The mobile computing market is so mature that it covers everything from light-as-a-feather ultraportables to desktop replacements. Toshiba’s new Portégé M300 sits somewhere in between. It carries a few too many grams to put it in the featherweight category and lacks the larger screen size that many laptops now boast. None of which is to criticise the machine, which carries out its functions efficiently and with little fuss.
At a neat 12.1 inches, the screen is one of the smaller ones around, given the trend for many current portables to stretch the display size as far as possible. But it’s a trade off happily made in the name of portability. It’s a toss-up as to which is lighter: the 1.56kg computer or the carrycase that accompanied our review model. That’ll be music to the ears of anyone who regularly lugs a laptop around.
With a brushed silver and black magnesium alloy casing, the 286mmx233mmx32.9mm machine is a model of economy, taking up scant space considering its impressive features. Toshiba hasn’t skimped on this front and the M300 is well fitted out with standard memory of 256MB, two USB slots, a Firewire port and readers for storage cards in the SecureDigital and CompactFlash formats. The built-in drive CD-Rom runs DVD-RW disks into the bargain. It also has all the connectivity options a business traveller could hope for.
With laptop security now more of a consideration, Toshiba has made great play of new capabilities under the umbrella term EasyGuard that offer an impressive array of protection for all eventualities. One such feature, it’s claimed, can disable viruses that try to run in memory, though I didn’t try infecting the machine so we’ll have to take Toshiba’s word for it. In the same vein, the 40GB hard drive is shielded from impact and the chassis is shock protected. It also comes with a range of password-protection features that go beyond what’s standard.
While the M300’s keyboard is responsive without feeling too flimsy, it’s slightly cramped and the keys are closely packed together. The right and left mouse keys on the review machine were slightly recessed, making them tricky to operate; frustrating enough to stop me from recommending the machine completely.
Its general performance is impressive, however: unplugged, the battery stood up well in tests even when running media-heavy applications — Toshiba claims you’ll get six hours of mains-free use from the system and it’s not far wrong. We’re not quite up to a full working day with a laptop but we’re getting there.
By Gordon Smith