by Jerry Jackson
Toshiba recently announced the Portege R500 12.1" widescreen notebook that includes the new Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 (Merom) platform, and is the first ultraportable laptop to incorporate an optical drive into a system that is less than one inch thick and weighs less than 2.5 pounds. The R500 provides a new ultra-low voltage Core 2 Duo processor, optical drive, fingerprint reader, and a generous selection of ports in a stylish form factor that is so light and thin it’s shocking. The following is a quick first take on the Toshiba R500.
Toshiba Portege R500 12.1" screen ulraportable notebook (view large image)
Build and Design
The Toshiba Portege R500 features a radical design measuring as thin as 0.77-inches and weighing 2.4 pounds. This makes the R500 lighter and thinner than most ultraportables. The silver R500 combines rounded edges and angular lines producing a shape that’s both space-saving and stylish. It’s very clear upon first glance that there is absolutely no wasted space in the design of the R500.
The full sized keyboard of the R500 (view large image)
The build is mostly plastic with some flex most noticeably beneath the right palm rest and the LCD lid. While the widescreen 12.1” LCD is almost paper thin and flexible, there are no noticeable ripples even when pressing firmly or flexing the screen. There is minimal light leakage and both horizontal and vertical viewing angles are more than acceptable.
The keyboard is full sized and very nice to use with some flex, especially near the edges. One surprise on the keyboard was a set of dedicated page up and page down buttons, along with dedicated home and end keys, a nice feature not found on most ultraportable notebooks. The spacious touchpad provides excellent responsiveness, but feels a little “cheap” compared to the fit and finish of the rest of this notebook. The glossy “metal-like” plastic touchpad buttons feel nice, but are a magnet for fingerprints and at times didn’t provide enough feedback.
The touchpad, mouse buttons, fingerprint reader, and LED indicators (view large image)
The R500 doesn’t use any type of latch to close the lid, just a firm hinge closing mechanism that works well.
Below is a video with comparison of the Toshiba Portege R500 to the Lenovo X61 12.1" tablet (hosted by our Brian Beeler) so you get an idea of how it stacks up:
Ports and Features
While about half of all ultraportable notebooks come equipped with an optical drive, those that do tend to be thick and heavy. Anyone looking for a super slim notebook was forced to sacrifice an optical drive in favor of making the system as light and thin as possible. The R500 successfully offers the “best of both worlds” by combining a light and thin notebook with a 7mm 8x DVD Superdrive.
The right side with Ethernet, USB, wireless on/off, optical drive, SD card reader and ExpressCard 54 slot (view large image)
The left side with power jack, VGA port, two USB ports, Firewire, volume control, headphone and microphone ports (view large image)
The port selection of the R500 is remarkably good for a notebook of this size. Above you can view a video that tours the ports on the notebook, and if you prefer to read here’s a quick rundown of what you get:
- 3 USB 2.0 ports (two on the left and one on the right)
- IEEE 1394 / FireWire port
- Monitor out port
- Headphone / line-out port
- Microphone in port
- ExpressCard 54 slot
- Ethernet LAN port
- SD card slot reader
You also get some nice dedicated hardware buttons such as wireless on/off on the right side, volume up/down control wheel on the left, a “Toshiba Assist” help quick launch button, and an LCD backlight on/off button.
To top these features off you get integrated biometric security via a finger print reader located between the touchpad buttons.
The bottom of the R500 with docking station port, memory access, and battery (view large image)
Upon launch the Portege R500 will come in two virtually identical configurations: The R500-S5002 (Windows Vista Business) priced at $2,149 and the R500-S5001X (Windows XP Professional) priced at $1,999.
Our pre-production Toshiba Portege R500 had the following specs:
- Genuine Windows Vista Business (32-bit version)
- Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 1.20GHz, 2MB L2, 533MHz FSB with 64-bit
- 1024MB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM
- One memory slot available
- 120GB (5400 RPM); Serial-ATA hard disk drive
- 7mm, 8xDVD-SuperMulti (+/-R Single Layer) drive supporting 9 formats
- 12.1-inch diagonal widescreen highbrightness display
- 1280 x 800 (WXGA) – Transreflective backlit LED
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 with 64MB
- Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n)
- Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
In the third quarter of 2007, Toshiba plans to further reduce the weight of the Portege R500 Series to 1.72 pounds (without optical drive) by replacing the Serial-ATA HDD with a 64GB solid state drive. This will make the R500 the world’s lightest widescreen 12.1-inch notebook (as of this writing).
Since our sample R500 was a pre-production unit we could not perform our standard benchmarking. That said, with a 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM and an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 chipset it should be reasonable to expect the R500 to provide solid business performance but lack the power for serious 3D gaming.
Overall our first impressions of the Toshiba Portege R500 are very positive, but thorough benchmarking is needed to confirm how this ultraportable stacks up to the competition. While there are some minor concerns with build quality, the R500 is remarkably well built for such a small ultraportable.