Maximum PC Staff Mar 10, 2010

Toshiba Portege R500

At A Glance

Thin Mints

So, so tiny. Transflective screen rocks! Amazing battery life.

Wafer-Thin Mints

More flexible than we usually like our notebooks.

When we first laid eyes on Toshiba’s latest ultraportable, we were in awe of its crazy-thin, crazy-light profile. In the past, such notebooks sacrificed performance to fit into such tiny shells. To combat this performance sag, Toshiba paired its machine with Intel’s new ultra-low-voltage Core 2 Duo.

We don’t generally go for road warrior notebooks, but the R500 packs a whole lot of power into a diminutive body. With a 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo U7600 under the hood, there’s plenty of power for day-to-day computing tasks. We wouldn’t run intensive Photoshop scripts or edit video on this rig, but for web browsing, word processing, and spreadsheet use, it’s plenty peppy.

Toshiba filled the R500 with loads of features. We love its full-size keyboard, 120GB hard disk (a 64GB solid-state drive is optional), and 12.1-inch 1280x800 widescreen display. But the best feature is the sunlight-friendly transflective nature of the display, which lets you disable the backlight when you have another bright source of light.

Most other transflective displays we’ve tested either don’t do well outside or look terrible when you use them with a backlight—but the R500’s screen looks great in either scenario. And we’re talking about a number of outdoor environments, ranging from direct sunlight to indirect sunlight in the back of a car. You wouldn’t want to watch a movie outside on a sunny day, but the screen is perfect if you want to sneak off to the pool during a “work at home” day.

Battery life, courtesy of the ultra-low-voltage Intel processor was exemplary. With the backlight set to medium, the R500 survived for three hours and 17 minutes during our JFK movie-viewing test. With the backlight at its lowest setting and Wi-Fi disabled, we got more than five hours of actual runtime from this little guy.

Battery life is good, the screen looks great, and it’s easy on your shoulder—what’s not to love? While the R500’s performance is praiseworthy for an ultraportable, this notebook PC simply isn’t competitive against any machine with discrete graphics, even an ancient one. Of course, it’s not reasonable to expect to replace your desktop with an ultraportable, but we’d like to see better 3D performance than what the integrated Intel 945GM can crank out; the R500 is as slow as molasses on a January morning—it’s even too slow to run accelerated casual games like Peggle.

The chassis is also a tad flimsy. Pick up the notebook and the entire thing flexes. Lift it while a DVD is spinning, and you’ll hear the lovely sound of the disc surface hitting the notebook and scratching the hell out of the disc.

But even with a few minor gotchas, the R500 is one amazing ultraportable notebook. For anyone who spends more time on the road than behind a desk, it’s a perfect traveling companion.

  Toshiba Portege R500
CPU Intel 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo U7600
RAM 1GB DDR2/667 (soldered to mobo)
LAN 802.11G/Gigabit
Hard Drive
120GB Toshiba MK1237GSX (5400rpm)
Optical Matsushita DVD-RAM/DVD+/-RW Dual Layer (UJ-844S)
Ports VGA, 3 USB, 1 FireWire, SD card reader, PC card, audio in/out
Videocard Intel 945GM Express
Display 12.1-inch transflective (1280x800)
Soundcard Realtek HD Audio
Laptop Weight
2lbs, 6oz
Carry Weight
3lbs, 1oz

Toshiba Portege R500

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