|Introduction and Specifications|
The ultraportable notebook marketplace is hotter than ever before. In years past, buying a sub-14" machine generally meant a couple of things: low power and high price. Today, it's still fair to say that ultraportables are generally less powerful and more expensive than the standard-sized 15" machines that sit above them, but the gap is closing fast. Intel's Core i3 and i5 line of processors has ushered in an entirely new segment of thin-and-light machines, and we're getting to the point where 13.3" machines can finally be taken seriously from a performance standpoint.
Toshiba's 13.3" Portégé R705 is one of the sleeker, more potent ultraportables on the market today, and in general, we have always admired the Portégé design scheme. The R705 keeps a good thing going, with its 3.2lb. chassis and its rigid, high quality construction ensuring a solid feel throughout. Toshiba has also gone their own way on a number of design cues, but they've ensured that the internal build sheet wasn't neglected while the designers were having their fun on the outside.
website, with this particular model striking a nice balance between power and performance. There are higher-end versions available with Intel's WiDi (Wireless Display) technology for those that would take advantage of it, as well as lower-end models with smaller hard drives and a Core i3 CPU instead of a Core i5. Let's take a more detailed look at the hardware here:
As you can see, the only real weak point in the system is the integrated GPU. The CPU, memory amount / speed and just about everything else screams quality. We're interested to see if the 5400RPM HDD slows things down, particularly after testing a Flash storage-equipped MacBook Air a few weeks back. There's obviously a ~$300 price gap between this machine and that one, but Toshiba's CPU is certainly mightier. How will the R705 stack up against mounds of competition in the ultraportable space? Let's dig in and find out.
|Design and Build Quality|
You'll have to forgive us, but we've become particular critics when it comes to notebook design. Generally speaking, there are simply too many options on the market in the ultraportable space to choose a machine with a lackluster design or a subpar build quality. Thankfully, Toshiba is truly on top of their game here in this department. The 3.2lb. chassis feels incredibly light, but unlike many machines that feel "as light as a toy," there's no question that the Portégé R705 is well- built. The plastics are as rigid as they come, with only a minimal amount of flex in the top lid and effectively none whatsoever when speaking of keyboard flex. The fit and finish is something to be admired, and the unique "magnesium blue" color scheme definitely sets this machine apart from the crowd. It's a cool blue color, almost grey in the right light, and it's striking enough in our opinion to be used as a business machine or a classy personal machine.
What's most impressive about how light and sleek this machine is that Toshiba didn't have to cut out the optical drive to make it happen. With Apple's MacBook Air, which is obviously a bit thinner, you give up the ODD entirely. The R705 does an amazing job of concealing the optical drive, and having a dual-layer DVD writer on board is still a big plus in our estimation. We aren't quite ready to do without optical drives on our portable computers just yet, and the R705 manages to include one without adding an unwanted amount of bulk and heft. Great job on this aspect, Toshiba.
Once you open the lid, you're greeted by a handful of stickers on the left side of the palm rest. We're definitely no fans of palm rest stickers, but outside of that, the rest of the interior is beautiful. The trackpad is quite large for a machine of this size, and the dedicated left/right click buttons are a welcome change from the trend of a single bar (most of Asus' new machines come to mind here). Toshiba has also bucked another trend by including LED status indicators just beneath the click buttons, for AC power, Wi-Fi, HDD activity, etc. We actually like this placement a bit better, as the lights aren't nearly as distracting compared to LEDs located just beneath the LCD.
The keyboard is very unique. Toshiba calls this a "tile" layout, and unlike the vast majority of ultraportables in this price range, this one is "spill-resistant." If you drown it with a 2-liter soda, you'll still have issues, but it's capable of shaking off the occasional coffee or water spill without any real trouble. That's a huge plus in our book. For those who use their ultraportables on airplanes, we all know how easy it is for turbulence to turn a cup of water over, and this safeguard really gives the R705 an edge over similarly priced 13.3" machines -- particularly for those that travel often and put their machine at more risk for things like this.
