SLIDESHOW

Toshiba Portege R600: Dissecting the Lightest Notebook on the Market

Take a look at how the lightest notebook on the market is constructed.

StripShow: Toshiba Portege R600

The Toshiba Portege R600 is the lightest fully fledged notebook on the market at just 950 grams (slightly more than two pounds). It’s also deceptively strong and durable. In this slideshow we go beneath its exterior and expose the components that make it tick and the design tricks that go into making something that's so light yet so strong.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Skinny but Strong

While it may look and feel a little flimsy, every effort has been made to ensure that the Toshiba Portege R600 notebook can withstand the rigors of daily travel and use -- not only in the materials that have been used to construct the chassis, but also in the techniques that have been used to attach the components to the system. Before you see the strip show, you might want to read a bit more about the Toshiba Portege R600 and how it performs.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Magnesium for Strength

The Toshiba Portege R600 uses a magnesium body. The part shown above is the base of the unit, and it was strong enough to withstand bending and twisting in our reviewer's hands. The insert shows the honeycomb design of the body, which helps reduce the weight of the laptop.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

A Look Inside

Once the cover is off, you can see the basic layout of the Toshiba Portege R600’s components. The largest component is the optical drive in the bottom-left corner. To its right is the solid-state hard drive (SSD) and above that is the motherboard and cooling fan.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Solid State Drive Saves Weight

A thin ribbon cable attaches the 128GB SSD to the motherboard, and as you can see there is no enclosure for this drive — it’s just a circuit board with eight memory chips on it — which helps keep the weight down. A special algorithm is used to write data to the SSD, in order to ensure that data is written to all areas of the memory and not always to the same spot.

The Portege R600 will also accept a regular (spinning) hard drive, but the advantage of the SSD is the fact that it has no moving parts, which makes it less prone to damage and also allows it to run cooler. It also won't vibrate, can withstand higher temperatures (up to 68 degrees Fahrenheit more than a conventional drive) and it’s faster. The issue of capacity is slowly being addressed and Toshiba recently announced an SSD drive with a 500GB capacity.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Skinniest DVD Burner Around

The DVD burner in the Toshiba Portege R600 is the thinnest on the market at only 7mm (0.27 inches). It’s basically just a tray with rails and its controller board is attached by a cable, which in turn is attached by a thin ribbon cable to the motherboard.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Basic Motherboard

Now here is the cool part: this is the Portege R600’s motherboard. Every unnecessary bit of circuit real estate has been removed and the result is a board so small that it can fit into the palm of your hand. Only a couple of ports are hard soldered on the board: the D-Sub port and one USB port. As the board doesn’t extend all the way across the base of the laptop, the Ethernet, USB and audio ports are attached to daughter boards and connected to the motherboard via ribbon cables.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Power Cord Care

Even the power port is not directly soldered onto the board, but instead attached to it via a harness, which minimizes the chances of a fault occurring if the power cord is violently ripped out, for example. For this reason it sits loosely in a dedicated slot in the chassis. Incidentally, Toshiba told PC World that the reason the power port is located on the side and not at the back is so that users can see it and not forget that it’s plugged in before they move the laptop.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Staying Cool

Because the Portege R600 is so thin, heat is an issue. The cooler is a simple copper-based heat sink and heat pipe with a fan attached. It is slightly thicker than the fan found in the Toshiba Portege R500; it draws heat from the CPU and blasts it out through the vent holes. The CPU in the Portege R600 is an ultra-low-voltage Intel Core 2 Duo U9400, which runs at 1.4GHz.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Stripped-Down Portege

Here is what the Portege R600 looks like without its base and internal components. You can see the keyboard is still attached; this is because it is sealed to the top part of the chassis. This is what makes the Portege R600 spill-proof. There are no drainage points, so to get liquid out of the keyboard you have to quickly turn the unit upside down.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Sans Screen

And here is the Portege R600 without its screen (the screen’s bezel is in the insert). The black strips are padding for the screen as it sits in the lid. The screen sits loosely in the lid, instead of being screwed in place, and this is what makes the Portege R600’s lid so flexible. Torsional movements (see slide 13) can be made without the screen breaking or coming off its mount.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Scrutinizing the Screen

The screen is insanely thin and extends almost all the way to the edge of the lid. It is transreflective, which means its brightness can be controlled by its internal backlight or by direct sunlight when you are outdoors. There is a button on the chassis to help you choose between these modes. Setting it to transreflective will help preserve the battery life.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Now that's Flexibility

Here is the screen being twisted by the Toshiba representative. Watching this can make you squirm. There is plenty of silicone in it, which is what allows it to flex so much, but it obviously won’t withstand total disrespect. This flexible screen, coupled with the strong magnesium lid and the lack of mounting points, makes the Portege R600’s lid very robust.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Shielding Tricks

Even though the lid is so thin, it still has space for a webcam, two wireless networking antennas (one on either side of the screen), and a Bluetooth antenna. Shielding problems were overcome by using shielding tape and also by bending the antennas around corners to increase the separation between them.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook

Bottoms Up

This is the underside of the Portege R600, where you can see the connections to the keyboard and touchpad. Notice also the ribbed design of the magnesium, which adds strength to the palm-rest area. We hope you enjoyed this strip show as much as we did. And in case you were wondering, the Toshiba reps did a great job putting the Portege R600 back together again: it booted up first go.

See related coverage:

Another take on the Portege R600

Top 5 Netbooks in Photos

Evolution of the Netbook

How to Buy a Netbook