The keyboard is full size, but it’s rather spongy — indeed the whole wrist-rest area likewise lacks rigidity. But that, we guess, is a result of Toshiba’s bid to get the R500’s weight down to under 1 kg. Another is the thinness of the R500’s lid, but before we come on to that, we should just say that for all the springiness of the keyboard, we found it perfectly acceptable to type on.
The R500’s screen-housing lid is scarily flexible. It’s hinged only at the very left and right bottom corners, allowing you to bend in disturbingly far in the middle. How, you think, will this ever stand up to the rigours of life on the road? Actually, we can imagine it might work very well. It could give the screen the ability to absorb knocks and bumps that more rigid lids would send straight to the screen, with shattering effect.
Not as sleek as the Air, but packing more features
That’s certainly what Toshiba claims, but even we weren’t brave enough to put it to the test. What if the impact was slightly harder than Toshiba’s flexible tech is designed to take? The point is, you won’t want to be knocking your R500 around any more than you would another laptop.
Bending the screen causes the bevel to detach in the middle, which again might well help the R500 absorb blows, but does nothing for its perceived build quality.
Angling the screen back and forward by pushing and pulling it at the top is easy — the hinges provide just enough resistance to keep the screen where you want it without making it so hard to push that you risk damaging the thing or simply pivot the entire laptop on its rear feet.
The display itself has a resolution of 1280×800, and all the pixels are illuminated by LED. It’s driven by the Intel 945GMS chipset’s integrated GMA 950 engine, which explains the R500’s Windows Experience Index of just 2.0. Its 1.33GHz ultra-low voltage Core 2 Duo U7700 CPU and full 2GB complement of 667MHz DDR 2 memory contribute 4.5 and 4.2 points, respectively, while the 160GB hard drive — on our machine split into two 80GB partitions — scores 5.0.
But the overall Index is based on the lowest score, and that’s the graphics running Windows Vista Business’ Aero GUI. For gaming, the machine scores 2.8.
@ Nick Fisher
"I agree with Paul - if it doesn't run OS X it's of no use to me. Windows is an irrelevance as far as I'm concerned."
Then why the hell are you reading and posting comments on a review of a Windows laptop?
Instead of wasting your precious time here shouldn't you be building a website for your cat? (Or something equally Apple-like?)
...is exactly what I've been doing with my r500 (SSD model, no optical drive) since I received it last September. The casing may be cheap plastic, and it may feel fragile, but this is a fairly tough (not rugged!) laptop. The light weight and the flex of the casing provide more than adequate protection against the daily dropping/throwing/banging around that laptops endure.
I've been very pleased with the r500. The performance is good (running Debian with a custom 2.6.24 kernel). The bleed from the LCD backlight is annoying at first, but I no longer notice -- and if it is the price of the transreflective display, which has allowed me to use the laptop comfortably on planes with direct sunlight onto the screen, then I'm more than willing to overlook it. Then of course there is the weight: this is a bring-anywhere, always-on-you laptop.
Comparison with the Air: I had been looking forward to the Air, and was extremely disappointed by it (far more than my usual disappointment that the latest Apple laptop stubbornly lacks a second mouse button). The Air is twice as heavy, has a cripplingly small number of ports (a couple of my USB drives require two ports to supply adequate power), and (the real deal-breaker) has no ethernet. The world in which the Apple fanbase lives may have wireless available everywhere, but the world in which I do business does not. The IT staff of many of my clients cannot even grasp the need for DHCP, let alone wifi.
We have one here that was a replacement for a stolen unit, sure it's light but it's not well made at all - the review makes reference to the hinge, on our unit you cannot open the screen without the laptop tipping up on it's feet, this is fixed by the docking station mind.
However, for me the biggest issue is the performance of it, i know it has a ULV processor in it, but seriously it should be an ultra low performance, if you open Outlook, IE and a couple of a Excel spreadsheets you can comfortably make a coffee for the entire office in the time it takes to switch between apps.... it's great for an ultra mobile unit if you only work on one or two smallish things at once, once you try and multi task, forget it.
If i were after a small unit the Sony Vaio ones are an improvement, but likewise i'm very impressed with the spec of the Air, it's processor is a genuine performance processor, capable of running many tasks - combine that with a relatively bloatware free OS and i can see why the Air would be the machine of choice.... the only irritant i have with the Air's spec is the ethernet port, but hey it's aimed at wireless users and you'll get a quicker speed from an 802.11n network than the USB attached NIC, so for the money buy the wireless router and be done.... as for the optical drive in the last 6 months the only time i've used mine was to copy CD's to iTunes - hardly a reason to have a drive permanently attached!
If i were buying an ultraportable, i wouldn't get another R500.... personally i'd get an Air, but most of the staff in my office can't use OS X so i'd need to look elsewhere, and that i would, probably at the Sony mentioned above.