Toshiba is looking to push the envelope in the ultraportable PC market with a new Portege laptop that offers a 128GB solid state drive that comes standard, a 12.1-inch display and weighs 2.4 pounds.
The Toshiba Portege R500-S5007V is the latest in a series of high-end, ultraportable notebooks from the company that are geared toward the enterprise market and especially for company executives.
With this new Portege, Toshiba, the world's fifth-largest computer maker, expanded the SSD from the 64GB it offered with another R500 model in 2007, to 128GB with this latest laptop. At the same time, the company kept the starting price at $2,999 as well as some of the same features, such as an ultralow volt Intel Core 2 Duo U7700 processor with a 1.33GHz clock speed, 2MB of L2 cache and a 533MHz front side bus.
The latest Toshiba Portege, which measures 0.77 inches, joins a growing list of slim, light, high-end laptops that have entered the market in just the past few months. Earlier this year, Lenovo and Apple each introduced laptops that placed a good deal of emphasis on design and portability and made significant use of SSDs.
However, with 13.3-inch displays, the ThinkPad X300 and the MacBook Air created a new category of notebooks that fell somewhere between ultraportable laptops and standard notebooks. The Portege, on the other hand, fits within the ultraportable category, which IDC defines as a laptop weighing less than 4 pounds and with a 12-inch display or smaller.
Right now, IDC estimates that ultraportables make up between 8 and 10 percent of the worldwide PC market, but the entry of notebooks such as the X300 and the MacBook Air are slowly starting to change this market.
Richard Shim, an IDC analyst, said that commercial buyers could expect to see more of these light and thin laptops by the end of year. However, with SSDs and other technologies, most of these notebooks will come with a hefty price tag.
"In the notebook market, portability equals a premium because when you shrink more and more parts to fit into a certain package, the costs go up," Shim said.
However, the fact that Toshiba was able to offer a 128GB SSD for the same price as the previous model with only a 64GB drive shows that the prices for NAND flash memory continue to drop. For now, a 128GB SSD will still add about $700 or $800 to the base cost of a notebook.
Other PC vendors, notably Dell, offer SSDs with much smaller capacities only as options with their notebooks. Lenovo offers a 64GB SSD with its ThinkPad X300.
While SSDs are supposed to offer better battery life and more stability than traditional hard disk drives, Shim said that for now, there's no accurate way to measure whether solid state drives improve performance and add to the laptop's overall battery life.
In addition to the SSD, the Toshiba Portege offers an Intel 915GM express chip set, 2GB of RAM, three USB ports, a 7-millimeter DVD drive and 802.11 a/b/g wireless technologies.