Toshiba Portege R700

Toshiba didn’t allow us to hurl the R700 into a brick wall (our standard stress-testing benchmark), so sadly we can’t confirm whether this makes much of a difference. It does, however, promise the R700 will stay cool, thanks to ‘Airflow Cooling Technology’ which should keep fan noise to a minimum by channelling heat more effectively than the disgusting, sweaty laptops we’re used to.

Design and Durability
While the Portege R600 sported a silver aluminum body that felt somewhat flimsy, the R700 trades flash for a sturdier-feeling black magnesium cover. The chrome hinges are plastic, as are the darker gray touchpad buttons. The overall look is somewhat subdued but handsome. Those looking for more flair should opt for the Best Buy-exclusive model, which has a dark blue lid. Weighing 3.2 pounds, the Portege R700 is one of the lightest laptops you’ll find with both a roomy 13-inch display and a built-in optical drive. The pricier 13-inch Sony VAIO Z weighs an even 3 pounds, but the R700 is still easy to take anywhere, measuring a compact 12.4 x 9 x 0.6–1 inches. The R700’s durability extends beyond its magnesium finish. Toshiba used a honeycomb rib structure for the base and palm rest for extra resilience. You also get hard drive protection and a spill-resistant keyboard.

The keyboard uses flat, widely spaced island-style keys. While perfectly usable, the keys are noticeably more rectangular than most, as if they were shortened to save space. Typing is also a little on the clacky side, but not so much as to be a dealbreaker. We do appreciate the large dedicated Page-up, page-down, Home, and End keys along the right side–they’re usually relegated to alternate function keys on most laptops. Our biggest complaint is that the keyboard is not backlit. We’ve seen that feature on other Toshiba laptops in this price range, and it’s always an appreciated extra.

Display and Audio
The R700’s LED-backlit 13.3-inch display (1366 x 768 pixels) is fairly bright and looks less washed out than the 12-inch panel on the R600 series. When we watched a 720p episode of Glee on, colors really popped, and we could easily make out wrinkles in Mr. Schuster’s forehead. We noticed just a little bit of visual noise, and viewing angles were narrow. When we streamed Phoenix on Pandora, the twin speakers above the keyboard were loud enough to fill a small room. Still, we wouldn’t go past 75 percent volume; The Killers’ “When You Were Young” sounded harsh when we really cranked it.

The inclusion of a combo eSATA/USB port, HDMI and an SD card slot gives the Portege R700 a big advantage over the MacBook in terms of ports and connections. Even though in some countries the system has an Intel Wireless Display transmitter, it’s a shame the R700 does not come bundled with the Netgear adapter required to wirelessly beam video to your television. The first round of Wireless Display laptops from earlier in 2010 all included the adapter.

The R700 is in a different league than its predecessor when it comes to performance. That’s because this ultraportable packs a 2.4-GHz Core i5 processor, compared to a relatively wimpy 1.4-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU on the R600 we reviewed in April 2009. The R700 scored a whopping 6,657 in PCMark Vantage, nearly triple the R600. That showing is also more than double the ultraportable notebook average, and it beats the HP EliteBook 2540p (6,002), Fujitsu LifeBook S760 (5,890), and Lenovo ThinkPad X201s (6,106). The only ultraportables we’ve tested recently that surpass the R700 are the ThinkPad X201 (7,050), which has a slightly faster 2.53-GHz Core i5 CPU, and the blazing but much pricier Sony VAIO Z (9,936), which sports dual SSDs and Nvidia graphics.

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