Toshiba Portege S100
Toshiba's new thin-and-light laptop, the Port
The S100's black-and-silver case is fairly skinny, measuring 1.4 inches at the hinges. The front third of the case is slimmer yet, supported by low rubber feet to give the cooling vents on the bottom plenty of space to circulate air. Including both its internal optical drive and its power adapter, the S100 weighs in at 5.6 pounds, not bad for a laptop with a 14.1-inch screen. On its Web site, Toshiba cites a remarkable 4.3 pounds--but to achieve that weight you have to swap out the optical drive for a hollow weightsaver.
The S100's keys depress 1.7 millimeters instead of the standard 3mm, but I liked the way typing felt: extrafirm with a pleasantly muffled thump. The keyboard layout is good overall; the worst infraction is a <Delete> key buried in the bottom row. The nicest touches are the <Page Up> and <Page Down> keys set slightly apart from the rest of the keys, and the quick-launch buttons provided down the left side of the keyboard. The presentation button switches to an external monitor; the other button launches Toshiba Assist, a collection of system utilities. Rounding out the deck are a large touchpad and two mouse buttons.
The S100's case connections are not elaborate. The two fanciest are a FireWire port and an SD Card slot. But the layout is convenient, including good use of the front of the case where you'll find a Wi-Fi switch, microphone and headphone jacks, and a volume wheel. The stereo sound is crisp and fairly loud if not terribly rich.
My sole problem with the design was the difficulty of releasing the rear-mounted battery on my unit. I needed three hands--two to hold open the dual bottom releases and a third to tug on the sticky power pack. The best part of the design, after the thin case, is the S100's expandability. Not only can you swap out the optical drive for the weightsaver, but the modular bay has a third use: additional storage. An 80GB second hard drive is pricey at $342 (plus $36 for a bay adapter), but it boosts total internal storage to an impressive 140GB.
The primary hard drive and the S100's two RAM slots can be accessed for future upgrades, too, although I found reaching the second DIMM, located beneath the keyboard, a bit tricky. I had an easy time removing the keyboard's two speaker covers and long cover, but it's almost impossible to reach the DIMM without accidentally disconnecting the tiny keyboard cable from the motherboard, and I had to spend a few worrisome minutes trying to find the pins again.
Compared with similar laptops, the S100's performance is okay, if a bit underwhelming. The standard 6-cell battery lasted 3.1 hours in our tests, about half an hour shorter than the average laptop we test for the Top 15 Notebook PCs chart. (We did not test the $149 12-cell battery upgrade.) The S100 earned a fairly high WorldBench 5 score of 83; however, three laptops we tested with a slightly less powerful processor, the 2-GHz Pentium M 755, earned an average of 86.
Toshiba does a good job of documenting the S100 with a basic "Getting Started" printed manual and a nicely hyperlinked Acrobat manual found inside the Windows Help & Support Center.
Toshiba Portege S100
WorldBench 5 score of 83, 2-GHz Pentium M 760 processor, 512MB of DDR2-533 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 14.1-inch screen, 60GB hard drive, DVD-ROM and CD-RW combo drive, V.92 modem, gigabit ethernet, 802.11g, touchpad pointing device, 5.6-pound weight (including AC adapter). Three-year parts and labor warranty, 24-hour daily toll-free support.