Toshiba plans to put a polite boot into Apple's hyped Macbook Air with a new version of its Portégé R500 notebook featuring built-in 3G mobile broadband.
The Japanese manufacturer points out that its lightweight laptops are thinner, lighter and more capable than Steve Jobs' new machine, and they cost less as well.
The Macbook Air is a triumph of marketing and of Apple managing its fans' expectations, said Ken Chan, Toshiba's UK product manager.
"I think Apple made compromises for [the sake of] design," he said. "For Apple, less is more. It is in the unique position of having a strong following of people who are willing to pay a £200 premium to get its products."
He added: "We have an abundance of connectivity features, it makes ours less of a hassle to carry it around than the Apple."
The R500 not only has 3G connectivity, it also has three USB ports to Air's one, and it includes an internal DVD drive, removable battery, a full-size DVI video port, a PC Card slot, Gigabit Ethernet and a Firewire connector. All of the latter are missing from the Macbook Air.
Chan said that the R500 weighs just 1kg as well, to the Air's 3lb (1.35kg), and is thinner. The one area where the Air scores is screen size - it has a 13.3-inch TFT, versus the R500's 12-inch.
However, Chan argued that if Toshiba were working to the same size budget - 3lb weight and a 13.3-inch screen - it would put features in, not take them out.
He said that the key advances making such lightweight PCs possible are Intel's ultra-low power processor chips that require less cooling, and a move to high-density motherboards that take up much less space inside the case. In addition, Matsushita slimmed its optical drive down from 9.5mm to 7mm, allowing the laptop to be thinner.
The Portégé R500 with 3G costs from £1,249, Chan said, while a version with a 64GB solid-state drive instead of a 120GB or 160GB hard drive starts at £1,499. Toshiba also still offers and supports PCs with Windows XP, he noted.
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