Toshiba Portege R705 Review

Toshiba’s Portege R705 laptop is sharp at work, comfortable at play, and affordable enough for everyone.
Toshiba’s Portege R705 laptop is sharp at work, comfortable at play, and affordable enough for everyone.
Toshiba’s Portege R705 laptop is sharp at work, comfortable at play, and affordable enough for everyone.

Highs

  • Thin and light
  • Sturdy, stylish magnesium chassis
  • Standard optical drive
  • Comfortable supersized touchpad, firm keyboard
  • Capable Core i5 processor
  • Sharp 13.3-inch screen
  • Surprisingly loud speakers
  • Affordable price point

Lows

  • Lacks biz staples like keyboard light, 180-degree hinges
  • Some intrusive preinstalled utilities
  • Reflective screen
  • Not enough grunt for all 1080p playback

toshiba portege r705 reviewBefore there were netbooks, Adamos, Timelines or even a MacBook Air, there was the Portege. Toshiba’s long-standing marquee for ultraportable notebooks never achieved the prominence of many of its more fashionable contemporaries, but the business-styled portable has always pressed the bounds of technology. Back in 2007, the Portege R500 actually took the title of the “world’s thinnest notebook with an optical drive.” The R705 continues the thin-and-light, business-centric traditions of its fore-bearers, but with a new emphasis on value; an exotic prepped for the mainstream market. To that end, the R705 is neither as thin or as light as the old R500, but Toshiba’s “no-compromises” 13.3-inch portable still manages to make very few for the price, producing an excellent value for budget-conscious consumers.

Hardware

Despite its netbook-worthy 3.2-pound carry weight, Toshiba’s Portege R705 packs a pedigree that’s less Chihuahua and more St. Bernard. That includes a full-speed (not ULV) Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive and a 13.3-inch screen with 1366 x 768 resolution. The machine also supports Intel’s WiDi wireless HD streaming technology, meaning it can push 1080p video to a remote monitor with an adapter like Netgear’s Push2TV.

toshiba portege r705 reviewThrow in an Radeon or GeForce GPU and you would have a certifiable gaming machine, but Toshiba omits the graphics muscle in favor of the lower weight and longer battery life from Intel HD graphics, leaving the Portege leaning more toward the coffee-and-suit demographic than the Mountain-Dew-and-t-shirt crowd.

Design

The styling, smartly enough, aligns with those conservative sensibilities. Unlike Toshiba’s occasionally gaudy Qosmio gaming notebooks, the Portege reverts to clean lines, matte colors (an inky navy blue on the lid) and a complete absence of neon anything. The magnesium alloy chassis gives it a rigid feel that says it’s made from metal, rather than plastic plastered with cut-apart soda cans like some of the budget notebooks sporting the brushed-aluminum look. The only exception comes from the lid, which lacks the rigidity of the chassis and flexes significantly under a firm press.

Don’t confuse solid-feeling with heavy, though. Spreading 3.2 pounds across a footprint this big almost makes the R705 feel almost hollow. With the lid open, you can grasp both front corners between thumb and forefinger and lift it effortlessly. At just one inch deep, no one will confuse it with a MacBook Air, but it still looks slim and slides into a crowded backpack or messenger bag easily thanks to tapered edges.

toshiba portege r705 reviewPorts and connectivity

Though not outfitted for every imaginable scenario like business ‘books with four-digit price tags, the Portege offers no shortage of inputs striping the sides of its slender chassis. The left side offers both VGA and HDMI video outputs, along with both a USB 2.0 and combined eSATA-USB port for accessories. A dainty power cable connects at the far back, connected to a petite power supply that’s little bigger than what you might find with a standard netbook. The right side includes dedicated microphone and headphone jacks for analog sound, plus an Ethernet jack, another USB port, and perhaps most impressive, a DVD drive, which has become a rarity on notebooks this light. The Portege also includes an SD card reader notched into the right-hand side of the palm rest, an odd-but-practical location that actually makes it easier to pop cards in and out without leaning over to find the slot.

