Reviewed August 18, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The Toshiba Portege R notebook line has been synonymous with super-sleek, high quality and ultralight mobile computing for years. The price was high, and in return you got one of the lightest notebooks on the market. The R700/R705 changes just one thing: price. The R705-P25 that’s sold at Best Buy sells for just $999 (or less), half the equivalent price of old R notebooks. The R laptops have never been the fastest notebooks on the block—it’s rare to find much computing power in a slight 3 pound machine (look to Sony for that, at a much higher price), but the R705 is available with up to an Intel Core i7 ULV M620 CPU for $1,599. The R705-P25 we look at for this review has a 2.26GHz Intel Core i3 350M, and there’s a Core i5 ULV model priced at $1,299.
The 3.2 lb. Portege feels uncannily light for a 13.3” notebook with a DVD drive and a 6 cell battery that Toshiba claims is good for up to 8 hours. Like the Sony Vaio Z, it’s lighter than many netbooks, but the Toshiba is half the price of the Sony. The Vaio Z targets a different user who needs extreme CPU and GPU power in an ultralight form, hence the price gap. The R705 is made of plastic rather than carbon fiber and alloy metals, again a cost-saving move. That doesn’t mean it looks cheap though; it’s a good looking machine with a faux brushed metal lid and wrist rest area. The R705-P25 Best Buy model's lid color has a subtle blue tint that's visible under strong lighting, while the display lid's edge is more noticeably blue. The R700 available from Toshiba direct and other retailers has a black lid.
For a very thin notebook the Toshiba has a decent set of ports including a combined eSATA/powered USB port, two additional USB ports, HDMI, VGA and SD card reader, separate headphone and mic jacks and Ethernet. The Toshiba’s keyboard is large enough for comfortable typing (after all, a 13.3” notebook isn’t that tiny), and the mouse pad is reasonably large and normal (no weird HP buttonless shenanigans).
Design, Temperatures and Keyboard
Since our model runs the Intel Core i3, the slowest and lowest powered in the Core i family, the R705 runs quite cool. We’d expect the Core i5 and i7 versions to run warmer, though they should be considerably cooler than the Vaio Z with it’s toasty dedicated GPU and the notoriously hot-bottomed Apple MacBook Pro. Our review unit ran at 98F degrees at the warmest spot (the RAM vent/access door) and 87-90 degrees elsewhere on the bottom when working with web and Office apps in a 76 degree room. The wrist rest area measured 90 degrees.
The keyboard is quite good, especially if you prefer chiclet style island keyboards. Our only complaint is that travel is low; a result of the super-thin design. There are dedicated arrow keys at the lower right corner, and the page up/down, home and end keys live in a strip on the right side (a little odd, but at least they're there).
The fan is located on the right front corner underneath, and an air vent pushes warm air out the left side near the rear. The fan isn't silent when doing relatively easy tasks like web and Office work, despite the low CPU and casing temperatures. It's not a blow dryer, but you'll hear it humming quietly. When doing intensive tasks like gaming or importing 50 RAW photos, the fan kicks up and you'll hear it, though it's not obnoxious. We'd expect the Core i5 and i7 models to run the fan more aggressively. When playing Flash movies on Hulu and Netflix we got the hottest CPU readings among all tasks: 50 degrees Centigrade. Otherwise it runs at 30 C.
Windows notebooks under $1,000 don't generally wow us with their displays. The R705 is priced on the edge where we'd hope to get a better quality panel but wouldn't count on it. Happily, Toshiba took the high road here and the TruBrite gloss LED backlit display looks very good. It's very sharp, reasonably bright and has good color saturation. Viewing angles are better than average in this price bracket and we're glad Toshiba went with the higher 1366 x 768 resolution found on higher end notebooks rather than 1280 x 800. Though the glare can be bothersome depending on nearby lights, overall the R705 was less glaring than mid-tier models from a variety of competing brands. We used the notebook for several hours straight, and suffered relatively little eye fatigue.
All R700 and R705 models ship with Intel HD Graphics. That's an integrated graphics solution that uses shared memory and offers HDMI output. It does a good job with video for DVD and streaming media playback and a passable job at 3D but this is no serious gaming notebook.
The Intel Core i3 version of the R700 isn't meant to be a desktop replacement if you do heavy duty work with demanding graphics applications, do development work or spend your free time playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. But it's more than adequate for light to moderate Photoshop work, business apps, MS Office, YouTube and Hulu. We used Sony's image processing and cataloging software to import 100 DSLR images (50 JPEG and 50 RAW files averaging 15 megs each) and the Toshiba handled the task with ease. It imported the files in a minute and was responsive when scrolling through images and editing them. Likewise Photoshop CS5 worked fine with these files and basic filters like unsharp mask as well as RAW import were tolerably fast. Netflix played at 30fps and Hulu at 25fps.
