Toshiba Portege R400 Tablet PC Review

Discussion in 'News Headlines' started by kensei, Mar 30, 2007.

  1. Tiffany Boggs

    Tiffany Boggs Editor/Site Admin Senior Member

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    Toshiba Portege R400 Tablet PC Review

    The Toshiba Portege R400 has been getting a lot of attention recently. The only problem is all the attention it is attracting isn't always positive. The R400 has an innovative design, but lacks some key features. Many users don't see why the Tablet is so expensive when it does not have an internal optical drive and only has two USB ports. Thankfully it does have some unique features though like the Windows SideShow display, Windows Vista Ultimate, an LED backlit screen and its unique and secure hinge, which make it stand out above lower priced Tablets.

    [​IMG]
    The Toshiba Portege R400. (view large image)

    The Toshiba Portege R400 specs as reviewed (tested price $3,079)

          CPUIntel Core Duo U2500 / 1.20GHz processor
          OSMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate
          RAM2 GB RAM
          Display12.1" Widescreen XGA LED Backlit Display with High Brightness and Wide View Angle (1280 x 800)
          GraphicsGraphics Media Accelerator 950
          AudioBuilt-in microphone, Headphone jack (stereo), Microphone jack (mono), Built-in monaural speaker
          Hard Drive80GB (4200 RPM)
          Optical DriveOptional - Toshiba UltraSlim USB (2.0) CDRW/DVD-ROM Drive, Optional Toshiba UltraSlim USB (2.0) DVD-SuperMulti drive (+R double layer)
          I/O ports

            2 x USB
            1 x VGA - 15 pin
            1 x Microphone-in
            1x Headphone 
            1 x Express Card
          Communications

            Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG
            10/100/1000 Ethernet
            802.11a/b/g
            Integrated EV-DO (Verizon Wireless)
            Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
          Dimensions/Weight

            12" x 9.43" x 1.18" (WxDxH)
            3.79 lbs.

          Battery/powerLi-Ion (6-cell, 4000mAh)

                 

                Design and Build

                The R400 has a solid design and chassis, there is no flimsy feeling to this Tablet. The glossy white lid and keyboard give this Tablet a grand piano like feel, especially when considered with the shiny black screen. It looks nice, but the screen gives a lot of reflection when in any direct lighting, so it is definitely not an outside Tablet.

                [​IMG]
                The lid of the R400 is white and has Toshiba inlaid in chrome letters, no forgetting who made this. (view large image)

                Weighing in at 3.7 pounds this Tablet is easy to take with you everywhere you go. The R400 makes a good travel companion, which is why it is targeted toward business professionals. It is even light enough to easily carry around in slate mode for extended periods of time.

                [​IMG]
                The R400 swiveling into Tablet mode. (view large image)

                The hinge on the R400 is quite innovative as well, in fact it feels and looks more like a notebook hinge than a Tablet. There are actually two locks, one on each side that help keep the Tablet secure. They lock into place when the Tablet is flat and when returning it back into notebook mode. The center mounted hinge does all the swiveling and work, but together they form a solid design. There is no flex in the screen and it feels sturdy. This hinge design actually replaces the locking mechanism most Tablets have on their lids.

                [​IMG]
                Right side view of the R400, locked into notebook mode and the fingerprint reader. (view large image)

                Display

                The 12.1" screen on the R400 is LED backlit, so it looks more like a notebook screen instead of a grainy Tablet screen. The only problem with the screen is that it's glossy and therefore means you get a lot of reflection in bright light, especially when the screen is displaying dark colors. On the other hand, having the glossy screen ensures that the colors presented are bright and bold. Watching DVDs on the widescreen are great. I almost thought I was watching movies on my Toshiba television.

                [​IMG]
                The widescreen display on the R400 is nice, but it does give off a glare. (view large image)

                The SideShow display, which Toshiba calls "Active Notifications", gives users updates on emails, appointments and lets them know the time and battery status. This display is great, especially if you don't have email on your phone, because it works even when the R400 is powered down and closed. When you're in a long meeting you can at least discreetly see the amount of emails coming in and their subjects.

                [​IMG]
                The R400's SideShow display. (view large image)

                Processor and System Performance

                Performance is lacking for such an expensive machine with base prices starting at $2,599. The 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo processor and 4200RPM 80GB hard drive don't do justice to the killer fast looks of this machine. While the Ultra Low Voltage 1.2GHz processor and integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics do ensure the system runs cool, it struggles to run Vista well. The 2GB of RAM certainly helps out with performance, but multi-tasking using several applications at once can really bog things down. It may have been wise to offer a regular clock speed processor, such as the HP tx1000 tablet offers, and not gone with something that seems more fit for a UMPC device in terms of speed. Simply a low voltage processor such as the Lenovo X60 Tablet uses would have been better than an Ultra Low Voltage processor.

