Toshiba Laptop is Solid, But Doesn't Shine

It does the job, but the Protege R700 is nowhere near the category leader for slim and trim PCs
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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) - Get Report

Vaio are crazy light. Hip netbooks from

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Samsung

are crazy cheap. And

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

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 get

The 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) - Get Report

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) - Get Report

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 get

The 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 line

The 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.

-- Reported by Jonathan Blum in New York.

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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.