The Portege R705, which is exclusive to Best Buy for now, changes that formula. And in celebration of the big two-five, Toshiba's put out a 3.2-pound, Core i3-powered stunner that's less than half the price of past Porteges. Oh, and did we mention it has an on-board optical drive, 500GB of storage, Intel's wireless display technology and promises 8.5 hours of battery life? We won't beat around the bush -- it's impressive. But did Toshiba maintain the same Portege standards when creating the R705, or did it cut quality along with the dollar signs? That's been our main question, and we'll answer it and others after the break in our full review.
Toshiba Portege R705 reviewSee all photos
Look and feel
Perhaps the R705's subdued aesthetic is Toshiba's way of not detracting attention from its insanely thin and light chassis. The system measures an inch at its thickest point and weighs an unbelievable 3.2 pounds. Carrying this machine home for the night made our 4.5-pound Macbook Pro feel like a bag of bricks. Toshiba actually claims it's the lightest 13.3-inch laptop in the world with an optical drive – and we can't seem to find any information that proves otherwise. In addition to that optical drive, the chassis also makes room for two USB ports, an USB/eSATA, Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, headphone and microphone jacks. There's also an SD card reader slot built into the right side of the palmrest.
Keyboard, touchpad and screen
The plastic touchpad is decently sized and comfortable for pushing around the cursor. The pad does support multitouch gestures, and while pinch-to-zoom worked fine, two-finger scrolling failed more often than not and the right side doesn't function as a scroll strip. Yep, we were forced to scroll the entire length of Engadget the good old fashioned way. There's two dedicated left and right mouse buttons, though we wish they were raised a bit more.
Usually this is where we'd spend some time criticizing Toshiba choice of a super glossy screen, but we're about to change our tune. The 13.3-inch, 1366x768-resolution display is glossy, but far less glossy than those we've seen on laptops lately -- particularly the worst offenders from Sony and Acer. We'd say it's actually got the perfect amount of gloss for a laptop like this, not to mention it's plenty bright and colors appeared quite crisp. Still, the viewing angles are disappointing. We could see the screen while sitting to the side of it, but tilting it caused colors to distort. The two small speakers above the keyboard were tinny, but were fine for sharing the reaction to a double complete rainbow on YouTube with a friend sitting close by.
Intel Wireless Display performance
Performance and battery life
The R705 relies on Intel's integrated HD graphics, and though we've been thinking the machine would be a perfect candidate for NVIDIA's Optimus, unfortunately for now we've yet to see any laptops with the two technologies (though, NVIDIA claims they can live in harmony). Regardless, the integrated option was fine for playing back high-def YouTube videos and regular flash video on Hulu and Amazon, but it won't satisfy those that want to play some high resolution games.
|Toshiba Portege R705 (Intel Core i3-350M)||5024||1759||4:25|
|Acer TimelineX 4820T (Intel Core i3-350M)||4926||1724||5:04|
|Dell Vostro V13 (Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300)||2687||556||2:39|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 (Core 2 Duo SU7300)||N/A||905||5:12|
|ASUS U30Jc (Core i3-350M, NVIDIA)||4841||1739/3686||4:10|
|ASUS UL50Vf (Core 2 Duo SU7300)||3724||827/3438||6:10|
One of our major – and frankly one of our only -- concerns about the R705 has to do with its warm temperatures. Toshiba has worked on a new Airflow cooling technology that pulls fresh air from the fan on the bottom left of the system, and then directs the warm air out the left vent. It's a cool idea (oh yes, pun intended), but the left edge of the laptop does become incredibly warm during CPU-intensive tasks like playing Flash content -- and when we watched an episode of Mad Men the bottom of the system became quite warm as well. We'd say the heat on the R705 was worse than that on the TimelineX 4820T, actually. However, during our normal everyday usage -- surfing the web, chatting, listening to music -- we weren't bothered by the heat even when we had the machine on our lap.
Toshiba's promised 8.5 hours of battery life seemed quite unrealistic to us, and in reality it was actually about half of that. The R750's 66Wh six-cell battery lasted four hours and 25 minutes on our video rundown test, which loops the same standard definition video with screen brightness set at 65 percent. That's very comparable to the TimelineX 4820T, and in our everyday use with WiFi on and brightness at 85 percent we squeezed about five hours out. It's a decent runtime, but it's not going to last the flight from New York to London.
It was a relief to boot up the R705 and find the desktop virtually spot free – the little Recycle Bin icon in the top left corner was no bother. However, Toshiba still loads up the ultraportable with some added software, including its Bulletin Board and webcam programs. Also, because the system is a special to Best Buy, it comes with Best Buy's own software installer. Blech.