Toshiba Portégé R700: first-look review
While the Toshiba Libretto W100 and AC100 are both radically different products to what has gone before, the R700 treads more established ground. This is the successor to Toshiba’s Portégé R600 and R500, both of which were targeted at top executives from generously endowed companies.
Perhaps reflecting our new era of austerity, the Portégé R700 has a mainstream price: £629 exc VAT for the base model with a Core i3 processor. Not that this has stopped Toshiba from investing in new features.
Top of the list is its “Airflow Cooling Technology”, which Toshiba developed in tandem with Intel. This involves a miniaturised motherboard that positions the processor and all the other components that require cooling near the edge of the chassis, allowing a single fan to constantly cool them. And, rather than wait for the processor to become hot, it blows air all the time.
According to Toshiba, this is what allows it to include a Core i3, i5 or i7 processor in such a slim machine. While we do have some criticisms – which we’ll come to later – this shouldn’t undermine what is a notable achievement. If you wanted a 13in ultraportable measuring under 30mm thick before, your options (think the Lenovo ThinkPad X301) were limited to ultra-low-voltage processors. Indeed, while the X301 is impressively thin at 24mm, the R700 measures 17mm at its thinnest point.
The R700 is staggeringly quick too. Our test sample used a 2.4GHz Core i5-520M with a healthy 4GB of DDR3 memory for company, and it sliced through all the apps we threw at it without any hint of a delay.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a silent laptop, however. In our tests, the fan was audible despite its relatively low spin rate, and when we pushed the Core i5 sample in our test machine the fan audibly revved up. That said, this was a pre-production unit so we’ll wait to see how the final machines cope with hard graft.
Another change in the R700 compared to the R600 is the lid. We criticised the R600’s for having a little too much flex for comfort, and the addition of magnesium alloy has certainly stiffened it in the R700’s incarnation. It’s not ruggedised by any means, but should withstand daily bashes.
While the bottom of the chassis is again magnesium alloy, the palmrest area (despite its brushed metal appearance) is plastic. That could be an issue if ham-fisted users lean down on the left-hand side, as the hard disk sits directly beneath.
The isolated keyboard is unexceptional but usable, but we’re fans of the responsive touchpad – and Toshiba has added a nice touch by including a switch above it to turn it off. That can be incredibly useful when typing, as it prevents the annoyance of accidentally tapping the touchpad and moving the cursor to a different part of your document.
We also enjoyed using the 13.3in screen. It may not have the highest resolution in the world – 1,366 x 768 – but this ensures system text is easy to read without fussing about with dots per inch.
And it’s this size of screen (combined with the Core i3, i5 and i7 processors) that helps turn the R700 into a very usable everyday laptop, as opposed to an ultraportable you turn to when portability is your priority. Note that some models include an optical drive as well.
We were using a pre-production sample for testing, so we’ll hold off a full verdict until a finished unit arrives in our Labs for benchmarking. It’s only then that we’ll be able to verify Toshiba’s claims of up to nine hours’ battery life as well.
But in terms of outright power in a highly portable form, we’ve been blown away by the latest Portégé. if it lives up to its promise, the R700 could well be vying for a place atop our Executive Laptops A List.