Ultrabooks may still be in the takeoff phase, but one thing is for sure – they’ll be getting more and more popular, and companies have the utmost belief in their market success at the end of the day. Simply enough, these devices, standardised to a certain point, present a fantastic ratio of performance, mass and general mobility. Unlike netbooks, which break a sweat as soon as you give them a single more demanding task to do, ultrabooks are based on pretty strong hardware which can do a lot for you on the go. What we’re presenting today is Toshiba’s latest model of the kind, priding itself on a multitude of brilliant features, one of which definitely stands out – weight.
Toshiba claims that the Portege Z830 ultrabook is the lightest notebook ever made with a 13.3” display. When you hear a claim like that, you’ll probably think of Apple’s MacBook Air, which set certain standards in this domain. In that case, you’ll be surprised to hear that Z830 is lighter by an entire 220 grams, which should give you a hint as to the feather-light mass of this ultrabook. A difference of 220 grams may not sound like much, but bear in mind that we’re talking 1330 versus 1110 grams, which comes down to around 20% in difference, and it becomes clear why this is such a huge step forward. Of course, small weight is accompanied by corresponding dimensions, too, which makes Toshiba’s Z830 1.6 cm high at its widest part. As for production quality, nothing was spared to reduce mass and dimensions as much as possible.
The lid is made of a magnesium-aluminium alloy, and the same goes for the inside of the casing and the palm rest. As it’s only a few millimetres thick, the lid is pretty flexible, and bends under pressure easily. We believe it was physically impossible to make it any firmer at this width, so we can’t take this as a flaw, especially since the bending doesn’t affect the display itself. In order to reduce weight and maintain the casing’s firmness, Toshiba has filled the interior with “honeycomb”, using the magnesium alloy for the “skeleton” of the casing too. This provides the necessary firmness, while keeping the hardware inside safe, and with a reduced total mass of the notebook at that.
Practical in every way
Luckily, Toshiba didn’t want to create a single selling point for its ultrabook, trying instead to perfect Portege Z830 as much as possible. Besides the excellent casing, the keyboard is phenomenal in every way. Keys have an excellent layout, their step is short and precise, and working with the keyboard for prolonged periods is an enjoyment. With all that, keys have white backlight as well, which is splendid news for night birds, and the keyboard is even liquid-resistant, making it the most complete solution we’ve ever seen.
The touchpad is no less amazing, being precise and responsive, but also perfectly smooth, making a mouse redundant, while the buttons provide just the right amount of feedback. Above the touchpad, you’ll find its on/off button, which can be useful when you really don’t want to play catch with the cursor while typing in Office. Although the thin casing is hardly an acoustic heaven, the built-in speakers produce above-average sound for this PC class. Expectedly, just like the casing, bass is thin, but mid-range and treble sound great, and the same goes for volume levels. Another great feature of this ultrabook is connectivity, due to the implemented Wi-Fi module supporting the N standard, as well as a Bluetooth 3.0 adapter. The same goes for physical connectors, as all vital ones are there, such as HDMI, VGA, USB 3.0, LAN and audio ports. The webcam has an average image quality and little else.
Portege Z830 provides in the hardware department as well, being based on Intel’s Core i5 2467M CPU. This CPU is based on Sandy Bridge architecture and belongs to the ultra-mobile CPU series with two cores and HyperThreading. This means that its frequency is an apparently low 1.6 GHz, which can “extend” to 2.3 GHz owing to TurboBoost. Still, all this enables it to maintain a very low TDP of only 17 W. Although it may not look like much, Core i5 2467 is one of the faster models in its class. RAM is aplenty on Z830, as you’ll hardly ever need more than 6 GB. As this is primarily a business-oriented computer, it’s quite logical that Toshiba has opted for an SSD rather than an HDD, for the simple reason that speed and data availability are more important in this segment than capacity. What surprised us most is the presence of an 8-cell (yes, you’ve read correctly, 8-cell) battery inside a casing this thin. This enables marvellous autonomy, as clearly visible from the results. In real-world conditions, you can expect four to six hours of continuous work depending on the workload, which is certainly a feature worthy of applause.
And now the flaws
Although it may look as if we’re completely crazy about Portege Z830, not everything is perfect. Firstly, the 1366x768 display resolution is fine for the size of the display itself, but the panel quality just isn’t good enough to match the rest of this device. Colours are weak and tend to look a bit pale, while viewing angles are rather mediocre. Stray away more than ten degrees from the vertical axis, and contrast begins to shift dramatically. We’re well aware that this is a direct consequence of the lid being only a few millimetres thick, but it’s still painfully obvious that the display is far from what we expected. It’s not all bad, though, as Toshiba has used an anti-glare matte coating, more than welcome on a business-oriented notebook. Noise is another negative aspect, as the fan is constantly blowing. The noise levels aren’t as problematic as the peculiar sound made by the exhaust system, created as a direct consequence of the particular interior configuration. Still, the fan managed to do its job well, keeping the temperatures away from critical levels, and since the entire casing acts as a single large passive cooler, heat spreads quickly and evenly across the entire surface, eliminating any potential hotspots. The final nail goes on account of the sheer amount of software preinstalled by Toshiba which seriously impacts both autonomy and performance. If you’re not too willing to scroll through the Programs and Features list in Windows, scouting for things you don’t really need, be prepared to encounter various notifications, pop-ups, update info and similar from Toshiba’s programs all the time. We really believe this sort of policy doesn’t cut it in 2012, and that all PCs should be delivered with neat and functional systems, coming down to the basics, providing the rest on bundled CDs, so that the user can choose what he/she wishes to install, thereby customising each model to own taste.
|Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL / CPU||9.41 / 1.67|
|x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 encoding [fps]||10.75|
|True Crypt 7.1|
|7-Zip 7.20 x64 komp./dekomp. [kB/s]||5,077 / 62,517|
|Sequential (Read / Write) [MB/s]||194.4 / 49.1|
|512K (Read / Write) [MB/s]||166.5 / 32.3|
|4K (Read / Write) [MB/s]||9.2 / 3.08|
|4K QD32 (Read / Write) [MB/s]||8.5 / 6.03|
|Battery Eater Min/Max [min]||2h 34' / 7h 29'|
|CPU||Core i5 2367M 1,6 GHz (2,3 GHz Turbo)|
|Chipset||Intel HM65 Express|
|Memory||6 GB DDR3 1333 MHz|
|HDD [GB]||128 GB SSD|
|Graphic||Intel HD 3000 Graphics|
|Connections||1x USB 3.0, 2xUSB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, Audio in/out, LAN, card reader|
|Dimensions and Weight||31,6 x 22,7 x 0,83 do 1,59 cm; 1,11 kg|
If display quality isn’t that important to you, we really have to admit that we’re thrilled with Toshiba’s Portege Z830, which is remarkable product with only a few drawbacks. Many, many details have been taken care of, but there’s still room for improvement, and we hope that the following model will patch up these few flaws, however insignificant they may seem. Simply put, Z830 does so many things well that it’s just impossible to draw down the overall impression by a few negative remarks here and there.