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First Look: Toshiba Portege R600

Toshiba Chooses Magnesium

Like just about every other computer maker, Toshiba has a netbook on the way. But its new premium ultraportable Portégé R600, announced this week, is the real lightweight.

The Centrino 2-based replacement for the already ultra-light R500 now weighs in at just 1.7 lbs. in the lightest configuration, with a 128GB Toshiba SSD instead of a hard drive and without the optional optical drive. 305g of that is the 5800mAh battery and Toshiba is claiming up to eight hours of battery life with the SSD version. Adding a SuperMulti DVD drive only adds another 2.5 oz.

This version of the R600, with a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 1GB of RAM is so light it hardly feels like a PC; the cheaper 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo model with 2GB RAM and a 160GB SATA hard disk isn’t a great deal heavier either. The single memory slot takes up to 4GB of RAM. Both have an improved 12.1” transflective screen; press a button and you can turn off the backlight and use reflected sunlight to make it visible even in bright outdoor light. Above the screen is the new Webcam.

Inside the Portégé R600; the optional 3G module is in the centre and the ribbon cable on the bottom of the case connects the PC Card slot.

The 5800mAh battery lasts up to eight hours; there isn’t an extended battery option.

As well as the usual gigabit Ethernet and external VGA ports, SD slot and Kensington lock, the R600 has two standard USB ports and a third combined USB and eSATA port which can also charge USB devices even if the PC is hibernated or turned off. That means you don’t need to leave the notebook turned on overnight to charge your smartphone or iPod.

There’s also a PCMCIA slot in the base; Toshiba chose this over Express Card because many users want to keep using 3G datacards. But the R600 also comes with the option of built-in 3G, which is 7.2Mbps HSUPA (and twice the speed of the R500’s 3G module).

The magnesium alloy case doesn’t look significantly different from the outside, but ridges on the base increase its strength, protecting the tiny motherboard inside. Magnesium was chosen because it’s cheaper than carbon fiber and stronger than Apple’s favorite aluminum, the head of product marketing Emannual Gueritte told us; “Aluminum is also durable but the issue is that heat can cause bending, the material could end up being more flexible and that can make it more vulnerable if it’s subjected to a shock. Fatigue could be linked to the heat issue so magnesium is potentially longer lasting. And we have a lot of experience working with magnesium alloy, which allows us to push the boundaries.”