It's an ultraportable whose sexy looks are made possible by some hot new tech. Not only is the Toshiba Portege R500 Series incredibly svelte and lightweight for a laptop (at 8.5 by 11.1 by 0.7 inches and 2.4 pounds), but no other ultraportable this light manages to accommodate a built-in optical drive. And despite its compactness, it manages to integrate a full-size keyboard.
Toshiba spent two years developing the R500 out of its previous iteration, the R200. Recent advances enabled the company to go all out in miniaturization. The R500's motherboard is unusually small and thin, and its DVD burner is only 7mm thick. The laptop's 12.1-inch display avails itself of LED backlighting, which lets PC makers build ultra thin screens (about half the thickness of LCD screens).
The trade-off for the R500's sleek and sexy profile lies in its so-so performance. It loads an ultra-low-voltage 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 CPU, and it does manage to fit a 120GB, 2.5-inch, 5.400rpm hard drive. But with its integrated graphics and sparse 1GB of RAM. The R500 took a long time to boot into Windows Vista Business. Also, the DVD drive is noisy to the point that Toshiba bundles an acoustic silencer in its software package. Battery life is above average for a machine with low-power components. That it took just 2 hours 37 minutes to run down while playing a DVD movie doesn't sound that impressive, but you can certainly get up to around 4 hours when doing less intensive tasks.
Though you won't be encoding video or playing 3D games with it, the R500 is fine for office tasks. For a machine built to be used on the road, an integrated EV-DO or other WWAN modem would have been a nice addition. Still, the R500 is a joy to carry, a wonder to look at, and fun to use. Do yourself a favor, though, and boost the RAM to 2GB to give the system a little more oomph.
Toshiba Portege R500: $2.149