The ultimate Windows Vista notebook?

The ultimate Windows Vista notebook?

Summary: Toshiba's newest notebook is small and light, with a drop-dead gorgeous display and a breathtaking price tag. For highly paid mobile professionals who need instant access to information, it'll probably be worth the premium. The rest of us will have to wait till the technology trickles down into the next generation of portable PCs.

TOPICS: Hardware

Opening day at CES lasted from sunup to after midnight, but there's no question of the highlight: Toshiba's Portege R400 notebook is the first computer I've seen in a decade that has actually inspired gadget lust in me. In fact, if I had had one of these before I left my hotel room at the start of the day, I would have been able to post this report within an hour.

The R400 was mentioned in Bill Gates' keynote address on Sunday night as the product of two years' of collaborative engineering between Microsoft and Toshiba. The hardware itself is impressive:

  • It's small and light. At 3.7 pounds, you don't have to think twice about throwing it in your bag or pulling it out to quickly check some notes.
  • The screen is drop-dead gorgeous. The backlit LED uses 42 separate light sources, giving the 1280 x 800 display an unexpected level of clarity.
  • An LED-based status display on the front of the machine displays details about appointments and incoming e-mail, pushed down Blackberry-style via Active Notifications. If you hold the closed notebook in your hand, the display is easily visible with a downward glance.
  • An integrated EVDO card enables rapid Internet connections even if a wireless access point isn't nearby.
  • It's a Tablet PC, which is ideal for taking notes at a tradeshow. (My Tablet PC is in the shop right now, and I miss it. Transferring my chicken scratches from a reporter's notebook to a PC is no fun.) Every premium edition of Windows Vista supports the Tablet features right out of the box.

The R400 looks fabulous, too. It's ultrathin, with a black bezel and scratchproof white case that even a Mac fanatic would love. But the best feature is the $250 wireless docking station, which uses UWB technology to automatically connect the machine when it's within range (three feet or so) of the docking station. The high-bandwidth connection was able to stream video clips to an external monitor with no latency. Surprisingly, the CPU is a Core Duo U2500, not the newer Core 2 Duo - a concession to battery life.

Toshiba Portege R400

As ZDNet's Dan Ackerman notes in his review, it's frightfully expensive. The price tag for the machine he looked at was around $3500, although entry-level configurations can probably be had for $2500 and change. That means this machine isn't likely to become a best-seller. But for a target market of highly paid mobile professionals who need a small, light, versatile machine, it might be worth the premium. The rest of us will have to wait till the technology trickles down into the next generation of portable PCs.

I'll get the chance to put this machine through its paces in the next few weeks and will have a longer report after I've done so.

Topic: Hardware

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  • But Core 2 Duo is more efficient on battery

    Core 2 Duo systems benchmark better on battery life, so I wonder why they didn't go with that.
    • Check the part number

      It's in the U (Ultra Low Voltage) series. No U parts in the Core 2 Duo family. If this were a T part, then yes, that would be true, but the U is the right part for this design.
      Ed Bott
  • Ultimate Windows Vista Weather

    The weatherman says it will be 42 degrees tomorrow with light rain. That's just perfect Windows Vista weather. Even 102 degrees with 40-mph Santa Ana winds is perfect Windows Vista weather. There are just never enough reasons to write about Windows Vista and to use the words "Windows Vista" in headlines and sentences. Don't you agree that this was the ultimate Windows Vista sentence? Do I get my hundred bucks from Microsoft now?
    Robert Hahn
  • Thanks for pic

    Thanks Ed for including a pic of this in your article. Can't tell you how many times I've been pissed that your editors put up an article on some great piece of hardware and then include no pictures of it.

    Thanks again.
    • You're welcome!

      Wish I had a picture of the UWB docking station, which is ultra-cool looking. I'll post those in a follow-up.
      Ed Bott
  • Ultimate Laptop

    Handwriting recognition is a great alternative to the keyboard. What happened to voice recognition? Wasn't it moved from Officew 2003 to Windows Vista 2007? Does it work any better?
  • ZDNet review: expensive, poor performance, poor batter life

    I think you're paid to put MS's latest OS in the best light possible, so you hoist a
    headline that directly contradicts your own review of the product.

    So what is it: an over-priced low-performer with poor battery life, or the "ultimate"
    Fred Fredrickson
    • Pay a little more attention

      From your link:
      <i>Ignoring its high price, the Toshiba Portege R400 is an impressive achievement, firmly in the same industrial design league as Apple and Sony.
      I think the Microsoft/Toshiba partnership will yield better machines than those coming out of the Apple manufacturing facilities.
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