Keen readers will have already noted the absence of an optical drive from the list. Toshiba sent us the R600-108 variant, which lacks this component, the better to keep the weight down. We'll take a gander at the other models when we discuss pricing at the end of the review, but for now it's enough to say other laptops in the R600 series do include slimline multi-format DVD writers.
Less than 2cm thick
Like the R500 before it, the R600 is painted matte silver, which gives it a tacky look relieved only by the black screen surround. It's not beige, at least, but the R600's physical design is good and deserves a better colour scheme than the one Toshiba's selected for it.
Likewise, Toshiba doesn't appear to have done anything to address one of our key criticisms of the R500: the bendy lid. It's the same problem you get with Sony's slimline Vaio TT: reducing the thickness of the lid to four or five millimetres is all well and good, but you can't ignore its lack of rigidity.
Now, Toshiba maintains this bendiness is a good thing: it allows the screen to bend during an impact rather than break. There's probably some truth in that, but how far a laptop has to fall before the screen flex no longer makes a difference is unclear. The flex may make it more resistant to knocks and bumps, bit we don't think the display on an open R600 knocked off a desk onto a hardwood floor is going to survive.
The lightness of the laptop means you can open the screen with just a push - you need to hold down the front of the machine too, or the whole think pivots at the back and lifts up. Once open past 30° the screen can be tilted with a finger without moving the laptop.
How useful is a thin, bendy screen?
Open, the R600's keyboard is revealed as the same full-size array as before and like you'll find on most laptops. The keyboard lacks rigidity, but it seems more solidly underpinned than the one on the R500 - it's certainly fine to use. There's the same trackpad, with a fingerprint sensor between the chrome-look buttons and array of status LEDs below them.
I'm not bothered about an optical drive. The price of this is inline with Sony's ultra-portables. And traditionally you do pay a premium for miniaturisation/low weight.
However, with some of the new netbooks coming out I struggle to see a market for any laptop priced over £800-1000.
I've got a 3Kg Asus from 4 yrs ago, still works perfectly but its 1.8GHz centrino does feel a bit slow compared to recent dual core laptops. But when I think what my laptop usage is... editing source code/text files, browsing web, watching some video/films (x264/xvid, not DVD)
That's why I'm planning to get an HP Mini 2140 when it finally arrives, technically a downgrade in processor spec, but a definite upgrade in portability (1.1Kg) and battery life (5+ hrs)
Why? Just Why?
Would anyone spend more than say £1000 on any one item of PC gear especially a commodity item like a laptop?
More money than sense maybe?
Nice but lacking
If you can afford that then go all out for a fully equipped one with the full works, which doesn't include the Air unfortunately. Plus consider that mass is only one measurement of size - a 13" machine has a significantly larger footprint (about the biggest a plane seat can handle) than one of these ultraportables, though at the reduced dimensions the quality of screen becomes paramount, which is where the Vaio does have the edge... they seem to manage to put amazing screens in their premium tiny machines.
Have to agree with Robert that the accessories that some machines require kinda defeat the purpose - I have small and light kit that only require a power pack to travel with and NO other peripherals. I know some people say you don't need an optical drive, or RJ45 or whatever, but I personally like to rock up to a new client knowing that I can handle whatever they give me rather than sheepishly tell them that my fancy machine can't do it that way and can they accomodate my needs!
I've toyed with Porteges before and generally i find they feel flimsy, much as the TT and TX Vaios do as well. I have an SZ Vaio which is just fels great - the lid is so sturdy for its thinness (magnesium or carbon fibre?) that my work HP has some nasty lines on the screen from my (bad) habit of picking it up by the lid whilst open.
Of course, nothing beats an old Thinkpad for cockroach-esque survivability!
R500 fan boy
I love my R500, and bought it despied it receiving similarly mixed reviews. So light, nothing else with a DVD drive comes close and no probs so far on reliability, even if that skinny screen does seem alarmingly fragile.
I'm shocked by Reg's battery test results. I regularly get 5 hours out of my R500, so I hope this R600 sample is unrepresentative.
As for the thread comment that the Mac Air is 'only 500g heavier,' that's 500g heavier than an 850g laptop, and with the Apple you'll need to take a seperate DVD drive, and a 3g modem, so it ends up being about 2.5x the weight...
My one wish for an R700, would be for an ultra compact power supply (like the one with the Dell Mini 9). The one with the R500 weighs almost as much as the machine itself, which is just silly!
70 per cent ???
70%? Are El Reg tests dumbing down to the same extent as GCSEs and A Levels?
You basically spent the review slating its looks, battery life, screen and construction. And it's bloody expensive. Yet it still gets 70%. Feels more like a 30 and a fail to me.
Still, the R600 makes the MacBook Air look like good value... And the Vaio TT.
Paris, 'cos she's dumbed down. Obviously.