Toshiba Portege R200 review

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As we saw in last month’s Labs, the sub-2kg notebook category isn’t the niche market it once was, and the successor to Toshiba’s superb Portege R100 faces much stiffer competition.

Toshiba Portege R200 review

First impressions are excellent, though. The R200’s gunmetal silver feels as satisfying as it looks, and opening it up reveals a mirrored touchpad section, complemented by a subtle blue light at its base as it’s switched on. The clean lines continue with the discreet row of shortcut buttons along the left edge of the keyboard and tiny status lights along the top.

Toshiba reduces the bulk of the notebook by graduating the lid thickness. At the top, it rivals Sony’s groundbreaking T1X1P, measuring just 4mm, rising to 6mm at the bottom. There’s certainly some flex in it, but, like the Sony, this could be its saving grace, absorbing much of the stress of an impact. The outer skin is impressively tough too and doesn’t contact with the TFT even when pressed hard.

The screen itself has a modest 1,024 x 768 native resolution, but it’s a sensible choice considering the 12.1in diagonal. The screen is clear and evenly lit, with viewing angles that strike a good balance between visibility and privacy. While some will miss the widescreen ratio of the Sony, it does at least keep the size of the notebook down to sub-A4, and the Toshiba’s screen is more pleasant to use in everyday apps like Word and Outlook.

The downside to this form factor is a cramped keyboard. The cursors and page up/down keys are conveniently separated out, but aside from the main alphanumeric keys everything is either half- or quarter-sized. Touch-typists will undoubtedly find it tight, but there’s a good depth of travel and a quiet action. The touchpad is responsive, if again on the small side, but the shiny mouse buttons are a more questionable choice, soon getting covered in greasy fingerprints. You’ll certainly need a mouse to execute the more fiddly tasks too.

But then this really is a tiny package. The 1.3kg weight and 21mm profile are slightly heftier than the R100, but it’s still difficult to believe that you’re picking up a respectably powerful PC. The 1.2GHz ultra-low-voltage Pentium M 753 and 512MB of PC3200 DDR2 RAM propelled the R200 to a decent 0.55 in our benchmarks. Intel’s integrated GMA 950 handles 3D graphics, so you’re not going to be engaging in any 3D gaming, but you’ll be able to tackle practically everything else.

Joining the Pentium M is Intel’s Sonoma 915GMS Express chipset, but the R200 is only two-thirds of a Centrino machine, the missing ingredient being an Intel-branded wireless card. That’s because a full-sized mini-PCI card won’t fit in such a tiny chassis, leaving Toshiba to plump for a half-height Atheros 802.11b/g card, complemented by a Bluetooth module.

Battery life didn’t prove much of a problem in practice, with the 3,800mAh battery managing a run of four-and-a-half hours under light use. This pales in comparison to the Sony’s seven hours, but is double the time of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X41. In reality, you can expect it to last around three hours before you start worrying about the location of power sockets. We’d ideally like more, but Toshiba will also be introducing a larger-capacity option, or you could buy a spare battery for £69.

The R200 packs comprehensive security features. The swipe-style fingerprint reader can police access to Windows and act as a convenient password safe for any online login details. There’s a TPM module too, allowing for on-the-fly hardware-level file encryption, while hard disk shock protection parks the drive heads if a sudden movement is detected.

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