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Toshiba Portege R200

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      10.10.2007 10:21
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      Great laptop for travel, light to moderate use, less intensive applications

      An odd title for a review, I know, but this is a fairly odd laptop- as far as I'm concerned at least- mainly because I actually *like* it and haven't got tired of carrying it around.


      Well, when I bouight it, which was 2 years ago now- around £1200 all in all, included Windows XP, with service pack 2 plus lots of Toshiba software, most of which isn't really required. You can now get it for under £500 (sigh- such is the way with computer-related items).


      The laptop in question is the Toshiba Portege R200. When you take it out of the box, the first thing you will notice is the attractive, sleek silver look to it. It certainly looks the part for anyone wanting to take their laptop to a conference and hoping to make a good impression with a worthwhile machine. It has a nice silver, ultra-slim design and certainly looks the part. Although compact, the keyboard is easy to use (as eas to use as any other laptop keyboard, anyway).


      The second surprising thing about this machine you will notice is soon as you pick it up. Yes, it's light- surprisingly light for a laptop of this specification. You can actually carry it around in a rucksack or laptop bag without really noticing it too much. Okay, so you have a power supply and whatever other bits and pieces you want to add on (maybe a spare battery), but you have those in any case, regardless of the laptop. So it's no worse than carrying round a hadback book really.


      On the subject of carrying it around, if you were doing just that you'd probably want to know how long the battery will last. Well, I've tested it a number of times and found that it lasted about four hours, wich is pretty good really. You can also easily swap out a battery for a spare one by flipping it onto its underside and easily slotting the battery in and out.


      The Toshiba Portege R200 comes with 256Mb memory built in with an extra 256Mb in a memory slot which you can get to with a thin screwdriver- this is located (like most things it seems) on the underside of the machine. However, if you intend to use it for fairly intensive applications, or if you just want it to multi-task a little more efficiently (ladies- think of it as a man...) you may want to swap out the 256Mb in the extra slot for a 1Gb memory stick instead. This makes a big difference to the performance and hence to you productivity when you need to get a lot of things done.

      You can buy 1Gb memory sticks for this model from a lot of places but I would recommend Crucial Technology (www.crucial.com an then click for the UK site) as they allow you to go through a wizard on their website to determine your exact laptop model and hence the type of memory you need- *very* useful if like most of us you're not sure.


      My model came with 60Gb of disk space- considering that this *is* a laptop after all, you're unlikely to need any more than this. Provided you don't fill it up with boring things such as actual work, you should also have plenty of space for any mp3 collection you may have. ;)


      The CPU (Central Processing Unit... or "brain" of the laptop) runs at 1.3GHz, which although not amazingly fast by today's standards, is perfectly adequate for the job- I certainly haven't had any problems with it.


      The Portege R200 comes with a 12.1" TFT screen which is fairly dstandard for modern laptop builds. It does the job perfectly well, and unlike some laptops, I haven't had any problems with it at all (such as pixels dropping out, screen fading etc. etc.). when out and about, you do need a screen that isn't likely to start packing in (most people don't carry a spare monitor around with them after all...)


      Like most laptops it has a "touchpad" for mouse emulation, which you need to rub your fingers over to move the mouse pointer- I personally hate those things, so I keep a USB mouse with me and plug that in instead. Much better!


      It has a couple of USB ports, a monitor port, infra-red port and a slot where if you need internet access you could slot in a 3G card or something similar, if you have an account set up of course.


      You can buy a docking station for this laptop, which can sit at your office desk with your desktop-style keyboard, mouse, monitor etc. all plugged into it, awaiting your return. This is quite useful as you just need to snap the laptop onto the docking station (which is really very small and compact compared to some others you may have seen, especially for older laptops).

      It also has the added benefit of giving you extra USB ports, or rather freeing up the USB ports on the laptop chassis itself.

      A couple of notes to make however:

      Toshiba call their docking stations "port replicators" (some other manufacturers do as well, these days) so look for them by this name. They cost around £200 or so from most suppliers.

      Be *careful* when you slot the laptop onto the docking station. The thin connector port that actually secures the two together can be quite fragile, and the pins on it will bend if any force is used to try and snap the machine onto its docking station. A few colleagues of mine (being impatient and frustrated types) have done exactly that- and fixing the pins is not an easy job. So be careful!


      Toshiba seem to outsource all their technical support- every time I've tried to find their support pages on the Internet I seem to (eventually) get to a page showing their "preferred support companies"... presumably one has to use these. So they seem to adaopt a bit of a hands-off approach which is far from ideal- you have to take your chances with one of the companies on the list. Luckily I've never had to use any of them, which is testament to the durability of the machine.


      If you want a light, attractive laptop for easy carriage, good battery life and something you can easily show off at a sales presentation or something like that, this is one to go for. However, if you need it for really intensive applications, or you visit areas where a tougher machine might be needed, you may want to go for a more powerful machine.

      Thanks for reading...


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