Review: Toshiba Portege R705 ultra-portable laptop

With just one month left in the year, our search for the perfect travel friendly laptop may finally be coming to an end with the Toshiba Portege R705.

The R705 comes from the top of the range lineup of Toshiba laptops – which obviously means premium features at a premium price. So – what makes this machine so special, and is this the machine you should consider as your new travel buddy?

Inside the version we reviewed (the R705-P41) is an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, a 500GB drive and an optical drive. Graphics are powered by a Mobile Intel HD chipset with Intel WiDi technology (more on that later). The screen is a 13.3″ 1366×768 LED backlit panel with support for 720p video with a webcam mounted above the display. The R705 supports 802.11a/g/n WiFi. Expansion ports offer eSATA, USB, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and audio. Battery life is rated for “up to 8 hours”.

While all of these specifications sound great (and they are), the real surprise comes from the weight of this computer: just 3.22lbs. To put this in perspective – the new 13″ Apple Macbook
Air weighs 2.9 lbs and does not offer the speed, optical drive or battery life of the Toshiba.

The outside of the Portege R705 is made of magnesium alloy, and is built around a rigid frame – the top of the screen flexes quite a bit, but since it is made of metal, a little flex shouldn’t matter too much. The shiny metal Toshiba badge is a nice touch, adding to the overall premium feel of the R705.

The keyboard is a “chiclet” version – which makes for nicely spaced keys, with dedicated page up/page down buttons, arrow keys and a full row of function buttons.

Not much to add about the keyboard other than “it works perfectly”. Spacing is nice, there is just the right amount of travel and long amounts of typing never bothered me. The lack of a backlit keyboard option is a tad disappointing.

The same applies to the generously sized trackpad – it responds nicely, supports multi-touch and its buttons work better than most of the machines we’ve recently tested.

The built in DVD drive is a real treat – even if you rarely use one, the drive inside the R705 means you won’t have to make compromises – the machine just offers everything you need. When not in use, the Toshiba power management software can completely shut down the drive, reducing its power load on the battery.

The little button on the top right is to enable the Intel WiDi feature. WiDI stands for Wireless Display, and is a trick built into the Intel i5 Chipset.

With WiDi and a compatible WiDi receiver, you can “beam” your video from your laptop to the WiDi box, and connect it to a TV or projector. Range is relatively limited, and you need to invest a little under $100 for the box, but it does make for a fun tool if you use your laptop for business.

The chrome screen hinges not only cool, they also make the structure very sturdy. There is no wobble in the screen when it is open.

Battery life, while rated at 8 hours, usually managed to not go past the 6:23 mark. Even with everything turned down to a bare minimum, the six hour mark was about the most we could squeeze out of it. Still, a very respectable lifespan on a machine with a powerful processor.

So there you have it – all the ingredients for the perfect travel laptop – 13.3″ is the perfect size for a machine that comes on the road with you. The screen size is perfect for some entertainment, the keyboard is great for doing lots of “real” work, the Intel i5 is powerful enough for almost anything you throw at it, and battery life is sufficient for most flights.

In the model we reviewed, there is no Bluetooth or fingerprint reader – two options that are available on higher-end versions. Also, the Intel HD video may be fine for basic HD video playback, but it won’t win any prizes from gamers.

Priced at $939.99, this is clearly a few steps above the kind of machine sold on Black Friday at your local megamart, but an ultra-portable delivers so much more than many budget computers.

Of all the ultra-portables on the market, the Portege R705 is the one we’ve fallen in love with. How Toshiba managed to pack so much in such a light machine amazes us every time we pick it up.

For (online) retailers of the Portege R705, head on over to