The Price of Innovation

REVIEW: The Toshiba Portégé R400 Tablet PC shines but will cost users.

With Apple MacBook-like looks, a nice widescreen display and the kind of portability usually found in Lenovo Groups ThinkPads, Toshibas Portégé R400 is the most ground-breaking tablet PC eWeek Labs has tested. Unfortunately, users will pay for the innovation—in terms of both price and performance.

Announced at International CES available now, the Portégé R400 is a 12.1-inch tablet PC running Microsofts Windows Vista Ultimate operating system. The Portégé R400 weighs 3.7 pounds and features a 12-inch widescreen backlit LED display.

With Vista Ultimate, the Portégé R400 has the functionality found in both Windows Media Center and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. The Portégé R400 is the first notebook to take advantage of Microsofts Active Notifications capability, which enables real-time e-mail and calendaring notifications via a digital display on the units front edge.

This secondary display, which Toshiba calls the Personal Information Assistant, can display notifications even when the notebook is off, via Wi-Fi or an EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) wireless broadband connection.

The Portégé R400 is also the first laptop that can be docked wirelessly via UWB (Ultra-Wideband) technology. Toshibas optional Wireless Dock, which supports Wireless Digital Video, is due in the second quarter.

The $2,599 base configuration of the Portégé R400 comes with Intels 1.2GHz Core Duo U2500 processor; 1GB of RAM; an 80GB hard drive; Intels GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 950; and an integrated Intel Wi-Fi module capable of accessing 802.11a/b/g networks. This price includes the Vista Business SKU of Microsofts latest operating system rather than Vista Ultimate.

eWeek Labs evaluation unit was configured with the 1.2GHz U2500 Core Duo processor, 2GB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. Our unit also included the Personal Information Assistant, as well as the optional external USB-DVD-SuperMulti drive, Intel Wireless a/b/g and integrated EvDO. This configuration is priced at $3,499—making it one of the most expensive convertible notebooks on the market.

With Intels 1.2GHz U2500 Core Duo chip, our Portégé R400 barely had enough oomph to run Vista Ultimate. The 2GB of RAM gave us a much-needed boost in performance, but the Portégé R400 is probably best suited for media-loving executives—those who want a cutting-edge machine but mainly for office productivity suite applications and Web surfing.

The Portégé R400s full-size keyboard was responsive during tests, and the system also offers a touch-pad mouse.

The Portégé R400 has a tri-band Intel Pro/Wireless 3945ABG network connection and a hard switch at the front of the laptop allows users to easily turn the wireless on and off. The Portégé R400 also can be customized with a wireless broadband module that lets users connect to Verizon Wireless EvDO broadband network.

While the UWB dock was not yet available for us to test, there is no doubt that not having to physically connect multiple devices to the Portégé R400 is very attractive. Toshiba officials said the dock works with the R400 as far as 3 feet away and will offer throughput rates of up to 480M bps. Toshiba estimates that the Portégé R400 with a six-cell battery will run for 3.5 to 4 hours. ´

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.