We know that the quest for the perfect laptop is ultimately fruitless. Different users have different needs, budgets, and expectations, and tomorrow's technology threatens to make any just-purchased laptop semi-obsolete before it even comes out of its cardboard box. That said, the new Toshiba Portege R705 comes about as close as anything we've seen this year, offering a great mix of price, design, features, and performance.
The Portege R705 is a 13-inch laptop (similar to Apple's MacBook), which is the biggest screen size we'd consider carrying around on a regular basis, but also the smallest we'd be able to comfortably use for full-time computing. It's thinner than the current white plastic MacBook (but not as svelte as the MacBook Air or Dell Adamo XPS), and has a sturdy magnesium alloy chassis.
Toshiba lists the Portege R705 for $889, but as of this writing, it can be found online for $799. A handful of business-oriented configs are also available (called the R700, instead of the R705), adding a docking port and a few other corporate-friendly features for $999 and up.
For $100-$200 less than an entry-level MacBook, you get a newer Intel Core i3 processor (the basic MacBook has an older Core 2 Duo CPU), a large 500GB hard drive, and Intel's Wireless Display technology, which allows the laptop's display to be beamed to a remote TV or monitor (this requires a sold-separately $100 Netgear adapter that connects to your TV). Not to draw too many MacBook comparisons, but it also has an SD card slot (as does virtually every Windows-based laptop no matter the price), something the $999 MacBook lacks.
There are a few issues. The integrated Intel graphics are a drag, and the keyboard isn't backlit, which would have been a nice touch on this slick-looking system. Also, out of the box, the hard drive accelerometer was far too sensitive, parking our HDD head every time we so much as breathed on the R705.
Those problems aside, the Portege R705 looks and feels like a much more expensive laptop, and is our new go-to choice for those who want a 13-inch experience but can't (or won't) join the MacBook masses.… Read more