The screen’s image is nice and crisp, with better colour reproduction than a standard fluorescent tube-lit LCD. But even on maximum brightness, the R500’s panel seems a little dark when placed alongside a laptop with an old-style backlight. The viewing angle’s fine in the horizontal, but move the screen forward from its ideal position and the image quickly darkens to obscurity.
Sharp, bright LED-backlit display
Toshiba has neatly bordered the display with a dark bezel. It’s a pity it didn’t use the same hue for the rest of the machine. The R500 is kitted out in aluminium-look plastic, a colour scheme that, combined with the lack of rigidity, won’t help the machine convince prospective buyers that it’s well built. The skinny, lightweight DVD drive doesn’t either. Again, it lacks rigidity and feels like it would easily break if knocked.
But then the R500 isn’t a machine for folk who expect their laptops to take a few knocks on the way. The price reveals this to be an executive-class machine aimed at folk willing to pay for the benefits of a low-weight computer. It’s not for the shove-it-in-a-backpack-and-go brigade. Our test model, the R500-11Z is priced at £1149 before sales tax, so that’s £1350 in real money — only 150 quid more than an Air. The R500 family comprises seven members, priced from £1174 to £1761 inc VAT. To be fair, the pricey top-of-the-line model comes with a 64GB solid-state drive.
Toshiba quotes a MobileMark battery benchmark result of seven hours 30 minutes. That’s not what we got. Using the R500 for a variety of standard apps — browsing, email, instant messaging, photo editing and, for a short period, H.264 video playback — we got just over three-and-a-half hours out of a full charge.
We ran both PCMark05 and PCMark Vantage on the R500.
PCMark Vantage Results
Longer bars are better
@ 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.
VAIO TZ-11 anyone?
I took delivery of a R500 not so long ago, and was mortified by the poor build quality. The plastic is extremely thin and the machine gets VERY hot under load, especially under the left palm rest. The keyboard felt especially weak and the mouse buttons were ridiculously unresponsive. It also has by far the worst screen on a notebook in a long time. The backlighting was very uneven with highly noticeable bleed-through along the left and bottom edges, which made full-screen video viewing pretty nasty. Needless to say I sent it right back. How this machine achieved 85% in a review is anyone's guess, especially considering the price tag.
I got a Sony VAIO TZ-11 straight after that and never looked back. It may be a 100g or so "heavier" but at the same price (for the MN model) it's substantially better made and is much much nicer to use - not to mention sturdier!
the best ultraportable
I think the best option, if you can, is to have a Mac and a Windows machine. Two weeks ago I replaced my HP tx1270 with exactly this model, the R500-11Z, and I think this is definitely the best Windows ultraportable available at the moment. Less than 1 kg and no defects. Well, actually the headphone jack doesn't work, but I plan to get it fixed. Cheers,