Toshiba Portege R700—Introduction

Toshiba Computer released Japan’s first notebook computer in 1985, instantly cementing Toshiba as one of the pioneers of mobile computing. Since then, Toshiba has consistently been amongst the sales leaders of consumer notebooks in the US. But for all their mainstream success, in recent times Toshiba has not had any particularly compelling designs out there. There’s a lot of systems in the same vein as the A505 we tested earlier this year—vanilla mainstream notebooks that offer a lot of glossy black plastic to go along with a good amount of value, but no really compelling portable systems like the Portege R100 or R400 tablet from the past. Until now, with the introduction of the new Portege R700 and R705.

The R700 is Toshiba's latest ultraportable, and on paper, it's very impressive. It uses regular voltage Core i3, i5, and i7 processors and manages to stuff an optical drive into a 3.2lb, 1" thick enclosure. The casing is all done in brushed aluminum, and the internal structure uses a magnesium alloy and features an aluminum honeycomb to dissipate heat. The result is a notebook that is reportedly both lighter and stiffer than the previous Portege R500 and R600 notebooks. Unfortunately, like most other non-ASUS ultraportables, the R700 uses the onboard Intel HD graphics instead of going for a discrete graphics card, but given the 1” thin, 3lb form factor, it’s an understandable concession to make.

Toshiba Portege R700-S1330 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-620M
(2.66GHz, 32nm, 4MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel QM57 Express
Memory 2x2048MB DDR3-1333
Max 2x4GB DDR3-1333
Graphics Intel HD Graphics (64MB—1696MB shared memory)
Display 13.3" LED Backlit Matte WXGA (1366x768)
Hard Drive 2.5" 320GB 7200RPM SATA (Seagate ST9320423AS)
Networking Intel 82577LM PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6200 802.11a/b/g/n
Audio Realtek AL269 2-Channel HD Audio
(2.0 Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks)
Battery 6-cell Lithium-ion, 5800 mAh, 10.8V, 66 Wh
Front Side None
Left Side AC Power Connection
VGA Port
1 x USB 2.0
eSATA/USB Combo Port
HDMI port
Right Side 5-in-1 memory card reader
Integrated DVD SuperMulti Drive
ExpressCard slot
Headphone jack
1 x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet
Kensington Lock
Back Side None
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 12.44" x 8.94" x 0.66-1.01" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.0lbs (SSD), 3.2lbs (hard drive)
Extras Bluetooth 2.1
Integrated webcam and microphone
Warranty 1-year battery warranty
Pricing Portege R700-S1330 from $1489 at ProVantage

The R700 starts at $999, but our $1599 R700-S1330 test unit features top of the line components—the 2.67 GHz Core i7-620M, a 128GB SSD, and 4GB memory. For a 3.0lb machine with eight hours of battery life on tap, that’s a lot of power. The "little brother" Portege R705 is a really interesting configuration though. It shares the same chassis as the R700 (with a blue-painted lid), but has a Core i3-350M, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and trades the ExpressCard slot and docking capabilities for Intel’s WiDi built in. For a price of $829, that’s pretty awesome, especially when you take into account the completely aluminum chassis and 3.2lb carrying weight (R700/705 models with hard drives weigh slightly more than the 3lb SSD test unit we have). So on paper, the R700 finally brings something special to Toshiba’s otherwise-ordinary lineup, but does that impression hold up in person?

Toshiba Portege R700 - Inside and Out
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  • FH123 - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    So, let me get this straight. The specs look great, but then again those facts are easily accessible and the resulting perfomance can almost be guessed. As you say in the last sentence of the introduction, would it hold up to physical inspection, that's what we read the article for. The article does not disappoint and shows beautifully how a product that looks good on paper can be ... a piece of crap. Bad, mushy keyboard, bad screen, flimsy build quality. So the conclusion is: A great notebook ... with a myriad of flaws? I don't think so. How about a terrible notebook with good perfomance at a good price! Why does the specification / performance outweigh the human-interface factors? Don't get me wrong. The article as a whole plainly spells out what's wrong with today's laptop market and that's great. I love it. Keep doing it, please. Cause what's wrong is, everyone is buying their equipment online and specs have become everything. Certain specs that is. That's why honest hands-on reports are so important. High brightness, high resolution displays, but contrast, black-level and everything else be damned, right? The marketing department hasn't copped on yet. Low weight? Sure, easy to market. Mushy, pancake like consistency of the laptop? How do you quantify that? Ah sure, it must not be important then. Keyboards? Don't get me started. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    At $799 or $829 (whatever the R705 goes for), those flaws are excusable given the performance, battery life, long list of features, the overall aesthetic, magnesium casing, and superlight travel weight. Every $800 notebook has a crap screen. Bar none. Many of them have mediocre keyboards, and most have some questionable bits of plastic brightwork. At $799, I'd gladly excuse those flaws and get one. It's a budget ultraportable, and it might have a few rough edges. Most of them you can get used to, especially since everything else in the same market sector has a similar set of flaws, sometimes even more critical ones.

