The Toshiba Portege R500 is an ultraportable in the truest sense of the word. Whereas many laptops are too bulky to be taken on the road, its 779g chassis, long battery life and transflexive screen make it the perfect travel companion.
There are five different R500 models, with the entry-level Portege R500-106 costing around £1,200 from Toshiba resellers. Our review sample, the R500-10U, is available from Toshiba resellers for around £1,800.
The first thing you'll notice about the Portege R500 is how incredibly light it is. Our review sample, the R500-10U, tips the scales at 779g. That's about as heavy as a mug of coffee, or a loaf of Hovis Original Wheatgerm bread. Seriously -- when you take this laptop out of its box, you'll think Toshiba sent you a dummy model.
The downside of its light weight is its questionable build quality. The palm rest flexes under the lightest of pressure and makes a worrying cracking sound if you lean on it too hard. The screen is also flimsy, flexing like a piece of cardboard when you open or close it. The entire thing feels as if it could break if a gnat sneezed on it.
Although it doesn't push the style envelope, the R500-10U is a good-looking laptop. It's somewhat minimalist but it still has a decent number extra physical features. There's a fingerprint reader, three USB ports, an SD card reader and an analogue volume wheel on the left, which lets you adjust the sound levels quickly.
Despite its petite dimensions, the R500-10U manages to incorporate a very comfortable keyboard. We had no problems touch typing with it, which isn't something that can be said of the slightly smaller Sony Vaio TZ series.
One of the major reasons for the lightness of the R500-10U is the fact it uses a 64GB solid state hard drive (SSD). This doesn't have any moving parts so it weighs less than ordinary 46mm hard drives. It's also less susceptible to physical damage and accidental data loss. The downside is that it can't store much data, and it adds a great deal to the overall price of the laptop. The R500-10U is the only part of the R500 family that comes with an SSD, and you'll pay for it.
The R500-10U also lacks an optical drive, so you can't watch DVDs or make backups to a disc. Some versions of the R500 come with an optical disc drive, but this adds a couple of hundred grams. If weight is all-important, you'll want to give these a miss.
At the heart of the system, the R500 uses an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This is the U7600 ultra-low voltage model, which runs at a pedestrian 1.2GHz. It's a dual-core chip so it's still quick enough to handle most tasks, but don't be surprised if it suffers the occasional bout of slowdown when multitasking. We'd recommend going for 2GB of RAM -- standard on the R500-10U -- for added peace of mind.
One of the biggest issues faced by ultraportable laptops is the fact it's sometimes impossible to see what's on screen when you're outdoors, due to extreme reflectivity. Toshiba gets around the issue by using a 12.1-inch transflexive display, which remains visible even in bright sunlight. The laptop's transflexive on/off button at the top right lets you switch the LED backlight off when ambient light is sufficient to take the place of the internal LEDs.