Cruella de Vil look-alike has its advantages

Toshiba's latest tablet PC is expensive but nice

The Toshiba Portege R400 laptop has just landed on my desk this week. It's dressed up like Cruella de Vil, half black and half white, and has very sleek design with glossy surfaces and sharp corners.

The R400 weighs in at 1.72kgs by losing the CD/DVD drive and by removing a speaker (this is quite standard on these ultra-portable machines). The machine, pre-loaded with Vista Business, feels snappy with a Core 2 processor and whopping 2GB of RAM. It should really know how to move.

However, after playing with it for a couple of hours I must say its performance was a bit sluggish at times.

This little puppy doubles as a tablet PC that you can write on, and that's cool, and it has a tiny display on the front that will show you, for example, how many emails you’ve got, even when the computer is in standby. I don't know how useful this feature is, but it is cool too.

The swivelling screen feels very sturdy and the hinge snaps into place – a definite plus. When turning the screen 180 degrees and folding it down over the keyboard it automatically switches the display into tablet mode. The stylus works all right, even though it took me about ten minutes to sign into my Gmail account. Is my handwriting really that bad?

The LED bright and glossy screen reads clearly at 12.1 inches wide with a resolution of 1280x800.

The graphics card is also up to scratch and you can have all the eye candy of Windows Glass and Windows Flip (the 3D alt+tab alternative). On the networking side, it has it all with Wi-Fi, LAN, Bluetooth and an expansion slot for other cards.

One unique feature not seen in many laptops (other than Apple PowerBooks) is a tilt and bump sensor that can decide whether to park the hard drive heads instantly or to even spin down the hard drive in the case of an accident or strong vibrations. In theory, this should keep your important business data safe no matter what you are doing.

Lastly, on the downside, the battery life is reportedly just under two hours in actual tests. I got about that in Vista balanced power mode. This is not surprising and I am sure you can squeeze a lot more power out of the battery in maximum power saving mode, if you should wish to do so.

At $4,865 recommended retail price, the R400 is a real heavyweight of the lightweights, but with Vista Business, tablet, thumb scanner and the black and white colour scheme it definitely has its advantages.

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