Toshiba Portégé R600 hardware and comparison with my MacBook Pro

Weight.   In the spring of 2009 Toshiba offered four Portégé R600 models in The Netherlands, three at 1.1 kg including a DVD/CD drive and 6-cell battery, differing only in harddisk (160 GB or 320 GB spinning ones or an expensive 128 GB solid-state one), and one of only 0.8 kg with the solid-state disk, a 3-cell battery, no DVD/CD drive.  See this nice sequence of photographs for a dissection of its innards and light-weight technology.  I bought model R600-11Q with the 320 GB spinning disk at 1700 Euro.  At 1.1 kg it is still too heavy but it was lighter than all other full-function laptops.  The DVD/CD drive weighs only 70 grams, the battery difference is 140 grams.  I guess Toshiba thought that with the drive its customers would play DVDs on long flights and would then complain about the too small battery.  The internal G3 modem includes a GPS receiver not mentioned in the documentation.  The transflective screen mode (on/off with sudo toshset -trmode 1/0) can be useful in very strong sunlight (nothing new; the ancient transflective screen of my Atari ST-Book was better). The R600 loudspeaker is mono and lousy; music needs external speakers or a headset, but there is a well-placed volume wheel.  I haven't tried the fingerprint reader, nor the keyboard spillfreeness (so far). 

Noise.   I was shocked by the R600's unbearable noise under Ubuntu.  A continuous hissing which is less noticeable when you hold the laptop up in the air, being some resonance that starts up close to a desk surface of whatever nature.  It comes from a little fan which runs full-speed after the Ubuntu install.  Charles Schwieter's toshset commands did not help.  Eventually I got the noise down to that of the harddisk (details below; toshset includes that setting now), still irritating but bearable.  The solid-state-disk should be a quieter option, but Ubuntu's fan control problems probably remain.  Windows seems to provide better fan regulation.

Comparison with my Portégé 2000.   The earlier model was quieter, lighter, and thinner.  Of course the new model has better chips:  faster, larger memory, ten times larger disk, USB2's, SD-card reader.  However, there is nothing I do with the Portégé R600 that I did not do already with the Portégé 2000.  The latter had no CD drive which I never missed.  What I do miss on the R600 is the extra clip-on battery of the 2000 (I had two of those, giving me day-long power when traveling while the lightweight internal battery sufficed for my daily train rides).  I also liked the screen mount of the 2000 better:  it left a gap that gave my fingers a good hold when hurrying with open laptop in one hand (coffee mug in the other) to the lecture room.  Since my 2000 died from a keyboard spill, the R600's spillfreeness may be a valuable asset.  A final difference:  the brand name on the lid is now upside down for the user, aping the Mac gimmick.

Comparison with my MacBook Pro.   The R600 is much lighter but as sturdy by using magnesium alloy instead of aluminum, a better choice.  It is much smaller, fitting econonomy-class airline tables.  Nominally it runs slower (1.2 Ghz versus 2.3 GHz) but I barely notice the difference.  It is much noisier, see above.  I find its keyboard much much better, far less typo-prone.  It also has the Page Up, Down, DEL keys and the second touchpad button that I sorely missed on the Mac.  Also, Ubuntu copies-and-pastes with the mouse between all windows, another relief.  The R600 screen is excellent, much brighter than the Mac's.  Its 1280x800 resolution suits my needs.  The R600 connectors, Kensington slot, and DVD slide are placed in just the right places instead of the bad locations on my Mac.  The R600 also has a useful SD-card reader and a useful third USB slot.  The latter is also eSATA which I never used, nor the express card slot and fingerprint reader.  Suspend and hibernation work fine whereas my Mac often remains dead, necessitating endless frustrating reboot trials.  The R600 battery (6-cell version) lasts about twice as long as the one in my Mac.  I wouldn't even contemplate the underequipped MacBook Air because that isn't light, only thin, the one laptop dimension I do not care about.  The penalty paid in prefering the R600 is the Ubuntu installation effort, but I had as much trouble adapting the unix that sits awkwardly hidden under macOS (spaces in directory names, argh) to my needs.  Upshot:  I find my R600 a much better daily companion than my MacBook Pro.  I thus joined the small elite of post-Mac scientists.