It's not a perfect solution -- if you live in the cloud-infested land that is Britain, there's often not enough ambient light, so you end up using the internal backlight anyway. When doing so the LEDs bleed noticeably, leaving a strip of light across the top and bottom edges. In addition, the vertical and horizontal viewing angles are very poor, meaning the picture isn't very clear unless you stand or sit in exactly the right position.
The R500 comes with 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as standard, but because it lacks a 3G SIM card slot, you can't go online outside of wireless hotspots. Considering this laptop is aimed at travellers, it's a silly omission that should have been added regardless of any extra weight. It is possible to add third party 3G datacards via the laptop's PC Card slot, but this isn't a very elegant solution.
Given the fact the laptop feels so flimsy, we're glad to see it has a three-year international warranty. The software package isn't as generous, though. It comes with copies of InterVideo WinDVD, Norton Internet Security 2007 (with 90 days of free updates), Ulead DVD MovieWriter and a smattering of Toshiba software. The R500-10U, R500-10J and R500-106 come with Windows Vista Business edition, while all other versions use XP Pro.
The Portege R500-10U scored 2,756 in PCMark05, making it faster than the Sony Vaio TZ series, which scored 1,049. As a result, it's quick enough to handle most everyday tasks such as Web browsing, desktop publishing and office productivity. Forget about gaming, though -- it only scored 158 in 3DMark05.
The R500-10U scored well in the most important benchmark of all. It lasted 97 minutes in BatteryEater, which isn't bad considering the test basically runs the CPU at full tilt until the batteries die. It's not as impressive as the 208 minutes achieved by the Sony Vaio TZ Series, though Toshiba says the R500 can last up to 7.5 hours with more restrained use. We suspect you may have to switch off the LED backlight and the wireless adaptor to get anywhere near that figure.
If you want a laptop that's ridiculously light with a good battery life, it's a toss-up between the Toshiba R500-10U and the Sony Vaio TZ series.
The R500 isn't as well-built as the TZ series, and its battery life isn't as impressive, but it is slightly faster, has a more comfortable keyboard and is lighter.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday