Portege R700 sampled briefly


— 10:50 AM on June 30, 2010

Though he might not publicly admit it, I think I could detect some jealousy in Scott's voice when I called to say I was hanging out with his latest crush. The Liberty, Missouri Best Buy had three in stock, and after a little chit-chat with the blue shirts, I got my hands on one.

Their first reaction when I asked if they had the "Toshiba Portégé R705" was, "is that an external hard drive?" After clarifying I was asking about a laptop, one of them quickly corrected himself. "Yeah, actually, I did see those come in a few days ago." There were none on display, but he offered to retrieve one and meet at the register. I said I needed to inspect and feel it carefully first, even admitting I was unlikely to buy today. He said that was fine, promptly rolled a ladder around the corner and pulled a box down from the high shelves above us. As he opened it he commented repeatedly how light it seemed.

He turned it on as soon as he could access the power button and initiated a set-up feature. The battery was over 50% charged, and Windows 7 was ready to roll remarkably quickly—no longer than it took to remove some packing material, re-pack the box to return to the shelf, and tether the girl to their electronic anti-theft system. Before he wired her to their matrix, though, I asked if I could walk around with it for a bit, wanting to handle it the way I would if it were mine.  You know what I mean—standing up, one hand underneath and one up top, studying her responses carefully.

First impressions from the only full-time TR staffer not on the editorial team:

  • Thin and light? Yes, extremely.

  • Sturdy and solid?  Somewhat.  I could make the surface give in some areas, but it did great in my subjective hold-it-by-the-corner-and-look-for-flex test.

  • Fit and finish? Good, not great. Magnesium and plastic surfaces were quite nice, but lines weren't perfect and some of the buttons and shock-absorbing nubs weren't centered in their assigned divets.

  • Keyboard? Good: slight (and I mean extremely slight) contour to each key surface, a little pop in the feedback, very little flex in the overall keyboard when typing, decent spacing between keys. Not as good: slick surface on the keys, not as much travel in the motion as I'd prefer, a little flex in the overall keyboard when typing vigorously, and kinda short on the Y axis, resulting in my thumb occasionally hitting just below the spacebar.

  • Touchpad? Great. Largest I've seen on any sub-$1000 laptop that doesn't moonlight as a safety cone base and just the right amount of texture (barely any). It was a Synaptics that was fully capable of all the latest finger magic.

  • Screen? Hard to tell. Lines were crisp and images were pleasantly clear in a browser. Colors had a slight greenish tint, but I hadn't touched settings and I was in a huge new Best Buy. It wasn't quite as bright as I'd like, but I was in a massive Best Buy store. There was detectable reflection in the glossy surface, but I was right under a massive, high-efficiency, furthest-from-natural-light fixture in a behemoth Best Buy. Did I mention that it was hard to assess the screen because of the light qualities in Best Buy?

Overall, I liked it quite a bit.  And although I need a new laptop (more on that later), I couldn't take this one home since she lacked an ExpressCard slot for my Sprint broadband card. No, I can't pick up a USB EVDO adapter, because I'd likely lose my no-longer-offered unlimited-data plan at a sweet rate. But I'm seriously considering the R700-S1310 which is now available at Newegg (w00t!) with a few features that were lacking on the Best Buy iteration: Bluetooth, fingerprint reader, an ExpressCard slot and a three-year warranty.

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