While in Canada I had a friend pick up a new purchase for me. I’d been wanting to buy a laptop for a long time, but never was satisfied with the combinations available out there. My prospects were the Sony TX series, the Fujitsu 1505D, or a Panasonic Toughbook. Ultimately they all seemed to have a weakness in one area or another, and didn’t hit all of my (unreasonable) check marks:
1) less than 3 pounds
2) over 1024×768 resolution
3) over 3 hours of battery
4) up to 2gb of ram
5) decent CPU for occasional bridge & photoshop
6) decent sized keyboard
I was about to plunk down some money for the Sony TX series, and just live with the RAM and CPU limitation, but then I stumbled on a forum link to the Toshiba Portege R300. It seemed to meet all of my requirements. Except for one thing, it wasn’t for sale in the USA. It was, however, for sale in Canada. I thought about it, then had a friend order it online.
It was all a bit nerve wracking, as I had yet to find decent high resolution photos of the laptop, and there were no reviews online. But since all the previous versions of the Portege R series had been reviewed so well, I decided to take the risk. I’m happy I did. Aside from some minor complaints, I love the machine.
– Very portable: 2.65 lbs, 9.4 by 7.7 inches and 1 to 1.4 inches thick
– Great battery life – up to 6 hours, around 4.5 hours on full power, brightness, and wifi
– 1280×800 12.1″ LCD screen, good color & no bad pixels
– Powerful: 1.2Ghz Dual Core cpu, 1GB RAM, expandable to 4GB RAM
– Lots of connections – A/B/G Wireless, LAN, Modem, 3 USB, VGA, SD, CF Card, PCIMCA, headphones & mic
– Cool and quiet. Unlike some other laptops, this doesn’t seem to roast your lap. Fan is quiet when it actually runs.
– All kinds of laptop and hard drive protection (software & hardware), spill resistant (and full sized) keyboard,
decent trackpad instead of nub, finger print reader & Trusted Platform Module, 3 year international warranty.
– No optical drive. Not really a con for me.. I never use them.
– No bluetooth. The motherboard seems to have the chip for it, but the antennae is not built in – or vise versa. Tiny USB plugs are available, so not a huge deal.
– Position of the `/~ key took some getting used to, I was usually expecting the alt key right next to the keyboard.
– Power brick is not as light and streamlined as it could be. It all seems a bit silly to lug around a power brick that is almost 1/3rd the size of the tiny laptop. Brick is rated for 75W, but I’ve yet to see the laptop pull more than 45W.
– CF card reader is slow – around 1mb/second.
– The Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG chip used seems to be picky with a couple APs, or vice versa. It is a mini PCI-E slot, so I could replace with with an atheros, but I’ve got no clue if they have locked down the available wireless cards – IBM has.
– Slight LCD back-light bleed on full brightness
It has been used in the back seat of a van in -20 weather, fold down tables on air & train, and quite a few times in bed. I haven’t been gentle with it, but it seems to be holding up nicely. Ultimately it is meeting my main need perfectly – a compact machine that I can use for writing or photo editing on the road.