    However, at $1599, well within range of VAIO Z pricing, these flaws are almost inexcusable. Nobody want's a $1600 computer with keyboard flex, a not so great screen, etc. It's just bad. The VAIO Z costs maybe 10% more, has a far better GPU, nearly as powerful CPU, weighs the same, has a screen that's maybe a thousand times better, a better keyboard, better styling and better build quality. It's like the holy grail of thin and lights. So once you get in that pricing ball park, you damn well better have a really impressive computer, and what's impressive at $799 most certainly will not fly at $1599.
    Reply
  • FH123 - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    OK, point taken. The machine I'm actually angry about is my own, a Thinkpad T410s. A premium machine with a good keyboard and solid build-quality, but an abysmal screen. Black-level 2.9 cd/m2, contrast 95:1 according to notebookcheck.net, and it shows. Also my boss has a Sony Z series and it seems flimsy to me, compared to the heavier Thinkpad. Reply
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    I've had the Acer 3820TG 13.3" since this spring and I love it for the obvious benefits: 1.7 kg weight, 8 hour battery life (spec), Core i5-450, 2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM, Inte/ATI 5650 1 GB auto-switchable graphics (battery vs external power)

    The screen is horrible compared to the IPSes I'm used to on my home and work desktops. But this is just an increadible package at the price it sells for, just over half of that Toshiba, which doesn't have the 3D graphics to compare.

    Now where's the review? :-)
    Reply
  • TejTrescent - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    As an owner of a 3810T 13.3", I have to agree.

    Acer's little ultraportables are amazing--I kinda wish I'd waited for the 3820's, but I picked this laptop up for 500$ and it turns heads all the time about how small it is and the frequent real world 8+ hours on my battery (light browsing, IMs, etc.. only get about 5 under Ubuntu, 10+ under Win7 usually).

    I'd like to see a good 3820 review though to see if I should try to justify the upgrade.
    Reply
  • hdjii - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    I know that screen replacement is not trivial, but can a good quality LCD screen be found which would fit this laptop?

    Is a DIY screen upgrade feasible for any of the otherwise excellent laptops you have reviewed?

    Howard
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    I find your battery life results questionable. I have the r700-1320 (same as reviewed except for a 320GB 7200RPM HDD and an i5-520) While I haven't done any idle benchmarks, battery life with even light web surfing (and a fresh Win7 install) is closer to 4 hours (sometimes less) than 5.5. To claim that the laptop will get 5.5 to 6 hours is misleading; I've never seen battery life that long on the r700, and posters on notebookerview seem to back me up.

    One other thing worth mentioning is that the stock bloatware-infested install of Windows locks up frequently; this is actually what forced me to do a clean install. After doing a clean install, the situation is much improved in that regard, although I've noticed some other irregularities.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    We test with battery optimized settings on all laptops, with no Firewall/AV software, and we disable the other utilities. LCD is calibrated for ~100nits (as close as possible), we run the Power Saver profile, HDD is set to go to sleep after 1 minute of idle, system never powers off or sleeps, no display dimming or powering off, WiFi set to maximum power savings, min CPU 0/max CPU 50, hybrid sleep and USB sleep enabled. I think that covers everything.

    In my experience, the "Balanced" power profile can cut off anywhere from 10 to 20% of the battery life, depending on the laptop and manufacturer.

    Note that a clean install of Windows may not always get you the "optimal" results -- there are frequently power saving features or utilities that you need to install. As an example, Toshiba has a DVD power off utility that we used. Also, the Internet tests are highly variable if you're not using the same pages as we are, but given we got four hours of x264 playback I'd say that's a good minimum baseline.
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Thanks for your reply. I think I've got similar settings to what you guys test with (including the toshiba DVD power tool), except for the 50% CPU limit and the lack any AV software. I wouldn't be surprised if MSE were knocking off a chunk of battery life, but I'm not willing to sacrifice that protection for some extra battery life :) Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    Recently, I had some time to kill and checked out Best Buy... man, every single notebook computer came with these horrible chick-let keyboards. Like from the old IBM PC Jr. Days! They sucked then and still mostly suck now.

    Anandtech did a recent review of Thinkpad's X100e with perhaps the best chicklet keyboard on the market.

    Well, for folks looking for a notebook with a NORMAL Keyboard and matte screen, Lenovo's standard ThinkPad line has them. And guess what else they do.... THEY DON'T LOAD UP THINKPADS with BLOAT-WARE! No Norton or Mcafee. Yes, a few of their own tools (nice ones too, love their wireless manager), thats it.

    $900~1800 for the Toshiba? Blah.

    At about $1500, the ThinkPad T410s is almost an Ultra-portable. Its 14", had an internal optical drive as well as optional WAN (at&t or Verizon or Clear), 3.9lbs... and it has a good keyboard and standard features that'll smoke the Toshiba. The screen isn't as bright, but I'll take a good matte screen any day over any glossy notebook. And if people check out eCoupons, they can usually save $150~300 if the timing is right ;) The latest ThinkPad keyboards (not the x100 or Edge) have spill-channels to protect the computer with perhaps the BEST layout and feel over ANY notebook. Only thing that sucks, the @#(*^$@ Control / Fn keys are backwards (Use BIOS option to flip).

    But with my personal experience, I'd prefer a normal T410 over the S model. The S is barely over an inch thick vs. 1.5" on a non S-model. There the NON-S models are more sturdy, more ports, easier to work on and upgrade (2.5" drive vs 1.8")... and I'd rather pocket the $500 difference.

    Tip: the $600 L (or older SL) models are decent, but may or may-not be matte. Keyboards are very good (feel wise) but not the great layouts like in the T/W series. L's are not as tough as Ts.
    Reply

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