The key selling point of the Portege R500 is in its design and exceptional battery life. Made from magnesium-alloy, the R500 weighs a mere 1.09kg with a thickness of just 19.5mm. In the 12.1-inch category, only the Fujitsu LifeBook Q2010 comes close to this level of portability. However, the Toshiba Portege ups the ante by integrating one of the slimmest DVD optical drives into the skinny chassis and bumping up the processor to a dual-core chip. We also like the fact that this system uses a mini-charger which is about two-thirds the size of standard AC adapters.
Like the Sony VAIO G series, this Portege has a rated uptime of 11 hours on its six-cell battery, which is very good considering its dual-core processor. The R500 is certainly a worthy candidate if one is looking for a notebook that can keep running on long-haul flights without requiring an outlet.
Despite its petite form factor, the Portege R500 doesn't skimp on features. While most 12.1-inch portables offer only two USB ports, the R500 generously provides three USB 2.0 together with mini-FireWire, monitor output, PC Card slot and an SD media slot. Network connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth and a Gigabit Ethernet port--standard offerings for any competent business machine.
Though our pre-production unit was unable to show it, the R500 display can be switched between transflective and non-reflective modes with a touch of a button. The former allows for brighter images indoors, while the latter is superior when used outdoors. Toshiba's EasyGuard technology protects this Portege with a spill-resistant keyboard and a harddisk accelerometer that detects when the notebook is dropped and parks the magnetic reader arm. Security features include a biometric fingerprint sensor and Trusted Platform Module chip to protect valuable data.
As a business machine, the R500 is compatible with docking solutions from Toshiba. There is also an option to replace the harddisk (HDD) with a Solid State Drive (SSD) which has no moving parts. The latter will jack up the price of the machine to S$5,299 (US$3,486.84) while offering a smaller storage capacity, but in return it is hardier than its magnetic cousin with a significantly faster data transfer rate and lower power consumption all of which translate to increased performance.
Possibly the only thing stopping us from getting one is its price. Starting at S$3,999 for the HDD version, it is certainly not a notebook for the faint of heart. Though the 11 hours of uptime is impressive, we were a little disappointed that no extended battery option was available. As the Portege has only one memory upgrade slot and 512MB of onboard RAM, it can be upgraded to a maximum of 1.5GB. We'd suggest as much RAM as possible, as upgrading memory is the cheapest way to boost performance. Fortunately, the SSD version can hold up to a maximum of 2GB as it has 1GB built-in.
Though hardly anybody uses dial-up Internet connection anymore in this part of Asia, some business users might miss the integrated modem which is absent from the Portege R500. Some companies still rely on faxes to conduct business, and getting an external modem just adds to the traveling bulk. However, for the majority of users this is a minor quibble.
The Toshiba Portege is truly a premium notebook for the traveling executive. True, its high price tag prohibits mass adoption by the average cubicle worker, but when every gram counts and battery life is of utmost importance, there are few competitors to the Portege R500.