When we reviewed the Toshiba Portege Z835 ultrabook a while back, we said that Toshiba were planning a more price-conscious entry-level model which would be the first Core-i3 Toshiba ultrabook; here it is, packing an ultra-low voltage Intel i3.
Toshiba claims the ultra-slim shell of the Portege Z830 is particularly durable thanks to a magnesium alloy constructed in a resilient honeycomb structure. Nevertheless the lid felt quite flimsy, an impression not helped by the somewhat lightweight display hinge. Together they allow an unacceptable amount of teeter. But for svelteness and lightness the Toshiba Portege Z830 is pretty hard to beat, and it’s a handsome devil too, even if the Apple MacBook Air remain the category leaders for solid workmanship and sheer visual appeal.
As befits a business machine, Toshiba has equipped the i3 ultrabook with a matte display, and the 13.3-inch 1366 x 768 pixel screen is pleasantly bright, although the resolution feels a bit inadequate compared with the sharper displays and higher pixel counts of the MacBook Air (1440 x 900) or the Asus Zenbook (1600 x 900). Also the less-than-black blacks means despite good brightness the Z830 only achieves a poor contrast ration of 136:1, low enough to be noticeable when viewing images or movies. Then there are the poor viewing angles, unusual for a Toshiba notebook.
The spill-proof keyboard is well laid-out and keys are quite decent-sized, but key travel is very shallow, On the plus side the keyboard is backlit. All but the dual function keys, that is, which means the volume control is difficult to locate in dim light.
The Portege Z830′s multitouch touchpad is fair-sized too, with good glide and discrete mouse keys rather than a clickpad solution.
Toshiba have provided a good selection of ports on the Z830; yes there’s an Ethernet socket, missing on some ultrabooks. There’s also a USB-3 port and two USB-2 ports, with the rear USB socket offering sleep-and-charge functionality. An SD card slot is included, and a VGA socket for connecting with old-style monitors.
For non-LAN internet connectivity the Z830 offers a top-end Centrino 6230 WLAN card with integrated Bluetooth. It’s worth mentioning the Portege Z830′s single RAM slot, since the 4GB RAM provided consists of 2GB ‘soldered’ or onboard RAMand one slot, which ships with a 2GB stick inserted, but which can be expanded to a 4GB stick, giving a potent 6GB in total. For storage the Z830 features a 128GB SSD rather than the 256GB found on the i5 models.
The stereo speakers supply excellent audio, although maximum volume certainly won’t burst any eardrums.
Performancewise the Core i5 Z835 offers around 21% more computational power in benchmarks, which is not to say the Z830 lacks in anything other than gaming. Yet thanks to the pacy SSD, overall system performance is on a par with mid-range spinning-disk notebooks bearing i5-2410M CPUs, which is sufficient for anything but heavy video editing or playing the latest games – but at least Fifa 12 and Dirt 3 are playable at low resolutions. World of Warcraft is handled easily for anyone looking for quality gaming during dull moments at the office.
In terms of battery life, five hours of moderate usage should be enough for most people; if not, the adaptor is neither bulky nor heavy.
All in all, the Portege Z830 ultrabook offers better battery life than its more expensive i5 siblings. However, putting aside the mediocre display, we strongly advise a hands-on demo before buying – that key drop really is shallow. This isn’t a machine for marathon keyboard sessions.
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