Toshiba Portege R400 Tablet PC Review
The Toshiba Portege R400 has been getting a lot of attention recently. The only problem is all the attention it is attracting isn't always positive. The R400 has an innovative design, but lacks some key features. Many users don't see why the Tablet is so expensive when it does not have an internal optical drive and only has two USB ports. Thankfully it does have some unique features though like the Windows SideShow display, Windows Vista Ultimate, an LED backlit screen and its unique and secure hinge, which make it stand out above lower priced Tablets.
The Toshiba Portege R400. (view large image)
The Toshiba Portege R400 specs as reviewed (tested price $3,079)
|CPU||Intel Core Duo U2500 / 1.20GHz processor|
|OS||Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate|
|RAM||2 GB RAM|
|Display||12.1" Widescreen XGA LED Backlit Display with High Brightness and Wide View Angle (1280 x 800)|
|Graphics||Graphics Media Accelerator 950|
|Audio||Built-in microphone, Headphone jack (stereo), Microphone jack (mono), Built-in monaural speaker|
|Hard Drive||80GB (4200 RPM)|
|Optical Drive||Optional - Toshiba UltraSlim USB (2.0) CDRW/DVD-ROM Drive, Optional Toshiba UltraSlim USB (2.0) DVD-SuperMulti drive (+R double layer)|
|Battery/power||Li-Ion (6-cell, 4000mAh)|
Design and Build
The R400 has a solid design and chassis, there is no flimsy feeling to this Tablet. The glossy white lid and keyboard give this Tablet a grand piano like feel, especially when considered with with the shiny black screen. It looks nice, but the screen gives a lot of reflection when in any direct lighting, so it is definitely not an outside Tablet.
The lid of the R400 is white and has Toshiba inlaid in chrome letters, no forgetting who made this. (view large image)
Weighing in at 3.7 pounds this Tablet is easy to take with you everywhere you go. The R400 makes a good travel companion, which is why it is targeted toward business professionals. It is even light enough to easily carry around in slate mode for extended periods of time.
The R400 swiveling into Tablet mode. (view large image)
The hinge on the R400 is quite innovative as well, in fact it feels and looks more like a notebook hinge than a Tablet. There are actually two locks, one on each side that help keep the Tablet secure. They lock into place when the Tablet is flat and when returning it back into notebook mode. The center mounted hinge does all the swiveling and work, but together they form a solid design. There is no flex in the screen and it feels sturdy. This hinge design actually replaces the locking mechanism most Tablets have on their lids.
Right side view of the R400, locked into notebook mode and the fingerprint reader. (view large image)
The 12.1" screen on the R400 is LED backlit, so it looks more like a notebook screen instead of a grainy Tablet screen. The only problem with the screen is that it's glossy and therefore means you get a lot of reflection in bright light, especially when the screen is displaying dark colors. On the other hand, having the glossy screen ensures that the colors presented are bright and bold. Watching DVDs on the widescreen are great. I almost thought I was watching movies on my Toshiba television.
The widescreen display on the R400 is nice, but it does give off a glare. (view large image)
The SideShow display, which Toshiba calls "Active Notifications", gives users updates on emails, appointments and lets them know the time and battery status. This display is great, especially if you don't have email on your phone, because it works even when the R400 is powered down and closed. When you're in a long meeting you can at least discreetly see the amount of emails coming in and their subjects.
The R400's SideShow display. (view large image)
Processor and System Performance
Performance is lacking for such an expensive machine with base prices starting at $2,599. The 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo processor and 4200RPM 80GB hard drive don't do justice to the killer fast looks of this machine. While the Ultra Low Voltage 1.2GHz processor and integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics do ensure the system runs cool, it struggles to run Vista well. The 2GB of RAM certainly helps out with performance, but multi-tasking using several applications at once can really bog things down. It may have been wise to offer a regular clock speed processor, such as the HP tx1000 tablet offers, and not gone with something that seems more fit for a UMPC device in terms of speed. Simply a low voltage processor such as the Lenovo X60 Tablet uses would have been better than an Ultra Low Voltage processor.
The R400's benchmarking scores were mediocre, in PCMark05 it was one of the slowest units with an Intel Core Duo processor and integrated graphics. Then again the ULV 1.2GHz Core Duo processor is underpowered to be running with Vista as the OS.
PCMark05 measures the systems performance as a whole:
|Toshiba R400 (Intel Core Duo ULV 1.2GHz, Intel GMA 950 graphics)||2,187 PCMarks|
|HP tx1000 (AMD Turion X2 2.0GHz, Nvidia Go 6150)||3,052 PCMarks|
|Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950 graphics)||2,724 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo)||2,860 PCMarks|
|Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV)||1,390 PCMarks|
|Asus R2H (900MHz Celeron M)||845 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
In the below results of Super Pi, where Pi is calculated to 2 million digits of accuracy, you can see the R400 doesn't perform as well as some of the other Tablets, but it performs better than the other computers with ULV processors.
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Toshiba R400 (1.2GHz ULV Core Duo)||2m 10s|
|Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 20s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo)||1m 24s|
|IBM ThinkPad X41t (1.5GHz LV Pentium M)||2m 02s|
|HP TC4400 Tablet PC (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 13s|
|Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M)||2m 40s|
|Dell Latitude D420 (1.06GHz Core Solo ULV)||2m 11s|
|Toshiba Portege M400 (1.83GHz Core Duo )||1m 19s|
Windows Experience Index
As you might have expected, the graphics performance is what Windows complained was the lowest mark for the R400, but it could still run the 3D Aero feature:
(view large image)
Unfortunately HDTune, the benchmark we use for testing hard drive performance, does not work within Vista on the R400. From a perceived performance perspective based on bootup time, you can tell the 4200RPM drive is somewhat of a bottleneck to performance.