Toshiba also includes a very useful "Trackpad On/Off" button just above the trackpad. If you're using a mobile mouse, simply tap this button to disengage the trackpad and prevent any unwanted cursor movements from accidental touches. This is a simple, subtle, but very useful feature. It worked just as advertised in our testing, and it's on/off in a moment. The "tile" layout of the keyboard is actually quite similar to the chiclet layout that has become so popular of late, but the travel on these keys is definitely shorter than most. It took a little while for us to get used to this; we're used to keys depressing a little bit further than the ones here, but it's not something that makes typing difficult. It just takes some adjustment. We assume this has something to do with the spill-resistant membrane underneath; it's likely thicker in a bid to protect important components that lie just beneath the keys.
There are two stereo speakers above the keys, and the LCD hinge reclines ~80% of the way flat. We can't imagine too many scenarios where you'd need to fold it flatter than what's available here. The 13.3" LED-backlit LCD is, of course, glossy and quite reflective. Viewing angles aren't exactly fantastic from the extreme left or extreme right, so you'll need to stay generally directly in front of the screen for the best viewing quality. Colors and sharpness were both on par with competitors, but only when looking directly on.
Along the left edge, you'll find a full-size HDMI output, a USB 2.0 port, an eSATA / USB 2.0 combo port with Toshiba's "Sleep and Charge" functionality (which charges gadgets even while the PC is asleep), a VGA output, an exhaust vent and an AC input socket. There are no ports along the front and rear edges.
Along the right edge, there's a Gigabit Ethernet port, another USB 2.0 socket, an audio input (3.5mm), a headphone jack (3.5mm), a DVD writer and an SD card slot. The position of the SD card is unique; it's actually on top and runs right into the palm rest. We love this design. It makes finding the card slot so much easier; no more peeking around the edge to see where to insert the card. The slit is always within sight from the top.
As you may have gathered from our prior page discussing the design and build quality, we had a pretty good first impression of the Portégé R705. Carrying it around was a cinch; the lightweight 3.2lb. chassis wasn't a burden at all, particularly when you get a dual-layer DVD burner in there. Generally speaking, we enjoyed both its typing and mousing experience. The spill-resistant keyboard is definitely different than the chiclet keyboards out there, but after an hour or so we were typing away at normal speed. We should mention that each top of each key is a little slick; there's no texture at all, so your fingers can slide from one to the other. We learned to like it, but it was certainly a unique sensation at first. We didn't feel as if the keys were cramped at all, and none of them were oddly placed or shortened.
The trackpad deserves a lot of credit. For one, there's a dedicated button just above it that turns it off. This is highly useful if you use a Bluetooth or USB travel mouse and would prefer to disable the trackpad so no accidents take place if your hand brushes across the trackpad en route to the keyboard. Second, it's a fairly large pad. There's a slick, smooth feel to it, and it felt very spacious for an ultraportable. We really felt as if we had lots of room to maneuver, and that's rare for a 13.3" machine. Also, there are dedicated left/right click buttons beneath it, which are far superior to the single bar that keeps popping up everywhere else. These buttons had a great amount of travel, with a definite "click" sounding with each press. Overall, it's a very nice mousing experience, with our only major gripe being the limited multi-touch; rather than being able to actively use a two-finger scroll, we were generally forced to use the scroll bar. It's available as an option, but doesn't work so well. Pinch-to-zoom on maps worked just fine, though.
As for performance? There are hardly any complaints to find here. Bootup was as quick as it gets for an ultraportable, and it awoke from sleep instantly. Multi-tasking was never an issue, with the only real lag being the first loads of heavier applications. That's likely due to the relatively sluggish 5400RPM hard drive; this machine is a perfect candidate for an SSD infusion. Pop an SSD into this machine, and it'd be as quick as you'd need for quite some time to come. But even as-is, the machine was very snappy. New tabs loaded on Chrome on command, and we rarely ever found ourselves waiting around for the machine to catch up to our demands. Even loading maps in our gaming tests, we were impressed with just how quickly everything came together.
