Toshiba Portege R500

Is this the lightest notebook on the market?

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Toshiba Portege R500
  • Toshiba Portege R500
  • Toshiba Portege R500
  • Toshiba Portege R500
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Very light and mobile device, long battery life, comfortable to use, 64GB solid-state drive

Cons

  • Screen is hard to view, has a PC Card slot instead of an ExpressCard slot, doesn't ship with an optical drive

Bottom Line

Its screen is hard to view properly, but apart from that, the R500 is a genuine lightweight. At under 1kg, and with battery life longer than four hours, it's perfect for users who work long ours while on the road.

Would you buy this?

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Toshiba's Portege R500 is a small notebook with a big battery. It's designed for business users who just want something that will last them a very long time on the road. And by light, we mean less than 1kg!

The R500 weighs in at 900 grams and it's very thin. Its screen is only 5mm thick; its base is only 14mm at its thinnest point and less than 20mm at its thickest. There is a drawback to its petite stature though: it feels uneasily flimsy. The screen bends noticeably when you open and close it, and the base flexes a little when you pick it up with one hand or squeeze it — it actually feels hollow. However, these traits appear to be there by design, and despite our somewhat rough handling of the unit, we think it held up nicely on the road.

And that's what it's geared towards: mobile computing. There is also a 3G version of this notebook available, but this model can accommodate a mobile data card through its PC Card slot, or its three USB ports. Weight has been kept to a minimum because Toshiba has installed a solid-state drive instead of a physical, spinning platter hard disk, and of course the notebook's shell is constructed out of magnesium alloy.

You get all the ports that you're ever likely to require: D-Sub, FireWire, the aforementioned USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet and an SD memory card slot. It also has a 56Kbps modem port, which many of us can do without these days. On the inside, there is a 64GB solid-state drive, which is more than enough for installing essential applications, documents, and even a few music and video files for when you get some downtime.

Because it has a solid-state drive, the R500 makes practically no noise at all when it's running — except when the cooling fan for the CPU kicks in — and there isn't any vibration. As a bonus, the drive won't generate much heat, and this is something that was noticeable after many hours of use — the unit barely got warm at all! As for its performance, the drive averaged 18 megabytes per second when copying data from one location to another, which is a little slower (2MB-3MB) than what a 5400rpm hard drive would achieve.

With a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage CPU and 1GB of DDR2 RAM, there is plenty under the hood to run the latest office suites and even do some photo editing, but we would've liked 2GB of RAM considering that the unit runs Windows Vista Business. There is one slot free for expansion if you find that having only 1GB of RAM inhibits your productivity. For graphics, the notebook uses Intel's 945GMS chipset, so it's not capable of running any 3-D games with any semblance of comfort.

What is very impressive, apart from the unit's size and weight, is its battery life. It has a six-cell, 5800mAh battery, which sits flush against the rear of the notebook, and it lasted exactly four hours in our worst-case test scenario (in which we looped a video file). It will last even longer if you activate an appropriate power-saving scheme. It's perfect for long flights within Australia and abroad, or even just lazing about and surfing the Internet while at the beach.

Its 12.1in screen is a hard one to judge. It doesn't look good at all indoors, especially because its viewing angles are so narrow: this makes it look like it isn't bright enough. It is actually readable in an outdoor, well-lit environment. Still, we feel that the screen could be better and it was the first thing many people who saw it commented on.

As for comfort, did we mention that the R500 is light? It's easy to use while resting it on your lap and it can even be used comfortably on public transport. It has an almost full-sized keyboard that is easy to type on and its keys have good travel, although the keyboard did feel a little bouncy at times. A sometimes-sticky touchpad takes care of navigation. For security, you can use the fingerprint reader to login to the system, and there is also a Trusted Platform Module installed.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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