For the PCMark05 tests, we referred back to our reviews of the Asus Eee PC and the Maxdata Belinea s.book 1, both similarly aimed at buyers seeking the acme in portability with the ability to run an operating system like Windows.
Longer bars are better
The Asus and the Maxdata failed to complete all the tests, thanks to their basic graphics sub-systems, but you can see the R500 outclasses them in every other respect too. Its GPU is nothing to write home about — it’s enough for Vista’s Aero UI, however, but clearly your not going to get the best experience running the latest 3D games on it. But its number crunching potential is clear, and that’s really what the cost above and beyond that of the other machines buys you.
Issues? The R500’s interior cooling system vents through four holes on the left side of the laptop, and it has a distinct hair-dryer quality. Crank up the machine, and the fans quickly start whirring loudly and blasting out hot air. So watch where you put your hands when you’re not typing.
The laptop itself gets warm, particularly on the left-hand side, but not uncomfortably so.
Very, very portable
So now we come to the killer question: the R500, the MacBook Air, the Eee PC — how do they match up? The comparison with the Eee is easy to address: the Asus machine’s £220 price tag means its in a very different class than the R500. We love the Eee, but it lacks the data storage capacity, processing power, big screen and optical storage that the R500 brings to the table. In its favour, the Eee has its compact size and low price tag. That makes it an excellent second computer, whereas the price of the R500 means you’re likely to want it to be your main machine.
Weight-wise, there’s barely anything in it.
As for the Air, well there’s no doubt the Apple machine looks smarter and feels better built than Toshiba’s, and has a bigger screen. But it’s heavier and has no optical drive, no Ethernet and fewer USB ports. The R500’s hard drive isn’t quick, but from what we’ve read of the Air, Toshiba’s HDD is the faster of the two.
Yes, the Air is a thing of beauty, but when it comes to getting the job done in the most portable way, the R500 beats it hands down. It’s more expensive, but you’re getting many more features for your money.
Toshiba’s Portege R500 is pricey and its construction doesn’t inspire confidence, but you simply can’t argue with how incredibly portable it is. Yes, you can buy cheaper full-size laptops. True, you can get yourself more powerful ones. But the R500 is about delivering a decent computing experience in a casing you can carry in your hand all day, which few other machine can. For us, that makes it a winner.
Toshiba Portégé R500 slimline laptop
@ 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,