The Core i5-460M is a potent processor, no doubt, and while the integrated Intel HD graphics won't be anything to write home about, being paired with a great CPU and 4GB of DDR3 memory helps out tremendously. For the vast majority of basic, Office-related tasks that would be accomplished on this machine, it's more than capable. Even multi-media playback was a breeze; 1080p video clips loaded and started playing back in an instant, placing less than 10% strain on the machine, with only Intel's integrated graphics at the helm. Wi-Fi performance was also fantastic, and Toshiba's subtle top-bar along the top edge of the Windows 7 screen (which can be enabled and pulled down with a simple keystroke) really kept common features nearby; things like screen brightness, wireless on/off, etc. Very nice touch, and best of all, it didn't seem to lag or be a drain on the machine. Our only major complaint with the software (a 64-bit copy of Windows 7 Home Premium is included) is the Norton bloatware that was loaded on. It tries to register and activate each and every time you bootup, so you'll either want to commit to it or uninstall it right away.
Surprisingly, even high-def multi-media and gaming tests were handled with relative poise. You'll see exactly what we mean in the benchmarks to come, but suffice it to say, we were really impressed with what the R705 managed to accomplish with a 5400RPM hard drive and its integrated graphics.
|Futuremark 3DMark 06 & PCMark Vantage|
The Futuremark 3DMark06 CPU benchmark consists of tests that use the CPU to render 3D scenes, rather than the GPU. It runs several threads simultaneously and is designed to utilize multiple processor cores.
Here, it's easy to see how the integrated GPU falls short of similar machines with discrete GPUs like the NVIDIA Optimus infused Asus U30Jc. Similarly, the Samsung R580 destroys the R705, even with a weaker CPU, thanks to the discrete NVIDIA GPU. But surprisingly, the Portégé manages to hold steady with the other competitors within the confines of its svelte enclosure. We were actually somewhat impressed with the gaming and multi-media playback results of the machine.
Next we ran the system through Futuremark’s latest system performance metric PCMark Vantage. This benchmark suite creates a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition video and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. We like the fact that most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, in order to exploit the additional resources offered by multi-core processors.
Here you'll see that the R705 more or less aligns directly with Asus' U43F, a 14" ultraportable with similar specifications but a somewhat smaller price tag ($899 MSRP). It managed to outpace the other two similarly configured machines here, and when you consider that it's the smallest of the bunch, that's pretty impressive.
|SiSoftware Sandra & Multimedia Benchmarks|
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2010, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic,
CPU Arithmetic Test; Click To Enlarge
CPU Multimedia Test; Click To Enlarge
Memory Bandwidth Test; Click To Enlarge
Physical Disc Test; Click To Enlarge
Our gauntlet of SiSoftware SANDRA tests show this particular ultraportable hanging close with other thin-and-light platforms. Everything was just about par for the course, though the CPU exceeded our expectations somewhat and the HDD tests made obvious how slow a 5400RPM hard drive in comparison to more expensive SSD options. No huge surprises here, but actually, just being able to keep pace with machines that are generally more expensive (and larger) than this one is impressive in its own right.
To test multimedia capabilities, we attempted to play back a 720p WMVHD clip, a 720p H.264 clip and a 1080p H.264 video clip.
In our video playback tests, we see that the Portégé R705-P40 is plenty capable of handling high-definition video. Both 720p and 1080p clips were perfectly smooth, even with applications running in the background. If you're only looking for good HD media playback (and don't much care about gaming), this machine is a champ. We'd definitely trust it as a media playback device for HDTVs via HDMI, despite only having an IGP pushing the graphics.
Click To Enlarge; 720 H.264 - Toshiba Portégé R705-P40
Click To Enlarge; 720p WMVHD - Toshiba Portégé R705-P40
Click To Enlarge; 1080p - Toshiba Portégé R705-P40
To touch on gaming
We told you we were impressed with what the R705-P40 managed to squeeze out of a plain 'ole Intel GMA HD setup, at least in these two legacy titles. The graphics here were just as impressive as those found on the 14" Asus U43F and significantly faster than the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e and MainGear Clutch 13. These scores may not impress hardcore gamers, but again, you probably shouldn't be in the market for a 13.3" machine if gaming is your top priority. Just being able to run a 3D title smoothly on occasion is a nice back-pocket feature for an ultraportable like this Protégé.
