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To be a contender in the ultraportable market, one has to design a
notebook computer that’s lightweight, powerful, feature rich and long
battery life. Toshiba has accomplished that time and again with its
Portege ultraportable notebooks. The latest model, the R600, is no
exception.

But, over the last year the market has changed – more users are
looking to inexpensive netbooks to meet their ultraportable needs and
traditional ultraportable computers are beginning to take on the aura
of expensive executive luxuries.

To be fair, netbooks can’t hold a candle to an ultraportable in
features and performance. After all, netbooks are slow, lack optical
drives and storage, and have small screens. And that’s just the obvious
shortcomings. Yet they are still an excellent tool for performing basic
tasks, such as Web surfing, e-mail, creating documents and, of course,
Web 2.0 applications. For most users, that functionality will be enough
and a netbook proves to be a good fit.

For power users, neither an ultralight nor a netbook will do. They
demand performance on par with desktops, and are willing to sacrifice
lighter weights and eschew reduced energy
consumption. The Portege R600 tries to undo that sacrifice, but the
unit won’t perform on the level of a desktop replacement system.

Even so, the R600 is arguably the very best ultraportable available,
but is being the best in ultraportables enough to entice the power user
and does it justify the price? Or, is the R600 doomed to be little more
than an executive toy? Probably not, the R600 offers several features
that make it a viable choice for the traveling knowledge worker, albeit
expensive. Channel Insider took a closer look at those features to see
where the value lies with Toshiba’s crown jewel of ultraportable
computing.

The Portege R600: Up Close
To maintain superiority in the ultraportable market, Toshiba has to
cram as much technology as possible into an ultraportable package and
have that system outperform the previous generation models, while still
holding the line on costs. A very different proposition from what
netbook manufactures need to accomplish.

At $2,999, the Portege (model R600-S4202) costs about five times
more than the typical netbook system, but it delivers a feature mix
that should be the envy of any notebook manufacturer. The Portege
weighs 2.5 pounds, features a 12.1-inch WXGA (1280×800) display, 128GB
solid state drive (SSD), Intel Core 2 Duo Processor SU9400 (1.4Ghz),
3GB RAM, and a DVD SuperMulti (+/-R) drive.

The R600-S4202 offers several improvements over previous models (see "Toshiba Adds 128GB SSD Storage to Porteges).
It features a brighter 12.1-inch screen that’s viewable in most any
lighting situation. Toshiba has strengthened the system by using more
magnesium in the case and has added a spill resistant keyboard. What’s
more the unit now features a webcam integrated into the screen bezel
making the unit suitable for the impromptu Skype video conferences.

The unit still features an impressive array of ports – users will
find a pair of USB ports, an eSata port, modem, 10/100/1000 Ethernet,
VGA, audio and a compact flash port. The unit’s new display is
exceptionally bright and crisp and is a big improvement over earlier
models. That said, Toshiba could go one step further and offer a
13.3-inch display and up the resolution to WSXGA+ (1680×1050) and
really knock a users socks off, while still fitting into the
ultraportable realm.

Toshiba offers three OS options for the system–Windows Vista
Business 32-Bit, Windows Vista Business 64-Bit and a downgrade option
to Windows XP. With a little more RAM in the system, the 64-bit version
of Windows Vista Business would be the way to go. That said, we chose
to install the 64-bit Vista version, although the system only came with
3GB RAM. Why? Simply to test and make sure that Toshiba did all of
their homework and offered a complete set of drivers for the 64-bit OS.
Users looking to maximize performance will probably want to go with XP,
which runs faster than Vista. Users looking for advanced security and
connectivity features will want to choose Vista. Either way, it’s nice
that Toshiba gives options here, although a choice of Ubuntu would be a
great option for Toshiba to consider. When compared to a netbook, it’s
clear that the R600 has the muscle to run Vista, while most netbooks
come with either Linux or Windows XP.

To put the system through its paces, PerformanceTest V6.1 (64Bit) and BatteryMon from Passmark software was installed.

The system offered an overall PassMark Rating of 438.4, which is
quite good for an ultraportable – the previous generation of the
Portege (R500-S5007V) could only muster a PassMark Rating of 320, so
the new system does offer a significant increase in performance.
Compared to a netbook system, the R600 doubles the performance and then
some – a previously tested MSI Wind netbook scored a 207.4 on the
PassMark scale (see "Can MSI Blow Away Atom Competition").

While Toshiba can put the performance feather in its cap, the R600
also offers incredible battery life – with the screen brightness set to
maximum and only a few power saving features enable, we were able to
use the system for close to five hours (with a Wi-Fi connection). Once
we enabled the power saving features, turned off the radio and dimmed
the display to about 50 percent (the typical setup for use on an
airplane) we saw usable battery life approaching eight hours.

Good performance and exceptional battery life are the cornerstones
of an ultraportable system and Toshiba has hit the nail on the head
when it comes to meeting those requisites, but does that justify the
$3,000 price tag? Only if those features are a must have. Simply put,
if a user needs a lightweight portable and is running mostly Web-based
applications, in most cases a netbook will do.

For solution providers, selling a R600 could generate decent
profits, with margins of around 10 percent. But, a solution provider
may be better off selling multiple netbooks and garner profits from the
multiple sales, while opening the door for the integration and
deployment of Web-based applications.