                Benchmarks

                The R400's benchmarking scores were mediocre, in PCMark05 it was one of the slowest units with an Intel Core Duo processor and integrated graphics. Then again the ULV 1.2GHz Core Duo processor is underpowered to be running with Vista as the OS.

                PCMark05 measures the systems performance as a whole:

                NotebookPCMark05 Score
                Toshiba R400 (Intel Core Duo ULV 1.2GHz, Intel GMA 950 graphics)2,187 PCMarks
                HP tx1000 (AMD Turion X2 2.0GHz, Nvidia Go 6150)3,052 PCMarks
                Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950 graphics)2,724 PCMarks
                Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo)2,860 PCMarks
                Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV) 1,390 PCMarks
                Asus R2H (900MHz Celeron M)845 PCMarks
                Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)2,732 PCMarks

                Super Pi:

                In the below results of Super Pi, where Pi is calculated to 2 million digits of accuracy, you can see the R400 doesn't perform as well as some of the other Tablets, but it performs better than the other computers with ULV processors.

                NotebookTime to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
                Toshiba R400 (1.2GHz ULV Core Duo)2m 10s
                Asus R1F (1.66GHz Core Duo)1m 20s
                Lenovo ThinkPad X60t (1.66GHz LV Core Duo)1m 24s
                IBM ThinkPad X41t (1.5GHz LV Pentium M)2m 02s
                HP TC4400 Tablet PC (2.0GHz Core Duo)1m 13s
                Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M)2m 40s
                Dell Latitude D420 (1.06GHz Core Solo ULV)2m 11s
                Toshiba Portege M400 (1.83GHz Core Duo )1m 19s

                 

                Unfortunately HDTune, the benchmark we use for testing hard drive performance, does not work within Vista on the R400. From a perceived performance perspective based on bootup time, you can tell the 4200RPM drive is somewhat of a bottleneck to performance.

                Keyboard/Touchpad/Pen

                The keyboard is standard, there is minimal flex and none of the keys are shortened. Typing on the keyboard feels comfortable because the keys are flat and responsive. Even though the keys are white and can get dirty easily (be sure to wash your hands) they are a welcoming change to the normal business black.

                [​IMG]
                View of the R400 keyboard and touchpad. (view large image)

                The touchpad on the R400 is small, but responsive. Some users may want to use a mouse instead because the left and right click buttons are small, but that is a personal preference. The touchpad can get dirty easily just like the keyboard since they are white, but then again all touchpads get that finger grime.

                The pen is also white to match the overall look of the machine, it is made of plastic. No heavy duty stylus with this Tablet, but it is lightweight and easy to use. The active digitizer makes writing with it a breeze. It is so smooth and fluid that it feels like you are writing with a pen on a piece of paper.

                [​IMG]
                The R400 pen coming out of its silo. (view large image)

                Tablet PC Features

                The R400 works great in both Tablet or notebook mode. The secure locking mechanisms combined with the swivel hinge give this Tablet a sturdy feel that seasoned Tablet users want. This comes in handy when you need to give a presentation because you can easily swivel it around so the screen faces your audience, and it will not wobble around. When you switch to Tablet mode the screen automatically reconfigures its orientation to landscape viewing. One less step the user has to do. There is a button on the screen that allows you to push it and rotate the screen orientation manually, we found that this didn't work by default, we had to manually go in and map it to the Tablet PC screen rotate command.

                The hard drive has active shock protection, which is a nice feature when in Tablet mode because it senses any erratic movements. We all know it's much easier to drop a Tablet PC since you're standing with it than say a notebook that's on the desk most of a time. You might want to make the sensor slightly less sensitive (this is configurable with the Toshiba software) so it's not all the time popping up a vibration warning. In Tablet mode it's common to have to move around a bit and at the highest sensitivity the HDD protection warning popped up a few too many times.

                The R400 has an active digitizer so there are no problems when it comes to writing on the screen with the pen. It is responsive, accurate and easy to navigate. I liked using the pen because it was lightweight and smaller than most, it didn't feel awkward in my hand.

                Tablet functionality is supposed to be one of the most improved features in Vista as well. The R400 did take advantage of this improvement because in Tablet mode the OS did a good job of recognizing my scribble I call handwriting and it recognized pen flicks when navigating through menu options.

