Review: Toshiba Portégé R600-12N

 
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Published: August 12, 2009 11:00 PM
By Fabien Pionneau
Toshiba's Portégé line is aimed primarily at mobile business users. Generally, that target could be extended to include anybody who wants a computer that combines light weight, small size, and good battery life, all without sacrificing performance. Toshiba calls the R600 "Toshiba's ultimate ultralight notebook." And while this isn't a low-cost machine by any stretch, we have to admit that Toshiba's claims are not unfounded.

First Impressions and Design
Due to the Portégé's business focus, Toshiba has avoided the unfortunate trend towards "all glossy" computers. The keyboard and surrounding area are silver-gray, while the display bezel is matte black. The effect is very attractuve and proves that you don't need to use glossy plastics to give the impression of quality. Only the area below the touchpad stands out a little, with its rather dubious-looking chromed plastic.

wToshiba R600-12N keyboard

The keyboard takes up the full width of the PC, and has wide keys with a soft, enjoyable touch. It's fairly quiet and the keys are responsive. The adjustment functions are assigned to the F1 to F12 keys, with only two shortcut keys.

The touchpad is standard in function and in size, and it reacts well. Its matte surface is a lot nicer to the touch than a glossy finish that sticks to your fingers, providing a smooth feel and good preciseness. The click buttons located below it are firm and they're separated by a fingerprint reader. The activity indicator lights round out the equipment on the keyboard.

The image from the webcam is acceptable and has good fluidity. It lacks some sharpness and definition, however, and brightly lit areas tend to burn out. The colours are slightly too warm. The microphone, unfortunately, is poorly located, on the lower left, so it's covered by your left hand when you're typing and delivers only average sound.
Toshiba R600-12N Webcam
The machine isn't very noisy; its fan emits a steady whoosh that increases under load. It's reasonable, but it is audible in a quiet environment.

Connectivity is very complete: 1 VGA, 1 mic input, 1 headphone jack, 1 memory-card reader, Ethernet, 1 ExpressCard slot and 3 USB ports, one of which is an e-SATA combo. There's also a DVD burner and Bluetooth adaptor.

Under the computer are flaps for access to the RAM. It's also possible to insert your SIM card in a slot located under the battery - the R600 has a 3G+ module.

Power, VGA, e-SATA / USB
USB, audio in, out and volume
ExpressCard, Wi-Fi on/off, USB, RJ45
Buttons and fingerprint reader


Processor Power

Windows Vista Index: 3.2. Processor: 4.6 - RAM: 4.9 - Graphics: 3.2 - Game graphics: 3.3 - Main hard disk: 5.9.

The Intel Core 2 Duo U9400 processor, clocked at 1.4 Ghz, isn't the fastest, but it is a dual-core model with acceptable performance. It's also energy-efficient, so battery life should be good while keeping power requirements low.

Average processor performance was 40% lower than on our reference computer, the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi3650. But to put things in perspective, the R600 is still three times as powerful as a netbook with an Atom processor - good enough for office applications and quite usable for occasional photo and video use.

The R600 is very quick with most programs and also has fast boot times. That can be explained by the SSD that's under the hood - an impressive 512 GB one that improves the notebook's overall performance. Access times are very good, at only 0.3 ms compared to 13 to 15 ms for a typical platter drive. Data rates ranged from 140 and 180 MB/sec and were constant throughout the disk, which is not the case with standard hard drives. SSDs are also completely quiet, lightweight, and have the further advantage of being more or less impervious to shocks since they have no moving parts. A lower-end version of the R600 comes with a 128-GB SSD, which is reflected in that model's price.

Playing movies with quality equivalent to Blu-Ray is possible if you use hardware acceleration with the built-in graphics circuitry. CPU use runs around 10%. Without graphics acceleration, CPU use is between about 70 and 85%, with peaks at 100% which makes stutter-free play difficult.

Gaming
No surprises here. The built-in Intel graphics chip is still very poor with 3D. So forget about gaming, except for old titles with few 3D effects, or else 2D games.

Audio

The speakers are poor. The sound is dry and lacks bass and midrange. Don't expect to listen to music, not to mention movie soundtracks. You can tell that Toshiba had a hard time building in decent sound due to the small size of this machine. We saw (or rather heard) that it's possible to come up with acceptable audio, however, when we tested the Lenovo S10-2 - and it's an even smaller netbook. The headphone output is clean, though, so go the headphone route for movies and music.

Portability & Battery Life

What strikes you most about the R600 when you first heft it is its light weight! It tips the scales at a mere 1.09 kg thanks to its magnesium-alloy shell and SSD in place of a hard disk. It's also very thin, which makes it a real pleasure to use on the go.

The 3 hours 44 minutes of battery life as tested with our video playback test puts the Portégé on a par with the aluminum 13 inch Macbook and below the best netbooks.
5/5 Toshiba Portégé R600-12N DigitalVersus 2009-08-13 00:00:00

Pros

  • Thin and light
  • Matte finish display
  • 512 GB SSD: speed and performance
  • Extensive connectivity and DVD burner
  • Restrained visual design

Cons

  • Subpar 3D performance
  • So-so speakers
  • Noisy under load

Conclusion

Very lightweight and slim, the Toshiba Portégé R600 is the king of mobility. Much more complete than a netbook, it's also much more expensive. We like the matte screen and long battery life. All we can find to criticize is mediocre sound and poor 3D performance.

OUR SCORE 5/5
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