If you think of HP’s 2530p as a strapping workhorse of an ultraportable, Toshiba’s R600 is like a stylish, sophisticated cousin—and we were quickly smitten with its charms. The R600 shares much in common with Toshiba’s R500, but with improvements to its build quality and structure. At 11.1x8.5x0.8 inches and a weight of two pounds, six ounces, the R600 is so thin and light as to seem ethereal. There’s some flex to the magnesium-alloy case when you lift the notebook by one corner and some bendiness to the display enclosure, but the notebook doesn’t feel fragile.
And svelte as it is, the R600 is packed with features. It offers a healthy array of ports, including an SD media reader, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and three USB ports—one of which doubles as eSATA and can even be used for charging devices when the notebook is off. Amid all that is a DVD burner, as well as a volume dial.
Despite its wafer-thinness, the R600 is equal to its peers in features.
The R600’s keyboard is full-size and feels firm during use, and it’s paired with a conventional touchpad. And unique to all the other notebooks here, the R600’s 1280x800 screen is transflective, so the backlight can be turned off in favor of bright natural light when using the notebook outdoors, which can preserve battery power. A button at the upper-right of the keyboard lets you toggle between the two states. When we tried using the screen outdoors, we found the feature most effective when the sun was shining directly on the screen. Fortunately, battery life with the LCD is strong; sporting a 6-cell battery like the other notebooks here, the R600 kept pace with the pack, lasting four hours and 17 minutes while playing continuous video.
With a notebook as thin as this, you can expect some compromises in processing power. The R600 can’t weather the thermals of even a low-voltage proc, so it’s equipped with an ultra-low-voltage 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile, which puts out just 10W TDP (thermal design power) vs. the 17W of an LV part. The 400MHz clock-speed differential between this and the 1.86GHz procs was apparent in the benchmark scores, but the R600’s performance was still acceptable, and it can handle general computing chores effortlessly. It can even run Quake 3 at 107fps, for what that’s worth. Our model came with a 160GB HDD, with movement detection to protect the drive (a 128GB SSD can be had for a whopping $850 extra).
Another consequence of the R600’s slim proportions is that its internal components aren’t easily accessible. Only a single hatch can be removed from the notebook’s underside, exposing a single DIMM—another module resides deeper in the machine on the motherboard.
Be that as it may, the Toshiba R600 stands out above the other notebooks here with its supreme portability, while still offering comparable features, a quality build, and a stylish appearance.