                Ports

                The R400 has your standard ports and that is about it. It does have the SideShow display on the front though, which gives you updates on emails and battery power, called "Active Notifications".  Besides the SideShow display there are also an array of indicator lights, a microphone, the pen, three buttons for use with the SideShow display and a Wi-Fi hardware switch on the front. There are two USB ports, one VGA - 15 pin, one microphone-in, one headphone, one Express Card and an Ethernet port on the back side. The volume dial on the side is nice and makes it easy to bump volume up and down. There isn't much else to this Tablet in terms of ports -- no FireWire, what you see is what you get, but some users may not need all that extra stuff.

                [​IMG]
                Front view of the R400 with the SideShow screen. (view large image)

                [​IMG]
                Left side view of the ports. (view large image)

                [​IMG]
                Right side view of the ports and slot. (view large image)

                [​IMG]
                Back view of the ports. (view large image)

                [​IMG]
                Toshiba R400 under side view and battery. (view large image)

                Battery

                The internal battery lasted about three hours under normal usage (typing, browsing the Internet some and screen at half brightness), which is good and typical of most Tablets. The LED backlit screen helps maintain battery power somewhat as it's less demanding in terms of power draw than a typical cathode ray backlit screen. The extra slice battery, which attaches under the base, boosts the R400 battery life for three more hours, so when combined they last about six hours.

                Heat and Noise

                The R400 doesn't give off much heat, even when running the benchmarks it stayed cooler than other Tablets I have tested like the HP tx1000. The R400 is commendably quiet, but really what about it would be noisy, there is no optical drive and the fan doesn't get loud enough to be a distraction.

                Speakers

                Considering there is only one small speaker on the R400, I have to say speakers, what speakers? I thought my Asus R1 was bad, but the R400 might just be the winner. The sound is decent, but it is definitely not something you are going to listen to music on or control your iTunes library with. At high volumes the speaker echoes and sounds kind of muffled. Although the R400 isn't an entertainment Tablet, so the speaker does its job.

                Software

                The R400 comes with Windows Vista Ultimate edition already installed. It was one of the first convertible notebooks announced to offer Vista pre-installed. Many users have complained about Toshiba installing to much bloatware, but I really didn't have a problem with that. It actually seems quite free of bloatware compared to Dell and HP notebooks you come across. The only annoying software I dealt with was McAfee, which everyone knows has those annoying pop-ups. If there is software you don't like most of it can be uninstalled.

                Wireless

                The R400 has embedded EV-DO Rev A. wireless broadband with service through Verizon. It works pretty well, but it is slow in some areas and it is limited to Verizon only. It also has 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth. I am curious to know when and if the R400 will be getting HSPDA because this would give users another option besides Verizon.

                Conclusion

                The R400 is an innovative Tablet, but it comes with a hefty price tag. It has a solid design that works great in Tablet and notebook mode. There is no flimsy feeling to it and the LED backlit screen is great for watching movies or checking out your favorite photos. The screen is glossy and gives off reflections under bright light conditions, so be aware outdoor use won't work. Overall Toshiba could have gone with a more powerful processor because the system runs a little slow, especially since it has Windows Vista Ultimate. I would have liked it to have a little more performance endurance and less eye candy appeal if you could trade such things off. The R400 does sport the SideShow display, which is a unique feature for the business professional on-the-go, but at the end of the day the high price tag and lack of performance stand in the way of it being a top-competitor for your average consumer. If money is not an object and you like to have a unique product, well then the R400 might have your name written on it.

                Pros


                  Solid design, innovative hinge that works very well
                  Embedded EV-DO Rev A
                  Email and battery updates when computer is closed
                  Bright LED backlit screen
                  Runs cool and quiet

                  Cons


                    Expensive
                    No internal optical drive
                    Screen puts off a glare

                     

           
          Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
        • Andrew

          Andrew Just a Guy Staff Member

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          I had a chance to play around with the R400 myself for a day and echo most of what Tiffany says here. My likes were:


          Great hinge and swivel mechanism, it really locked into place nicely and was much more sturdy than your average tablet when it's in notebook mode.

          I personally like the look a lot. Though over time I do worry that the white would become dingy, but that's the case for any white notebook such as the MacBook.

          The glossy screen didn't bother me as much as it did Tiffany, I loved the brightness of it and the lighting was so even -- fantastic. And while there was an ever so slight graininess, it wasn't as much as your average tablet screen.

          The last tablet I used was the HP tx1000, it had passive touchscreen input, the R400 has an active Wacom pen -- so much better.

          Keyboard was really quite good, not great, it had a bit of sponginess to it but overall thumbs up.

          very quiet and cool!

          Light enough to use in slate mode quite easily and comfortably.

          Dislikes

          Obviously the performance was a downer, the 1.2GHz ULV isn't all that.

