First look: Toshiba Portégé A600

 

Toshiba describes the Portégé A600 as the little big brother of the Portégé R600, or perhaps the big little brother. The reason for the swappable adjectives is that it’s going to be cheaper than Toshiba’s flagship ultraportable, but it’s also notably thicker.

The A600 uses a conventional keyboardportege-a600-side-reduced-300x210 that feels comfortable enough to type on without being remarkable. For instance, the keys don’t give any substantial feedback when you type. However, the keys themselves are large – most notably the Backspace and Enter key – with only the height of the Function keys being compromised.

At first touch, the screen feels flimsy, but Toshiba is at pains to point out that the flexibility of the lid is in fact a design feature. You can see a semi-official video of the screen protection in action in this YouTube video. 

This is designed to be a design-led notebook for the mainstream company executive, as opposed to the top-flight execs who might be equipped with an R600. Whether it succeeds in its design vision is arguable. It’s quite thick, a good 10mm thicker than the R600, and the chassis feels and looks plasticky. In fact, that plasticness is one of the big differentiators between it and its sibling.

Nevertheless, as a step up from the monolothic bricks that many execs are forced to carry around, it’s a huge improvement.

portege-a600-front-reduced-300x286Despite the integrated optical drive, the A600 weighs a very reasonable 1.46kg, and Toshiba also claims a long battery life – up to eight hours with the extended battery in place. As with all the new Tosh  business notebooks, it includes embedded 3G, while Intel’s Centrino 2 technology guarantees 802.11b/g and draft-n.

It feels fast too. The sample we used was based on Intel’s U9400 CPU, an ultra-low-voltage unit that runs at a top speed of 1.4GHz. Certainly it was responsive even when we loaded multiple applications, including recording using the webcam, playing music and streaming a video.

Along with the usual USB ports – two, located on opposing sides of the chassis – Toshiba includes a combined USB/eSATA port. As we’ve seen from our testing of external hard disks, this is by far the fastest way to back up data locally. The final touch is a choice of solid-state drive or hard disk.

Toshiba wouldn’t be drawn on pricing, but we expect it to be substantially cheaper than the R600; as it’s going head to head with the likes of Sony VAIO SR19, it will certainly need to be less than £900 exc VAT to make an impression.

 

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