NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Just in time to ease your summer travel burdens: a reasonably light, reasonably cheap, legitimately small-business laptop done with some real style. How nice.When it comes to ultraportable notebook computers, small firms know the grim truth. Sure, svelte portables such as the Sony ( SNE) Vaio are crazy light. Hip netbooks from Dell ( DELL) and Samsung are crazy cheap. And Apple's ( AAPL) MacBook Air is crazy cool. But none of these superslim and trim notebooks really makes the small-biz grade. You either overpay, have to lug too much around or are limited by crappy media drives -- if the unit has one at all. So last month, longtime laptop maker Toshiba took its shot at creating the ultimate ultra-portable for smaller firms: Meet the Protege R700 (starting at $1,000). There are issues with this box for sure (more on that in a second). But I have to say out of the dozen or so laptops I've studied over the past month, the R700 really stood out.
What you getThe R700 strikes a solid balance of good looks, lightness and performance, all in a reasonably small package. Glance at this box and the small-business savvy comes right through. Weighing in at reasonable 3 pounds and a wee bit more than one inch thick, the unit is done in a durable reinforced honeycomb magnesium alloy case, brushed up in an attractive, professional-looking black. Think of it as your IBM ( IBM) ThinkPad warhorse of old, but with some modern good looks. I liked the clean 13.3-inch screen and general layout of the controls. Equipped with Windows 7 Professional and running an Intel ( INTC)Core i3 processor, 500GB hard drive and DVD player, the unit handled most basic business tasks, though heavy graphics are clearly beyond it. And the battery life was impressive; the standard six-cell battery has a predicted 8.5-hour life. It can vary of course, but you really can hit the road this summer, work for a few hours, catch a movie and only recharge back at the hotel at night. In all, the R700 packs enough power, good looks and features to offer professional performance in a small package. It's a nice little business computer.
What you don't getThe R700 is not a true ultra-portable. And it can get dang pricey. It's nutty, but true: In this age of 1.5-pound Sony Vaios, three-plus pounds and one inch thick is positively beefy for an ultra-portable computer. And while attractive for a business laptop, the R700 is no MacBook in the looks department. The keyboard, for example, is primitive for an ultraportable layout. It can be a bit clunky to use. And you will need to watch the pricing. The entry-level R700 is a way-attractive $1,000, but toss in bigger drives and processors and a steep $1,500 is far too easy to reach. And Toshiba nails you for a $200 proprietary docking station if you want to use it as a desktop replacement. As cute as the R700 is, I don't want to spend $2,000 on it, and neither should you.
Bottom lineThe Toshiba R700 offers nice performance in a nice package at nice price. And if you are looking for an upgrade on your current mobile clunker before you hit the road this summer, for sure give this unit a good test drive. Just don't be surprised when you pull up in the airport lounge next to a fella with a true ultraportable laptop and feel a pang of techno-jealously. The R700 is nowhere near the category leader for slim and trim PCs.
Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.