Review: Toshiba Convertible Notebook Geared For Vista

Toshiba has unveiled a new convertible notebook/tablet PC that's built to take advantage of some special features in Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system.

Marc Spiwak, Contributor

January 5, 2007

4 Min Read

Toshiba on Monday is unveiling a new convertible notebook/tablet PC that's built to take advantage of some special features in Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system.

Announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the new Portege R400 -- which was developed in collaboration with Microsoft and comes with Windows Vista Business or Ultimate -- is slated to begin shipping on Jan. 30, according to Toshiba.

portege r400In a sneak peek at the Portege R400, the CRN Test Center found the computer quite elegant looking, cloaked in glossy black and white enamel with a clear-coat finish. Vista has built-in tablet functionality, so the notebook can be easily converted to tablet form via special peg-and-guide hinge pivots and a latch-free lid. Sleek and lightweight, the Portege R400 measures 14.2 inches wide, 10.6 inches deep and 1.2 inches high and it weighs 3.75 pounds.

More than just a looker, the R400 notebook leverages Microsoft Active Notifications with Push Technology to receive real-time alerts. Users no longer have to initiate the send/receive process to check e-mail. Instead, the notebook automatically checks for new e-mail and calendar entries, even while in the suspend mode.

But what's really unique is that users don't even have to open or turn on the notebook to see new alert notifications, e-mail headers and calendar updates. A second display called the Personal Information Assistant (PIA) on the front edge of the notebook shows new messages in realtime. The edge display can be seen in notebook or tablet mode, as well as when the unit is stored in a carrying case.

The Portege R400 doesn't have a built-in modem, something that Test Center engineers haven't seen in a notebook in a long time. But the standard configuration includes EVDO Verizon Wireless, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth, so connectivity can be had anywhere, anytime. Toshiba's ConfigFree utility automatically switches to the best available network for seamless connectivity at all times.

Another first -- though not available until the second quarter -- is Toshiba's new wireless docking station, which automatically connects to the R400 when it's detected within desktop range. Users never have to connect any wires. The docking station will feature Wireless Digital Video, or WiDV, which will allow the notebook to transmit high-definition video to the docking station.

Everything about the Portege R400 is designed to optimize mobility and battery life. Its 12.1-inch widescreen display with native 1,280 x 800 WXGA resolution uses state-of-the-art LED backlighting technology to use less power and provide a brighter, more vivid display with even brightness across the entire screen. Technically speaking, the LED backlight consists of a grid of roughly 40 LEDs located behind the display. The Portege R400's display is one of the best that the Test Center has ever seen.

Also to conserve energy, the Portege R400 is powered by an ultra-low-voltage Intel Core Duo U2500 processor running at 1.2GHz. Though it's not the ultimate in computing horsepower, the U2500 processor was jointly selected by Toshiba and Microsoft to use as little power as possible while still giving users the intended Vista experience. The Portege R400 also features an Intel 945 GM chipset and an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 that uses up to 256 Mbytes of dynamically shared system memory. The sample unit came with 2 Gbytes of system memory, which is expandable to 4 Gbytes. Storage is provided by an 80-Gbyte hard drive.

To keep size and weight to a minimum, the Portege R400 has no built-in optical drive. Instead, it comes with an external USB DVD SuperMulti drive. Ports include one PC Card slot, an RGB display output, a microphone-in jack, a headphone-out jack and two USB 2.0 ports. Both USB ports are on the back edge of the computer, but it would be more convenient if at least one of them were on the front. The notebook has a single mono speaker with a volume control wheel and a built-in microphone. A TPM chip, biometric fingerprint reader and Kensington lock slot provide security.

Cutting-edge technology never comes cheap. A Portege R400 with all the features mentioned above, plus a second battery, costs $3,499. A unit with a smaller hard drive, less memory, no EVDO and no second battery costs $2,599.

The notebook was tested for performance using the latest Vista-compatible version of PassMark's PerformanceTest software, which can be used free by anyone for up to 30 days. The Portege R400 with its 1.2GHz ultra-low-voltage processor scored 256.6, which is slow compared with the fastest notebooks now available. But for the ultimate platform in mobile computing, the Portege R400 hits the nail on the head.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights