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Toshiba Portege R600-108 12.1in Ultra-Portable review

Andy Vandervell

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Last year Toshiba caused a few geek hearts to flutter when it launched the Portégé R500. It was, as the company was always keen to point out, the lightest notebook in the world, weighing a mere 755 grams in its lightest configuration. By anyone's standards it was impossibly svelte, but its claims, though true, were made somewhat hollow due to a number of issues. These included some rather dubious build quality, a disappointing screen and battery life that barely deserved the name. Fine, it was the lightest notebook you could buy, but that claim came at a cost.

Toshiba has now released its replacement, the Portégé R600, though outwardly the updated R600 looks exactly the same as the R500. Save for a matte black bezel surrounding the screen, the whole machine is finished in a metallic silver that's durable and fairly easy on the eye, too. It might lack the glitz and glamour espoused by some, but this is a serious notebook for serious people and in this regard it's a well considered and appropriate design.

One thing that has changed, for the better we might add, is the build quality. One of our more damning complaints about the R500 was its often flaky build. Panels had altogether too much flex for comfort but more worrying was how, in some places, panels simply didn't fit properly. Given its light construction some flex is unavoidable, as you can see in the video review, but on the whole the R600 is much improved in this department.

This improvement includes the keyboard and though there's some flex here, too, keys have a reassuring depth and feel that ensures swift and error free typing. This is aided by a more or less faultless layout and the useful addition of Page Up and Down keys just below the Return key, making scrolling through large documents that bit easier. This said, we did sometimes find ourselves hitting these instead of the Shift key, but this is the kind of issue you'll quickly learn to avoid over prolonged use.

Another important feature of the keyboard is its spill-proofing, something that's less common than you might imagine. This is achieved through a thin absorbent layer that sits between the keyboard and the main body of the machine, soaking up minor spillages that can then be left to dry. This doesn't make it a veritable duck to water, but does provide some peace of mind for anyone who is a little clumsy.

Below the keyboard is a perfectly serviceable touchpad and there's a fingerprint reader wedged in between the faux-chrome buttons. This does make the buttons a tad on the small side, but it's not a major issue. It might have been nice had Toshiba added a trackpoint in addition to the touchpad, since this is always a useful feature on a business machine, but given the space constraints we can understand why it hasn't.

John Ratsey

December 18, 2008, 10:30 am

The R500 has a very small and noisy fan. Did Toshiba fix this on the R600?





As for the 3-cell battery. It may help grab the headlines, but it's no use in the real world.





What size PSU did Toshiba provide? An appropriately small 40/45W unit or a relatively big 60W brick?

HSC

December 18, 2008, 3:26 pm

so exactly how wel does the screen work outdoors...?

James Morris

December 18, 2008, 5:27 pm

Watch the video. That was shot with two 800W lamps trained on it, and you will see exactly how it compares to the screen with the backlight turned on.

Andy Vandervell

December 18, 2008, 5:32 pm

@John: Power supply is your regular 65W affair and the fan, as far as I'm aware, is unchanged though without a R500 on hand it's a little difficult to compare.





@HSC: Its just about passable in good light, but only for very brief periods - using it for long periods will only strain your eyes. As James says, take a look at the video for a better idea.

GherkingTR

December 19, 2008, 4:38 am

OEM's are still taking the mickey - look how crowded that system tray is!

John Ratsey

December 19, 2008, 12:54 pm

@Andy: So how was the R600's fan noise? Inaudible, noticeable, or irritating?

Rob 6

April 2, 2009, 3:45 pm

Toshiba Portege R600 fan noise: bad. Continuous hissing noise. You don't hear it when you lift the machine two inches above your desk but when it stands on any type of surface (I tried many kinds of foam) some inside resonance sets up. Much too loud for me. Otherwise it is a great machine. Ubuntu works well.

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