Now that most of the big players have released their PC indistry sanctioned Ultrabooks, I don’t need to get into detail about what Ultrabooks are and why they exist. But in case you missed the whole ultrabook frenzy for the past 6 months, here’s a quickie: Ultrabooks are essentially the PC industry’s take on the MacBook Air.
Since nobody could come close to Apple’s formula of getting an all-round laptop in an extremely thin profile chassis, Intel has had $300m invested in this project which will help various OEMs to help design a laptop that uses their low-powered CPUs with integrated graphics. Additionally these ultrabooks should run SSDs, be in a unibody chassis in 13” or higher screen size and provide a long battery life of 6+ hours. All of this for about $1000 (AED 4k with import costs and markup).
So today I’ll be looking at the Toshiba Portégé Z830, designed to meet Intel’s requirements, and exceed our expectations on what an ultrabook should be.
The first time you look at the Toshiba Z830 you’ll be really impressed by its 1.6cm profile and its magnesium alloy body. It continues to impress when you hold it and realize it weighs a puny 1.2kg, making it one of the lightest 13” laptop in the world.
The magnesium alloy body has a honeycomb structure underneath, which Toshiba claims makes the Z830 very stiff. Sure enough, I tried to flex the main chassis from top left and bottom right, and the Z830 would barely bend. I didn’t put too much pressure lest it breaks, but rest assured, it survived a drop from our office desk without a scratch.
The screen on the other hand, which measures just 0.3cm, will easily bend around if you apply enough pressure. Not a big deal, but one should be careful when using it in public transport or other cramped places.
Given its unibody structure, the Z830 carries its brushed metal finish inside out, making it one of the most appealing laptops on the market, right alongside the MacBook Air and the Sony Z series
laptops. Very smartly designed, the Z830 has minimal ports on the side, with the majority of wired connections reserved for the back. So on the left we only have the audio ports and memory card reader and on the right we have the USB 3.0 port (only one on any ultrabook to date). Meanwhile on the rear panel we have the two USB 2.0 ports, the HDMI and power plugs. Interestingly, both the LAN and VGA ports are designed in line with the bottom feet, maintaining the overall slim profile.
The bottom panel is completely flat, with just one grill near the top for the exhaust fan intake. Inside the chiclet styled keyboard is smooth to touch and illuminated with white backlights. Toshiba claims that the keyboard design is spill-proof, but on such a beautiful machine I honestly couldn’t bring myself to test this claim.
Starting up the Z830 I noticed two things: how incredibly fast it is, and how much bloatware Toshiba has added on it. Windows 7 (Home Premium) actually boots up in 11 seconds flat thanks to the internal 128GB SSD. Obviously the Intel Core i5-2467M running at 1.6GHz (Turbo Boosting up to 2.3GHz) really helps. The 4GB of RAM included in the system is adequate for most tasks and applications.
The whole system is designed to be speedy, and it lives up to mostly any situation. Obviously some modern applications that rely heavily on multi-threading as well as modern games shouldn’t be expected to run so smoothly on this setup given the dual-core (4 cores with Hyper-threading) and integrated Intel HD3000 graphics.
Nonetheless the Z830 packs a punch as the benchmarks below prove. For comparisons I have used the recently reviewed Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook
(AED 3,599) and the reference AMD Llano notebook
As you can see, the Toshiba is the most expensive of them all, but it also has the benefit of being the lightest and slimmest machine of them all. Over the Acer, the Toshiba has the advantage of a complete unibody design and a USB 3.0 port.
We all know that AMD’s APUs are far better performer than Intel’s offerings, and with a discrete graphics cards running in Crossfire (with the integrated GPU) the margin widens to nearly 70% performance increase when comparing the AMD machine to Intel’s integrated graphics.
However, the crown undoubtedly belongs to Intel, and specifically the Toshiba in every other benchmark thanks to the SSD which allows for faster data transfer and increased bandwidth.
Battery life is also impressive, with roughly 7 hours on ‘Balanced’ setting under the Windows 7 Power Options. I basically just browsed the net, watched probably 30 minutes of YouTube HD videos, and some general MS Office work while listening to some MP3s. On a full charge when I did all of the above, plus 2 hours of Unreal Tournament (99) and Quake 3, the battery life dropped to almost 4 hours 30 minutes.
Overall the Toshiba Portégé Z830 impressed me in every aspect of its design and performance. No matter where I went or who I showed it to, everybody wanted one. The price was the only factor that put down a lot of people. At nearly 4.5k the Toshiba Portégé Z830 is a good AED 850 more expensive than the Acer Aspire S3. That said, it’s still AED 1,150 cheaper than its nearest rival, the unibody and equally slim MacBook Pro 13 which has the same specs inside. So for those who want a true ultrabook experience, the Toshiba Portégé Z830 is a definite buy, despite the slightly high price tag.