Toshiba Portege R500 SSD Laptop Review

Everyone knows that ‘ultraportable’ laptops are becoming more and more portable, offering higher performance while still getting lighter and lighter. However, here Toshiba take this to the next level with the Portege R500 SSD. If you think you know ‘ultraportable’ laptops, then this should be classified as an ultraportable ‘ultraportable’!

1. Overview

When this machine launched last year it weighted 2.4 pounds, however, Toshiba have been making a few tweaks, and by ditching the optical drive, have produced an ultra lightweight laptop. It does come with a 64GB SSD drive, although you have the option of adding an optical drive if you wish. Adding to the weight saving is a smaller three cell battery, instead of the previous six cell version.

2. Design

The R500 SSD is a very contemporary looking machine; its hollow magnesium frame feels like a dummy model, rather than a fully working laptop. However, the wafer thin screen still succumbs to the same serious flexing issues as that of its predecessor – you will find that it bends alarmingly easily.

3. Display

The Portege R500 SSD managed to squeeze a 12-inch LED widescreen display into its slender case. The screen is not as bright as some of the competitors machines, and did appear to be quite washed out no matter what the lighting conditions where like. However because of it’s dimensions, the Toshiba is better suited to being carried in small bags.

4. Keyboard and Other Controls

The fact that there is a full size keyboard included is excellent, and is a real pleasure to use compared to some of the other machines in this class with instead decide to use a 91% size keyboard. The R500 SSD does however only include a touchpad, whereas other machines tend to include a pointing stick device as well. This isn’t a major criticism of the machine though.

4. Ports and Connections

The main omission is clearly a CD/DVD burner, but most business travellers should be able to manage without one fairly easily, and indeed you have the option of adding one. You will find three USB ports, and also an SD slot and a FireWire port to round out the connectivity options. Certain versions have 3G support, however if this in unavailable in your territory Toshiba will include Intel’s 802.11n Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port.

5. Battery Life

Battery life results really weren’t that spectacular, but this is mainly down to the smaller three cell battery, which lasts around 3 hours. You do also have the option of adding on an extended six cell battery pack, and also a six cell expansion slice, which slides underneath the base. These will boost battery life to a very healthy 9 hours, however they will also add to the weight of the laptop.

6. Shortcomings

There are a few downsides to the Portege R500 SSD, for a start the 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 really is a bargain basement processor, and the 1GB of RAM is less than generous. You will still be able to happily browse the web, use a word processor and even do some light photo editing. However, anything more intensive than this and you will probably find the system starting to struggle.


The Toshiba Portege R500 SSD is incredibly light at only 1.7 pounds, however this lightweight means you have to manage without an optical drive, a very small battery, and pay for an expensive SSD drive. You should also handle this machine with extreme care – the screen flexes too much and could do with being brighter.