Toshiba knows a thing or two about notebook computers. It's been making them for a quarter-century, after all.
The company's PortÃ©gÃ© series of elite business notebooks is built for power, versatility and durability. Toshiba markets the product family's newest entry, the PortÃ©gÃ© R700, as "the world's lightest" 13.3-inch, full-performance ultraportable notebook. No arguments here.
My test unit featured Intel's latest Core i7 processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM, a 120GB solid-state drive (rather than a traditional hard drive) and a built-in DVD super-multidrive. It also had a host of expansion ports to accommodate nearly any peripheral imaginable.
The first thing users will notice is the notebook's small form factor. Depending on the configuration, the R700 can weigh as little as 3 pounds and measure 1 inch thick.
Equally remarkable are the notebook's 8.5-hour battery life and beautiful, vivid display. IT managers and users on the move no doubt will appreciate that they can run the device all day on a single charge.
Toshiba also has incorporated a handy new feature called "Sleep-and-Charge," which allows MP3 players and cell phones to charge via the onboard USB ports even when the notebook is turned off.
The PortÃ©gÃ© R700 feels sturdy in the hand and appears to have a very rigid chassis, thanks to Toshiba's use of a magnesium alloy shell with a reinforced "honeycomb rib" structure inside. The solid-state drive in the model I tested further boosts the notebook's ruggedness, because SSDs are immune to the bumps inherent in mobile computing.
An accompanying docking port allows for easy connections to external peripherals and additional displays. The fingerprint reader is a nice touch and incorporates some handy extras, such as Internet Explorer integration (for entering passwords on websites).
Users who choose an i7-powered model will benefit from Intel's Active Management Technology, which allows network administrators to discover and inventory assets even when they aren't running. IT professionals are always looking for economical tools to help manage their workload, and nothing beats a free one to assist with these tasks.
In the past, I've been less than impressed with Toshiba's power cords, which had barrel connectors that sometimes broke off when plugged into a notebook. Happily, the cord accompanying the PortÃ©gÃ© R700 features a sturdier connector.
Toshiba has loaded the R700 with a fair amount of company-branded utilities, which can be a distraction. The Toshiba Bulletin Board software signaled that I had a new alert to read, but it took three clicks to see it because each click launched a new interface in a different program. This isn't a showstopper, however, because all PCs ship with custom utilities that can be stripped out if unneeded.
The notebook's included 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security also is frustrating. After just one week of use, I began receiving messages asking me to pay for a long-term subscription. It would be nice if manufacturers included longer trials with a new purchase.
Aside from these irritations, it seems Toshiba thought of nearly everything with the PortÃ©gÃ© R700. It's nice to use a fully featured notebook with this much processing power and a weight comparable to (or lighter than) a netbook. The R700's exceptional battery life and rugged construction also are noteworthy.
If you're in the market for a 13.3-inch ultraportable, this notebook is worth much more than a glance.