Toshiba's Portégé R705-P40 manages to creep just past the 3 hour mark on our real-world rundown test. That's fairly impressive for a CPU as power-hungry as the Core i5-460M, but the IGP no doubt helps things out. We think that if you were less demanding on this, you could see 4-5 hours. But still, the 8 hour mark that Toshiba claims is possible seems a far-fetched fantasy. Even with wireless disabled and your screen brightness cranked down, we doubt you could get this unit to last a full 8 hours. Still, the battery life here is fairly average for the size, and considering that you're getting above-average performance, that's a pretty fair tradeoff.
The 6-cell battery is also pretty slim. There's no bulge from the rear, and it's able to be removed and swapped out by the user. If you really need this machine to last through an intercontinental flight, you should deifnitely pick up a second battery.
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|Summary and Conclusion|
Performance Summary: In our tests, the Toshiba Portégé R705 stacked up nicely against the competition. In our general desktop workloads, as well as gaming/multi-media benchmarks, it was shining even brighter. Our $929.99 configuration managed to beat our expectations from a performance standpoint, with even the Intel HD integrated graphics core performing better than expected, all things considered. On a 13.3" ultraportable that's as mobile as this machine, you generally don't expect to do a lot multimedia muscle. Sure, an Optimus GPU setup would've been ideal, but it would have definitely boosted the price. And for our use, the IGP did just fine. Even 1080p video played back without a hitch, and yesteryear's best gaming titles were perfectly smooth and playable at a modest 1280x720 screen resolution. The 2.53GHz Core i5-460M is definitely owed a great deal of credit for the overall performance, and even with a relatively sluggish 5400RPM hard drive under the hood, we didn't find ourselves waiting around for the R705 to catch up with our demands.
Toshiba's design team has really nailed the execution here. Finally, an ultraportable manufacturer has thought outside of the box. The magnesium alloy blue color scheme lets you know that this isn't "just another ultraportable" from the first glance. Underneath the lid, the spill-resistant keyboard provides an enjoyable typing experience, not to mention a level of insurance rarely found on ultraportables that aren't designated as "rugged." The trackpad is also one of the best available on any 13.3" PC notebook, and the fact that a dual-layer DVD writer is shoved into an enclosure this small is a real testament to the time put into the Portégé R705's mechanical design.
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As for gripes, the machine is definitely amongst the loudest and warmest in the category, but again, that's the tradeoff for such a potent CPU. The 3 - 3.5 hour battery life (under moderate graphics strain) was also a bit of a letdown, particularly when you consider that Toshiba says you can squeeze up to eight hours out of the 6-cell Li-ion. Of course, we also wish these USB 2.0 ports were USB 3.0 ports, and as 2011 ushers itself in, not upgrading to SuperSpeed is becoming less and less acceptable for PC makers. At least an eSATA port that doubles as a Sleep-and-Charge USB 2.0 port is included, though. The glossy, LED-backlit display was also a bit lack-luster; looking directly on, the colors were vibrant and crisp, but the viewing angles from any direction weren't world-class. This is a screen that really requires you direct attention, and isn't great for letting a crowd of friends gather around for a look at a comical YouTube clip.
Those complaints aside, the Portégé R705 offers a very compelling value. We were just floored with how snappy it felt for just $929.99. That's a great price on a 13.3" ultraportable, particularly one that is as light (3.2lbs.) as this one, includes an optical drive (a dual-layer DVD writer in this case) and offers such fantastic performance in the multi-media and multi-tasking areas. Light-duty gaming is definitely a possibility, even with the IGP, so long as you tone down the details and don't try to play today's latest and most demanding titles. Half-Life 2 and Quake Wars were both perfectly playable in our testing. If you need the addition of WiDi, there's a slightly more expensive bundle of this machine available, and there are also a couple of models that are cheaper with a Core i3 CPU in place of the Core i5. Overall, it's hard to not recommend the R705 if you're in the market for a 13.3" ultraportable. This notebook manages to hit the sweet spots, and the attention to detail that Toshiba offered up with the Portégé R705 makes this an Editor's Choice.