What a difference a year makes. When we first reviewed the Toshiba Portege R500 in July 2007, it was a breath of fresh air, an impossibly portable ultralight that stood out against a field of also-rans.
But the industry has responded, and Toshiba has not. The machine hasn’t received a significant update in that time, and it is now having its lunch resoundingly eaten by all of the competition it previously trounced. Out model came with a larger hard drive, a faster CPU, and more RAM than the model we tested last year. (An even more recent upgrade — which we haven’t had a chance to test yet — sports a 128GB solid state drive instead of a hard drive.) But it turns out, none of these mild improvements served to boost the R500 up to hang with its newfound contenders.
The R500 is still – by far – the lightest full-featured laptop on the market, weighing just 2.4 pounds while still offering an optical drive. No other machine can come close. But the Portege makes a lot of sacrifices to reach such an anorexic state, the most obvious being build quality and components that feel shaky, to put it mildly. The entire laptop bends and sways at the lightest touch, flexing so uncomfortably that it’s probably why the optical drive on our test machine didn’t work. Still, it’s the LCD that’s most troubling, which makes one wonder if Toshiba hasn’t put one of those newfangled “flexible” displays on its device.
Nearly as problematic is the dreadful performance of the R500, about 23 percent slower than both the Sony Vaio TZ-150 and the MacBook Air ultralights. The wait times for apps to load and screens to be redrawn is positively excruciating.
Still, if the durability and performance concerns don’t turn you off, there’s a bit to like here. With three USB ports, FireWire, VGA, SD card, and Ethernet ports, the machine is pretty full-featured, and its $2,149 price is competitive next to most other ultralights. For now, anyway.
- RAM Size: 1 GB
- Solid State Drive Size: 128 GB