Reviewed by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief.
Feb. 8, 2004
The Toshiba Portege R100 is an ultra-slim and
light (and we mean it!) subnotebook that's easy on the wallet and
your back. We reviewed the lovely Sony
Vaio X505 a few weeks ago, which is a Japanese model available
only from importers that's a bit slimmer and smaller. The R100
is almost as thin (see picture, right), and at half the price,
is the ulta-slim notebook for the rest of us. Of course, the Portege
R100 is a US model, so you'll be able to buy it at many retailers
and will recieve direct tech support from Toshiba Americas too.
If you can forgo the X505's exotic carbon fiber casing and smaller
size in exchange for saving $2,000, then read on.
The R100 has the now-standard for subnotebooks
Intel Centrino Mobile Pentium M processor running at 1 GHz, 256
megs of RAM (expandable) and a 32 meg video card, making it a speedy
performer that won't make you wait when working in MS Office apps
or browsing the web.
The R100 weighs only 2.4 pounds and is .65" thin,
which is thinner than some PDAs. It measures 11.3" wide by
9.0" deep, making it about the same size as a US letter size
pad of paper. That puts the Portege firmly in the ultralight and
slim class of notebooks, and this is about as portable as notebooks
come. The Sony Vaio TR2A also competes
in the truly subnotebook class, and is significantly smaller in
terms of width and depth, but is quite a bit thicker. That thickness
does allow for a DVD/CDRW drive, which the R100, like most true
The top of the unit is finished in silver and
is made of magnesium, while the bottom and inner surfaces are matte
black. The primary battery and the door to access the memory slot
are located on the bottom. Six LEDs along the back hinge area are
visible when the notebook is both closed and open. They indicate
power, primary (internal) battery, secondary (removebale) battery,
WiFi, caps lock, num lock and SD access.
The R100 with the included extended
battery attached to the bottom.
Comparing the size and thickness
of the Sony Vaio X505 (top) and the Toshiba Portege R100 (bottom).
The Toshiba has a trackpad with two buttons and a comfy
keyboard that's reasonably roomy since the unit has sufficient width
and depth to accomodate a standard notebook keyboard. Key travel is good
for such a thin unit, and I had no difficulty typing.
The SD card slot is located on the left side, while
the PCMCIA slot, WiFi on/off switch, standard 3.5mm audio out and mic
jacks are located on the right side. Two USB 2.0 ports, a standard VGA
port, modem and Ethernet jacks are located on the rear of the notebook.
The docking connector is on the bottom of the R100, and the unit supports
Since mid-2003, subnotebooks have gotten brainier thanks
to Intel's new Centrino technology. What is Centrino? It's Intel's name
for their new notebook architecture released in 2003 which combines their
new Pentium M processor, 855 chipset and the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100
WiFi 802.11 network interface. The Pentium M is supposed to be significantly
faster than mobile Pentium 4 processors, yet it uses very little power
and creates less heat, making it perfect for subnotebooks.The R100's
Intel Centrino Ultra Low Voltage Mobile Pentium M processor running at
1 GHz with a 400 MHz front side bus and DDR RAM is plenty fast for even
The unit comes with 256 megs of RAM and runs Windows
XP Professional. If you're a power user, you'll want to upgrade or order
a unit with more RAM, and the R100 can run up to 1 gig of RAM. It has
one slot for RAM, and uses PC2100 DDR SODIMMs.
The Toshiba Portege R100, like other super-slim notebooks
and subnotebooks, uses a 1.8" PCMCIA size hard drive. These drives
aren't quite as fast as standard 2.5mm notebook hard drives, but they
do use half the power. The drive has a 2 meg cache (the same as most
notebook and basic desktop hard drives), a 4,200 RPM rotational speed
and has an ATA-5 interface capable of 100MB/sec transfer rates.
Like most ultra-thin notebooks, the Toshiba doesn't
have an internal optical drive. It doesn't ship with an external DVD
or CD drive either, so you'll definitely need to get one if you wish
to install software or use the included 3 CD recovery media.
Screen, Sound and Battery Life
The R100 has a 12.1" LCD running at 1024
x 768 XGA resolution. Again, since the unit has reasonable depth
and width, it can accomodate this size LCD, which means text
will be readable and even if your eyes aren't the greatest, you
should have no problems seeing what's on screen. The display
is crisp, decently bright and color saturated. It may not rival
the TR2A's XBRITE display, but won't disappoint.
A Trident XPm32 LP graphics controller w/32MB
DDR memory provides good graphics processing power and the dedicated
video memory will be a bonus for gamers, though the Trident isn't
one of the popular gaming video cards. Many Centrino notebooks
use the Intel 855GM graphics controller that is a part of the
Centrino architecture, but Toshiba has done things a little differently.
Since the 855GM graphics controller isn't terribly exciting,
that's not a bad thing. The Toshiba can drive a large external
display via the standard VGA connector on the rear.
The Portege has a mono speaker on the bottom
of the notebook and supports stereo sound output through headphones
or powered speakers. The unit uses the SoundMAX integrated digital
audio processor commonly found on current notebooks. It has a
standard 3.5mm headphone/external speaker jack and a standard
mic jack for use with PC microphones.
The Portege R100 has a 1,600 mA removeable
internal Lithium Ion polymer battery that's quite small in both
physical size and amps. However, it comes with an extended battery
that clips on the bottom and adds a healthy 3,600 mA of power
without adding too much thickness and weight. The internal battery
should get you approximately 1.5 hours of use with WiFi on and
power management set to standard conservation. Clip on the extended
battery and you should get 5 hours under the same conditions.
I like the design: if you want to travel slim and light, and
won't be far from a power source, then go without the extended
battery. But when you'll be travelling for long periods or just
know an outlet won't be convenient you can snap on the extended
battery. Nice! Toshiba did well to include the extended battery
in the box when most other manufacturers charge you $200 or more
for their extended battery. The included world charger is compact
(about the same size as Toshiba Pocket PC chargers!) and supports
voltages from 100 to 240V.
Top view, closed
Ports, WiFi and Expandability
The Portege comes with Intel PRO/ Wireless 2100
802.11b WiFi, which offers excellent range in our tests. To turn
WiFi off and on, simply use the slider switch on the side of the
computer. The R100 also has Intel Pro 10/100 VE integrated wired
Ethernet and a 56k modem. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a standard
VGA port and an SD card slot. The PCMCIA slot, compatible with
type I and II cards as well as CardBus cards is located on the
right side, as are the 3.5mm stereo audio out and mic jacks. That's
good expandabiliy for a 2.4 lb. notebook!
extremely thin and light notebook for a reasonable price. The fast
Centrino architecture, ability to upgrade to 1 gig of RAM, included
Windows XP Professional and reliable Intel Pro Wireless networking
are definite winners. It has VGA, USB 2.0, 1 CardBus PC card slot
and an SD slot. Integrated WiFi, Ethernet and a 56k modem will
help you stay connected. Comes with recovery CDs and an extended
battery. Cons: No included optical drive means you'll need to spend
more money on a drive so you can install software. Make sure to
get the Toshiba PC Card DVD drive that will boot the Toshiba if
you ever have to re-install the OS using the recovery CDs. I'd
like to see 512 megs of RAM standard on this unit— after
all, it does have Windows XP Pro and a fast processor, why skimp
on the RAM?
Suggested Retail for the Toshiba Portege R100:
(Windows XP Pro, 256 megs RAM) $1,999