By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 5:00 am
When people ask me for recommendations about highly portable Windows notebooks, I’m quick to mention Toshiba’s Portégé R700–a reasonably-priced three-pounder that has a 13.3″ screen and even manages to pack a DVD burner into its trim, good-looking case. Today, Toshiba is announcing the R700’s successor–as well as two larger notebooks and a unique portable display. The company recently gave me a preview of its new wares.
The R700’s successor is called the Portégé R830, and it’s not a radical departure. Unlike netbooks and thin-and-lights that use low-power chips, the 3.1-lb machine is based on Intel’s more powerful new second-generation Core 2 Duo processor, aka Sandy Bridge. (Toshiba says that its air-cooling technology lets it pack the more potent CPU into the Portégé’s case without fear of overheating.) One of the USB ports is now a 3.0 one; the other is 2.0, but offers Toshiba’s Sleep-and-Charge feature, which lets you charge a device such as your phone even when the computer is otherwise powered down. Toshiba rates battery life at up to eleven hours with solid-state storage, a figure which, like all laptop battery claims, is probably on the optimistic side.
Like the R700, the R830 has a magnesium-alloy case with a honeycomb design–ie, strategically-placed holes–for lightweight rigidity; it doesn’t match the luxe feel of Apple’s aluminum unibody MacBook designs, but its quite nice.
Once again, Toshiba is offering this Portégé in two versions. The business-oriented R830 starts at $1049 (more with faster Core 2 Duos and solid-state storage), has an ExpressCard slot, and can be connected to a docking station. The slightly less fancy $888.99 R835 is designed for consumers: it doesn’t have the slot, can’t be docked, and has a one-year warranty instead of a three-year one, but adds Intel’s Wireless Display 2.0 feature for cable-free connections to HDTVs.
Toshiba’s other new models are in its full-strength, corporate-focused Tecra line–but their model names, the Tecra R840 and Tecra R850, are intended to indicate that they’re closer kins to the new Portégé than previous Tecras have been to its predecessor. The R840 is a 14″ notebook and the R850 is a 15.6″ one; while they’re not thin-and-lights and have beefy components such as 7200rpm hard drives, they are sleeker than the models they replace. (For instance, Toshiba says that the R840 is approximately 25 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the Tecra M11.) Like the Portégé, they use honeycomb case designs, but with fiberglass-reinforced materials rather than magnesium alloy. They offer second-generation Core 2 Duo processors with optional AMD Radeon discrete graphics with 1GB of DDR3 RAM.
The R840 starts at $899; the R850 starts at $879. (Yes, the larger model is $20 cheaper.)
Toshiba is also launching an intriguing laptop accessory: a Mobile Monitor that makes the venerable concept of adding a second display to your computer portable. It’s a 14″ screen that’s one inch thick and weighs three pounds, and it connects to notebooks–Toshiba and non-Toshiba alike–through a USB cable that provides both the image and power. (You can plug it into the wall for a brighter image.) It comes in a case which, like many iPad cases, unfolds into a stand that props the display into an upright orientation.
The Mobile Monitor is a niche product, but it looks quite well done and the $199.99 price is reasonable; it could be cool for serious road warriors who want a two-screen setup, as well as folks who do presentations and who don’t want to make everybody crowd around their notebook’s screen. It’s certainly a lot less weird than the various laptops with two built-in screens that have come and gone over the years.