Software

True to its business roots Toshiba has gone light on the bloatware with the R705 – you won’t find any eBay links on the desktop. But in the name of convenience, you will find a heavy-handed smattering of preinstalled utilities. Toshiba’s hard drive protection, for instance, will warn you every time you so much as jostle the notebook that the hard drive head has been docked for your safety – but after 10 alerts in five minutes, any rational user will click the box to permanently disable this message. It’s almost like Toshiba left it enabled just to let us know it’s even there.

Perhaps a bigger irritation is Toshiba’s webcam dock, which peeks out from the side by a few pixels at all times and happily vaults out to greet you with options for settings, effects and facial recognition whenever you dare wag a cursor too close to the edge of the screen. We were happy to have the utilities, but puzzled by the prominent positioning. It’s as if Toshiba expects you to want to view different novelty frame options (heart, stars or bubbles?) at any time within seconds.

Toshiba Book Place and Toshiba Bulletin board both hang unobtrusively enough on the bottom dock, but both of them nagged us incessantly to update with the first run, and neither provided enough utility to make us happy we sat through the installers.

We might consider the entire software suite scrappable if not for Toshiba’s redeeming Eco Utility, which intelligently cinches down on notebook performance to wring extra minutes from the battery. Every notebook has something along these lines, but we we liked the instant graphing, real-time watt consumption, and the hard button above the keyboard Toshiba has tied it to, which flicks eco mode on and off near instantly.

Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Deals

Here are the best laptop deals for November 2018

Whether you've started a new school year, are shopping for a student, or you just need a new computer, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Product Review

Long live the king! Dell’s new XPS 13 defends its throne with ease

The redesigned Dell XPS 13 doesn’t reinvent the laptop’s winning formula, but does offer much-needed tweaks including the latest Intel hardware and a thinner, lighter body. Is it enough to keep Dell’s laptop at the top of our ratings?
Product Review

This is the best budget laptop you can buy

One of our favorite laptops, the Asus Zenbook UX330UA, has been updated to feature the 8th-gen Intel Core CPU. It's still the best budget laptop on the market, offering great battery life and zippy performance at a discounted price.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Product Review

If the Surface Studio 2 can't win over Mac fans, nothing can

Most creative professionals are staunchly planted in the Apple camp, but with the Surface Studio 2, Microsoft is making a serious attempt to win them over. Despite its niche appeal, you’ll wish you had a few grand to drop on this beauty.
Computing

These laptop makers produce the most reliable, quality hardware today

If you want to buy your next laptop based around a specific brand, it helps to know which the best brands of laptops are. This list will give you a good grounding in the most reliable, quality laptop manufacturers today.
Deals

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
Computing

Recover your beloved data with these great software tools

The best data recovery software isn't always free, but whether you've lost files on a hard drive, SD card, or even physical media like CDs and DVDs, there's a chance they'll be able to get that data back.
Computing

If the speed of AMD’s Radeon RX 590 doesn’t entice you, the game bundle will

AMD's Radeon RX 590 is a new video card that targets 1080p gaming at maximum detail. Starting at $280, it fills a gap between the Radeon RX 580 and the more expensive Radeon RX Vega. AMD says the new RX 590 can beat Nvidia's GTX 1060 Ti.
Computing

Microsoft Surface Studio 2: Everything you need to know

Microsoft's Surface Studio 2 comes with a new CPU, new graphics card, and a brighter display -- but is all of that worth the higher cost? Here's everything you need to know about the Surface Studio 2.
Computing

Want to use one drive between a Mac and Windows PC? Partitions are your best bet

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.
Computing

Microsoft turns on the lights with a new white theme in Windows 10 update

Microsoft is introducing a new light theme in the upcoming version of Windows 10 and is currently beta testing the change with Windows Insiders. The clean-looking theme brings a much-needed facelift to Windows.