          Though the machine felt fairly solid, when tapped it sounded a little bit plasticky

          Lack of ports

          The lack of an optical drive doesn't bother me so much, I'd rather have lighter and thinner when it comes to a tablet than having an optical drive. You can't have it all (though it's nice when you can!)
           
          Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
        • Happyprozak

          Happyprozak Pen Pal - Newbie

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          Hi Tiffany, thanks for the review. I'm strongly considering purchasing this machine, but it's performance holds me back. Would you happen to know if this machine can run World of Warcraft?

          And I'm confused on just how "slow" this machine is. From what I've read you're the second person that has said the machine is sluggish. It's benchmark tests are definately pretty mediocore, but many others have said the machine is not that slow and that Vista is very "snappy". I thought that because of the 4200rpm hard drive that the machine might boot up slow, but I was told by someone who owns this that this is not the case.

          Could you also elaborate on the way you were using the machine please (programs running, how many windows etc.). Also, were there extra animations you were running in Vista Ultimate that aren't in the other versions of Vista? I wonder if those who felt the machine was sluggish were running Ultimate instead of Buisness, and that maybe some extra animations in Ultimate slow the machine down.

          Thanks.
           
        • Andrew

          Andrew Just a Guy Staff Member

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          I can answer that question as I was using the same R400 that Tiffany did. WoW would not be much fun on an Intel GMA 950 graphics solution -- you really need a dedicated graphics card since WoW is a 3D environment. Something in the 7000 series for Nvidia for example would do well, the 7400 card and above would give you good performance for WoW.

          As far as sluggishness, if you're using one application such as a browser or Word, then performance is fine. Menus open without delay etc. But if you're doing 3 things at once, or even sometimes when rendering larger sized web pages, performance bogged down. Installing programs was slow compared to other machines.

          And with this machine we were using it like Vista Business for all intents and purposes. There was no animated wall paper being used. SideShow was enabled and a couple of Gadgets (news and time) were always on, but nothing extravagant. McAfee was not removed, removing that could certainly help things, but no system virus scans were done while using the notebook during the review so that wasn't a factor in calling the system sluggish.

          Basically, for business application usage I think this system could be just fine, though you will curse it for being slow at times. You have to decide if the other features outweigh the fact you will be wishing it were a bit faster.
           
        • Happyprozak

          Happyprozak Pen Pal - Newbie

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          Thanks for answering my question. About running WoW though. I've read reports that WoW runs on a samsung q1, I can't imagine that it couldn't run on this Toshiba if it runs on slower hardware such as the samsung, but at what resolution and detail is I guess what I'm more interested in knowing.
           
        • Brian

          Brian Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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          I think this is a cool and innovative machine in several ways, but the price and lack of optical kill it for me. :(
           
        • Andrew

          Andrew Just a Guy Staff Member

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          Maybe at 800 x 600 you'd be okay enough to run WoW. You might even need to go lower if that's possible with WoW (640 x 480?). Remember that gaming on Vista right now is worse than XP due to drivers not being as good.
           
        • Dolvich

          Dolvich Scribbler - Standard Member

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          I have to say I'm a bit disappointed by this tablet as I had high hopes for it. I really like the hinge design, the backlit LED as well as that its fairly light, quiet and cool.

          However, with the ultra-low voltage CPU and LED backlit display I was expecting much better battery life. Other reviews I've seen have commented on the poor battery life when running DVD tests. I'm willing to sacrifice performance for increased portability and I'm actually quite curious as to why the battery life isn't substantially better considering the components they're using.
           
        • Happyprozak

          Happyprozak Pen Pal - Newbie

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          Yeah, I'm curious about this too. I was looking at the battery specifications, but I'm not too clear on how this battery stuff works. The 4cell ibm x60 battery is 14.4v and 2000mah, while the toshiba is a 6 cell at 10.8v and 4000mah. I thought the higher the mah, the longer your battery would last? It would also depend on how much current the device would draw correct? But with all the low power componets that the R400 has it should draw less current than the x60 tablet. I'm probably way off on this :)

          Anyways, I think part of the problem is Vista. Has anyone done the battery drain on the x60 tablet under Vista? I know its less than it was on xp, so it wouldn't be fair to compare the x60 under xp when the R400 is under Vista.
           
        • Gautam

          Gautam Moderator

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          Great review - thanks to both Tiffany and Andrew for their info.

          I get the feeling that an ULV proc on a 12" notebook is a bit underpowered. Even so, the battery life is WEAK. Look at the Sony TX notebooks (which use LV not even ULV procs) and they get 6+ hours (sometimes user reports of 8+) on the 11" screen.
           

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