The keyboard is standard, there is minimal flex and none of the keys are shortened. Typing on the keyboard feels comfortable because the keys are flat and responsive. Even though the keys are white and can get dirty easily (be sure to wash your hands) they are a welcoming change to the normal business black.
View of the R400 keyboard and touchpad. (view large image)
The touchpad on the R400 is small, but responsive. Some users may want to use a mouse instead because the left and right click buttons are small, but that is a personal preference. The touchpad can get dirty easily just like the keyboard since they are white, but then again all touchpads get that finger grime.
The pen is also white to match the overall look of the machine, it is made of plastic. No heavy duty stylus with this Tablet, but it is lightweight and easy to use. The active digitizer makes writing with it a breeze. It is so smooth and fluid that it feels like you are writing with a pen on a piece of paper.
The R400 pen coming out of its silo. (view large image)
Tablet PC Features
The R400 works great in both Tablet or notebook mode. The secure locking mechanisms combined with the swivel hinge give this Tablet a sturdy feel that seasoned Tablet users want. This comes in handy when you need to give a presentation because the screen isn't wobbly. You can easily swivel it around so the screen faces your audience, and it will not wobble around. When you switch to Tablet mode the screen automatically reconfigures its orientation to landscape viewing. One less step the user has to do. There is a button on the screen that allows you to push it and rotate the screen orientation manually, we found that this didn't work by default, we had to manually go in and map it to the Tablet PC screen rotate command.
The hard drive has active shock protection, which is a nice feature when in Tablet mode because it senses any erratic movements. We all know it's much easier to drop a Tablet PC since you're standing with it than say a notebook that's on the desk most of a time. You might want to make the sensor slightly less sensitive (this is configurable with the Toshiba software) so it's not all the time popping up a vibration warning. In Tablet mode it's common to have to move around a bit and at the highest sensitivity the HDD protection warning popped up a few too many times.
The R400 has an active digitizer so there are no problems when it comes to writing on the screen with the pen. It is responsive, accurate and easy to navigate. I liked using the pen because it was lightweight and smaller than most, it didn't feel awkward in my hand.
Tablet functionality is supposed to be one of the most improved features in Vista as well. The R400 did take advantage of this improvement because in Tablet mode the OS did a good job of recognizing my scribble I call handwriting and it recognized pen flicks when navigating through menu options.
The R400 has your standard ports and that is about it. It does have the SideShow display on the front though, which gives you updates on emails and battery power, called "Active Notifications". Besides the SideShow display there are also an array of indicator lights, a microphone, the pen, three buttons for use with the SideShow display and a Wi-Fi hardware switch on the front. There are two USB ports, one VGA - 15 pin, one microphone-in, one headphone, one Express Card and an Ethernet port on the back side. The volume dial on the side is nice and makes it easy to bump volume up and down. There isn't much else to this Tablet in terms of ports -- no FireWire, what you see is what you get, but some users may not need all that extra stuff.
Front view of the R400 with the SideShow screen. (view large image)
Left side view of the ports. (view large image)
Right side view of the ports and slot. (view large image)
Back view of the ports. (view large image)
Toshiba R400 under side view and battery. (view large image)
The internal battery lasted about three hours under normal usage (typing, browsing the internet some and screen at half brightness), which is good and typical of most Tablets. The LED backlit screen helps maintain battery power somewhat as it's less demanding in terms of power draw than a typical cathode ray backlit screen. The extra slice battery, which attaches under the base, boosts the R400 battery life for three more hours, so when combined they last about six hours.
Heat and Noise
The R400 doesn't give off much heat, even when running the benchmarks it stayed cooler than other Tablets I have tested like the HP tx1000. The R400 is commendably quiet, but really what about it would be noisy, there is no optical drive and the fan doesn't get loud enough to be a distraction.
Considering there is only one small speaker on the R400, I have to say speakers, what speakers? I thought my Asus R1 was bad, but the R400 might just be the winner. The sound is decent, but it is definitely not something you are going to listen to music on or control your iTunes library with. At high volumes the speaker echoes and sounds kind of muffled. Although the R400 isn't an entertainment Tablet, so the speaker does its job.
The R400 comes with Windows Vista Ultimate edition already installed. It was one of the first convertible notebooks announced to offer Vista pre-installed. Many users have complained about Toshiba installing to much bloatware, but I really didn't have a problem with that. It actually seems quite free of bloatware compared to Dell and HP notebooks you come across. The only annoying software I dealt with was McAfee, which everyone knows has those annoying pop-ups. If there is software you don't like most of it can be uninstalled.
The R400 has embedded EV-DO Rev A. wireless broadband with service through Verizon. It works pretty well, but it is slow in some areas and it is limited to Verizon only. It also has 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth. I am curious to know when and if the R400 will be getting HSPDA because this would give users another option besides Verizon.
The R400 is an innovative Tablet, but it comes with a hefty price tag. It has a solid design that works great in Tablet and notebook mode. There is no flimsy feeling to it and the LED backlit screen is great for watching movies or checking out your favorite photos. The screen is glossy and gives off reflections under bright light conditions, so be aware outdoor use won't work. Overall Toshiba could have gone with a more powerful processor because the system runs a little slow, especially since it has Windows Vista Ultimate. I would have liked it to have a little more performance endurance and less eye candy appeal if you could trade such things off. The R400 does sport the SideShow display, which is a unique feature for the business professional on-the-go, but at the end of the day the high price tag and lack of performance to match that price stand in the way of it being a top-competitor for your average consumer. If money is not an object and you like to have a unique product, well then the R400 might have your name written on it.
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