Glancing at its spec-sheet, Toshiba's Portégé A600-14C reads like any mobile business user's dream: a 12.1in laptop with integrated 3G/HSDPA that weighs less than a kilo and a half, all without breaking the bank. We're still rather impressed following Toshiba's awesome NB200-10Z netbook, so let's see if the A600-14C can uphold the imposing pedigree.
One thing you might notice about the A600-14C is that, despite its light weight, at 29.9mm it is rather thick - especially when compared to the svelte Toshiba Portégé R600. It's still a fairly nice-looking machine for its sector, but if you want a stylish 12.1in business laptop you're better off with the (admittedly more expensive) Dell Latitude E4200.
When closed, the A600 shows off the chromed and indented Toshiba logo on its lid, which complements the machine's overall semi-matte silver finish rather well. Thanks to its LED-backlit screen, the lid is very thin at less than half a centimetre. It is also slightly smaller than the laptop's base so that the backlit icons in the palm-rest are visible on the protruding base with the laptop closed.
Opening the lid, most will be pleased to hear the screen is surrounded by a matte black bezel, though there's a small glossy section for the webcam. Aside from a couple of chromed touches for the power button and around the touchpad , though, the A600 is substance over style, so you needn't worry about tiresome fingerprints or scratch-prone glossy plastics.
Build quality is also generally impressive, with the flimsy-seeming light plastic holding up well under pressure without a hint of creak or more flex than is healthy. Unfortunately the optical drive area is an exception: even light pressure at the laptop's bottom here displays an alarming amount of give, leaving the drive bay cover vulnerable to snapping off in a fall, while pressing down at the top results in noticeable flex.
While not quite up to the excellent effort found on HP's Compaq 2230s, the spill-proof keyboard on the Portégé A600-14C is first-rate. Layout is as good as space allows, with a proper UK-style Enter key and large Ctrl-key to the outside of the Fn key. Feedback is decent despite the slightly shallow travel and keys have a nice positive click.
Sporting a subtle textured surface, the touchpad is large and comfortable. Its buttons might feature a chromed (i.e. slippery) finish, but their shape and placement makes them easy enough to use despite being a tad on the small side. However, this is the one high-maintenance area of the Portégé A600-14C, since the chrome buttons and their surround love fingerprints almost as much as we love technology - not the smartest design-choice on Toshiba's part.
Between the pad's buttons is nestled a fingerprint scanner, a feature found on most business and even many consumer laptops, though we'd recommend using it in conjunction with - rather than instead of - a password.