Is a Toshiba Portege tough enough?
September 13, 2007 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Is a Toshiba Portege R500 just too light and delicate for mobile use? What else should I consider?

Trying to locate a good laptop for a friend who puts "light" as their top priority. They can afford an R500, but the build looks a bit delicate to me and the mouse buttons small and plastic. Has anyone got any experience to report?

The laptop will have to be usable for hours of word-processing on trains and planes (so I reckon not less than a 12" screen, and preferably not wide-screen). It will need to be tough enough for crowded commuter trains. I like the low-end Panasonic Toughbooks for their sturdiness but for the money the spec is much less. What else is there worth considering that is ultralight?
posted by Idcoytco to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't have any personal experience with them, but I know that Thinkpads in general and especially X60s are considered beautiful pieces of machinery - I drooled over them but sadly my budget didn't even begin to approach anything that new.

On a more personal level, I run an HP/Compaq NC4200 business machine and it's great. A little on the heavy side for an ultraportable (3.5 pounds) but I can count on it to take whatever bumps and bruises inevitably occur as it travels all over the place with me. I've heard some HP horror stories, but personally I love this machine and my one tech support issue was quickly resolved (dead F11 key on the keyboard - overnighted me a new keyboard with perfect installation instructions on my word alone, never required the broken part back). You might think about a more recent incarnation of the HP machines for a somewhat cheaper Thinkpad alternative.

Sadly, no experience with the R500s other than seeing them all over the place in ads, but with something that light I'd just worry, like you, about its ability to take bumps and bruises, not to mention they're new enough that you're paying something of a premium for the shiny "Lightest laptop" title.

Long story short, I think I'd strongly consider a Thinkpad and do some shopping around in the absence of some very positive evidence about the Toshiba, just in case.
posted by Rallon at 6:59 PM on September 13, 2007

Best answer: I just had a friend visit with his X60, and it is great. It even has a leakhole for protection against liquid spills on the keyboard (apparenty it has internal sluice channels, but he hasn't tried the feature yet. I don't like the nipple-like pointer device, though, I am more of a touchpad person. Otherwise, it is a great computer, and with the extended battery you get close to 10 hours of work out of them.

Toshibas are great. I have an M200, which is their 12" tablet from 2004, and so far I have only had to change the keyboard. I use it for 10+ hours a day, every day, so I wore it out, the keytops are screened on top... but otherwise the build quality is really great, and the keyboard has me spoilt.

The 12" screen is not too small for me, but I would recommend your friend tries to work on a computer like the R5 for a couple of hours first. Not everybody likes the "small" screen (though at the typical 1024x768 it has the useful size and twice the resolution of the 14" that I used to write a lot of copy on).

Finally, this is unrelated advice, but get the 3-year warranty from Toshiba. Consider it insurance if you never need it, but if you do need it, it will save you a lot of money.
posted by kandinski at 9:02 PM on September 13, 2007

Best answer: I have an X series and it's awesome - it fell off my table yesterday and landed screen first on the floor: the damn thing just won't break. And I carry it around with me every day - it weighs something like 2.6 lbs. So yeah, big X series fan here.

That said, there are two potential dealbreakers on X series machines for non-fans:

1) there's no touchpad, so you have to be a trackpoint fan too

2) the ROM drive is in the docking bay.

If your friend doesn't want to drop a ton of cash, previous X series generations can be bought on ebay for much less than the current one - I paid $500 for a P1.6 X31 with 1GB RAM.
posted by forallmankind at 9:19 PM on September 13, 2007

I've got a Sony PCG-TR2MP. Had it for years. Dropped it on more than one occasion. Works fine. Can be held up by one hand if necessary, sits ok on tray table in economy, but big enough for typing. 1024 x 768. There are more recent models.
posted by londongeezer at 11:29 PM on September 13, 2007

I'm a big fan of used Toughbooks, they're sturdy and cheap. But "light" isn't a term I'd apply to any of them except perhaps the CF-18, which hasn't gotten cheap on the used market yet.

Go with a Thinkpad, they're the best-built of the non-ruggedized market.
posted by Myself at 2:20 AM on September 14, 2007

Best answer: I absolutely love my Portege. I take it everywhere and for a while was using it as my sole computer. It's been two years without a problem.
posted by jules1651 at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks a lot, folks, for all the thought you put into this. Have marked several best answers, and appreciate you all.

We have gone with the Portege R500, relying on Toshiba's track record despite the fact we can't get info on how this particular model is wearing.

And now I have pleanty of ideas for when my own laptop comes up for renewal.
posted by Idcoytco at 1:03 AM on September 15, 2007

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