If you do need more speed, the Core i5 and i7 options are available for $300 and $600 upcharges respectively when ordered from Toshiba. All machines ship with 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM (8 gigs max) and have a 500 gig, 5400rpm SATA hard drive (unsurprisingly our drive was made by Toshiba). The machines have Intel N-6200 WiFi 802.11 a/g/n but the Best Buy R705-P25 model lacks Bluetooth. The $1,599 Core i7-620M version (R700-S1331) also includes an upgrade to a 128 gig SSD drive, adds Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and dual layer rather than single layer DVD burner.
The two standard SODIMM RAM slots are located under a door on the bottom that's affixed with two phillips head screws (it's the door with the vent grille). The larger door beside it covers the hard drive. Both are easy to access for upgrades and repairs, though the notebook already ships with a 500 gig drive (the largest commonly available), so you probably won't need to upgrade it unless you want to move to an SSD or a 7200rpm drive. The R700 can accept up to 8 gigs of RAM (as two 4 gig SODIMM modules).
PCMark Vantage Benchmarks:
Toshiba Portege R705-P25
PCMark Suite: 4934
Memories suite: 2986
TV and Movies suite: 3467
Gaming suite: 3041
Music suite: 5349
Communications suite: 4290
Productivity suite: 4422
HDD test suite: 3161
PCMark Suite: 4931
Memory Suite: 3007
TV and Movie Suite: 3403
Gaming Suite: 3166
Music Suite: 5183
Communication Suite: 4444
Productivity Suite: 4408
HDD Test Suite: 3374
Toshiba claims that the standard 6 cell, 66 Wh Lithium Ion battery is good for 8 hours on the Core i3 R700. As usual, manufacturer estimates involve aggressive power management and a dose of optimism, but that said, our R705-P25 managed 6 hours with somewhat aggressive but usable settings. We allowed power management to disable the optical drive when not in use and set display brightness to a very tolerable 50%. In a mix of web, email and MS Office use, we managed 6 hours. When streaming Netflix on Demand over our WiFi 802.11n network, the Toshiba played at 30fps and lasted 3.5 hours. DVD playback uses less power than streaming, and we had no trouble making it through two feature length movies.
We're quite fond of the Toshiba Portege R700: it's very slim, incredibly light, has an internal optical drive and a capable battery for just under a grand. Sweet. If you're looking for an ultralight among 13" models, the R700 stands out for value and portability. Sure, it's not clad in metal like the 13" macBook Pro but it's much lighter and won't give you hot flashes when using it on your lap. In fact, it's as light as the MacBook Air, but more powerful. Toshiba offers enough CPU options to suit everyone from the budget conscious to the need for speed crowd, though even the top configuration can't come close to dethroning the speed king Sony Vaio Z.
Pro: Extremely light and portable. Slim and attractive and finds room for an internal DVD drive. Sharp, bright display. Good keyboard.
Con: No Bluetooth on the base R705-P25 model, keyboard travel is relatively low.
List price: $999 as reviewed (you may find it for less), various models with faster CPUs are available at higher prices.
Display:13.3", 1366 x 768 resolution LED backlit gloss display (TruBrite). Integrated Intel HD Graphics with 64-1696 megs shared memory.
Battery:6 cell , 66 Wh Lithium
M350 Core i3 CPU running at 2.26GHz. Intel HM55 chipset. Also available with Intel Core i5 520M and Core i7 620M. 4 gigs DDR3 RAM (two DIMM slots, max is 8 gigs), 500 gig SATA 5400rpm hard drive.
x 8.94 x 0.66-1.16 inches. Weight: 3.2 pounds.
Camera:Webcam with mic built into display bezel.
in stereo speakers, mic, 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack and mono mic jack.
WiFi 802.11a/g/n (supports Intel Wireless Display) and gigabit Ethernet. Bluetooth is optional on some models.
Drives: 500 gig SATA 5400rpm hard drive, DVD burner (single layer DVD burner on the Best Buy R705-25 model). Lower capacity drives and a 128 gig SSD are available on Toshiba's website for R700 models.
Ports: 1 combo eSATA/USB port with sleep and charge, 2 additional USB ports, VGA and HDMI port.
7 Home Premium 64 bit. Other versions of Windows 7 also available, downgrade media for Windows XP available on R700 models. Bundled Toshiba software: ReelTime, Bulletin Board, Recovery Disc Creator, DVD Player, Toshiba Eco Utility, Toshiba Face Recognition and PC Health Monitor. Other software: trial versions of MS Office 2007 and Norton Internet Security 2010.