Give me an old-fashion PC any day

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Copy of nt iPad-3D . File photo: The Apple iPad

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain is said to have once quipped. It’s a saying that could easily apply to the personal computer. With so many people now connecting to the internet and communicating via tablets and smartphones, some analysts are referring to this as the post-PC era.

“Bunk,” I say, a Twain-ism if ever there was one. Of course it depends on your definition of a PC. For me, computers don’t get more personal than one you can carry around in your pocket. With this expanded view of what qualifies as a PC, it’s clear we’re witnessing its teenage growth spurt years rather than its demise.

But even if you restrict yourself to the narrow definition encompassing desktop and notebook computers – known more commonly as laptops in South Africa – I wouldn’t be administrating last rites just yet.

If you’ve ever tried, as I have, to do all your work on a tablet computer, you’ll be surprised at first just how much it actually can do.

But the novelty is quickly replaced by frustration at how badly it does it all.

My job entails a lot of text entry, not a pleasant task using a 10-inch touch screen, never mind a four-inch smartphone screen. Now, you can make this a bit easier by linking your mobile gizmo to an external keyboard, which leaves you with a fiddly hybrid that looks a lot like… well, a laptop.

A new breed of more powerful mobile devices that morph seamlessly from tablets into laptops and desktop computers is on its way – the first generation of these shape shifters, like the Asus Transformer range, is already here.

But until these become mainstream, the first thing most mobile professionals pack is their trusty laptop – and I include here dinky, but under-powered netbooks and those super-slim and pricey newcomers, ultrabooks.

Which brings me to the Toshiba Portégé R700. If ever there was a perfect compromise between the packability of a netbook, the power of a full-sized notebook and the svelte good looks of an ultrabook, the Portégé is it.

Weighing in at just 1.4kg, it’s as easy to carry around as any netbook. But unlike any netbook I know, it doesn’t come with the usual ultra-low voltage processor found in these devices, but a full Intel Core i5 520M, 2.4 GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 320GB of hard disk space, giving you full notebook power.

And unlike most netbooks with their 10- or 11-inch screens, the Portégé has a 13.3-inch, anti-glare display.

At just 2.6 cm thick it’s nearly as slim as an ultrabook, and thanks to its magnesium alloy construction and brushed metal look, it’s almost as attractive. But show me an ultrabook that’s managed to squeeze a fully-fledged CD/DVD drive into its taut midriff.

Ultrabooks are notoriously stingy when it comes to flash card slots and connection jacks. Not so the Portégé. On its left side, you’ll find one regular USB 2.0 port and one eSATA/USB 2.0 port, which allows you to charge your cellphone or other mobile devices even when the laptop is shut down or “asleep”. There’s also an HDMI slot and external monitor connection. On the right, there’s another USB 2.0 port, headphone and microphone connections, an Express Card slot, network cable port and the aforementioned optical drive.

I liked the responsive “chiclet”-style keyboard, finding it a pleasure to type on – particularly after a week pecking away at a tablet touchscreen. My only gripe is that it’s not backlit – not great for use in a dark room. The keyboard is spill resistant, though, a useful feature if you’re prone to knocking over cups of coffee.

If you plan to use the R700 for watching movies or playing games, you’ll be less impressed. There’s no dedicated graphics card and while the LED backlit display provided crisp stills visuals, video playback was jumpy and the sound tinny.

Battery life was impressive, averaging six hours, but when the battery does finally give up the ghost it takes ages to charge up again. For the security minded, there’s a fingerprint scanner to protect your sensitive data. - Sunday Tribune

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