A colleague of ours hit the nail on the head when she described the ultraportable Toshiba Portege R200 as a "thing of beauty". This featherweight laptop for frequent business fliers has a razor-thin, muted-grey case that weighs just 1.2kg. The Portege R200 adds plenty of function to its fine form, including a wide keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and a Wi-Fi on/off switch. It also offers sufficient speed and battery life for most business tasks. All in all, the Toshiba Portege R200 makes a smart, albeit costly, addition to any mobile employee's luggage.
Measuring 287 by 20 by 229mm, the Toshiba Portege R200 is slightly wider, deeper and thinner than competing ultraportables, such as the Dell Latitude X1 and the ThinkPad X41. The very light 1.2kg Portege R200 still weighs nearly 120g more than the Latitude X1, which includes a smaller battery, but over 200g less than the ThinkPad X41, which comes with a bigger cell.
Fortunately, the Portege R200 is more than just a pretty case. The system's 12.1-inch display with a standard 1,024x768 native resolution provides enough real estate to open two application windows side by side. The laptop lacks the usual stunted ultraportable keyboard, shipping instead with a broad keyboard that allows you to type comfortably for hours at a time.
Two programmable buttons sit to the keyboard's left. The first launches the application of your choice, and the second exports video to a TV or an external monitor at the resolution you determine. A convenient fingerprint sensor along the bottom edge helps protect your data without forcing you to remember an alphanumeric password. Our only issue with the Portege R200's design is with its weird mouse buttons, which are moulded from a thin piece of plastic covered with a reflective metallic coating. Not only does the coating show off every fingerprint smudge, we suspect it may crack and peel over time.
The Toshiba Portege R200 features all of the ports and slots that the average business traveller requires. The list includes VGA and two side-by-side USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, 56K modem and headphone jacks, one Type II PC Card slot and one slot for Secure Digital flash memory cards, which we wish also supported other flash memory types, such as Sony's Memory Stick.
The Microsoft Windows XP Professional operating system kicks off the Portege R200's software package. Like most business laptops, the Portege R200 omits an expensive productivity suite, though it does include the Microsoft Works 8.0 minisuite and Sonic RecordNow 7.0 for use with an optional external CD or DVD burner. In addition, Toshiba bundles several utilities for managing important system functions, such as locating available wireless networks, protecting the hard drive from damage, and altering the included Trusted Platform Module chip that encrypts your sensitive data.
You can buy the Portege R200 via Toshiba's Web site or through a number of retailers. Our test configuration, which is the only one currently available, comes with a high list price of £1,468 (£1,249 ex. VAT, as of July 2005) for its decent component selection: an ultra-low-voltage 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512MB of fast 400MHz RAM, a cost-saving Intel 915GM graphics chip that swipes up to 128MB of main memory to use as VRAM, an average-size 60GB hard drive that spins at a slow 4,200rpm, a 12.1-inch screen with XGA (1,024x768) native resolution, a standard Atheros 802.11b/g wireless mini-PCI card and integrated Bluetooth. An external secondary optical-storage drive is not included in this price, so you'll have to shell out £175 for a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive should you want one.
The Dell Latitude X1 is £400 cheaper than the Portege R200 for roughly the same parts. It includes an external CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and higher WXGA (1,280x800) screen resolution, but a slower 1.1GHz ULV Pentium M processor. The ThinkPad X41 includes a dock with a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and a faster 1.5GHz Pentium M, though a smaller 40GB hard drive, for around £400 more than the Portege R200. In a market segment distorted by the hop across the Atlantic, the Dell is by far the winner in value terms for British ultra-thin laptop buyers.
In our mobile benchmarks, the Portege R200 performed about 11 per cent slower than both the Latitude X1 and the ThinkPad X41. However, frequent fliers who use the Portege R200 for typical low-intensity travellers' tasks -- document editing, emailing, Web surfing -- will find it fast enough. In our drain tests, the Portege R200's battery lasted a long 4 hours, 5 minutes compared to the Latitude X1's smaller cell, which cut out after 3 hours, 2 minutes. The ThinkPad X41, which carries the biggest battery of them all, hung on for an especially impressive 5 hours, 26 minutes.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo's MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo's MobileMark 2002 battery-life minutes|
Dell Latitude X1
Windows XP Professional; 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M 733; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS 910GML Express 128MB; Toshiba MK6006GAH 60GB 4,200rpm
IBM ThinkPad X41
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M 715; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM; Intel 915GM/GMS 910GML Express 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar C4K60 40GB 4,200rpm
Toshiba Portege R200
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M 753; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM; Intel 915GM/GMS 910GML Express 128MB; Toshiba MK6006GAH 60GB 4,200rpm
Edited by Michelle Thatcher
Additional editing by Nick Hide