move via a mobile tariff.

Joker in the pack

Not everything is perfect, however. The Intel SU9300 processor is a dual core model running at a modest 1.4GHz, and when we say modest, we mean slow. It may not draw much power, but nor does it deliver much performance. Despite a generous 3GB of memory, the R600 scored just 117% in our benchmarks; bear in mind that 100% is the minimum we recommend to run Vista comfortably. Unsurprisingly, you can forget about playing the latest games. The integrated Intel graphics might stretch to older titles, but no more.

In fact, the Toshiba has had to go on a pretty extreme diet to reach its size zero figure. The display is just millimetres thick, and feels worryingly slight. The chassis is much sturdier, but even so there are niggles. Our battery rattled slightly - disconcerting in such a pricey laptop - and the R600's plain Jane looks just failed to elicit the excitement we'd hope for when shelling out this much money.

There's no argument that the Portégé R600 is an impressive engineering feat. Its amazingly low weight, comfy keyboard and wireless credentials combine to make it a great, if pricey, travelling buddy - but frankly it doesn't do enough to beat netbooks at less than a quarter of the cost.

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