Although it's less than 6 months old, it already feels as if we've been living in the ultrabook era forever. When a new laptop arrives, I automatically assume it'll be thin, lightweight, with a solid-state drive for storage; in other words, like a Windows version of a MacBook Air. It's at the point now that the occasional thick, bulky 13- or 14-inch laptop that shows up feels oddly out of place.
In fact, we're already seeing revisions and updates to the very first ultrabooks. The Toshiba Portege Z835-P330 was an early favorite, because it cost so much less than other early models from Lenovo and Asus. For only $799 (marked down by retailers from $899), you could get a 128GB SSD, which in other ultrabooks or other slim laptops could cost hundreds. The trade-off was a slower Intel Core i3 CPU, as well as a flimsy-feeling chassis with a tricky keyboard and touch pad.
The same body can also house higher-end components. In this case, it's an Intel Core i5-2467M processor and 6GB of RAM (over 4GB in the original). The 128GB SSD is the same, but Bluetooth is a welcome addition. This specific configuration is called the Portege Z835-P370, and it costs $1,149 from Toshiba, although other retailers offer it for as little as $949.
This is still a very nice example of a slim laptop, but since the fall of 2011, we've seen the HP Folio 13 for $899 and the Dell XPS 13 for $999, both of which have designs, keyboards, and touch pads that beat the Z835's, hands down. The less expensive configurations of this laptop are still highly recommended for those who want a slim 13-inch laptop with a 128GB SSD for a very low price, but if you have more to spend, look at some of the other options instead.
|Price as reviewed||$1,049|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M|
|Memory||6GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||128GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.4x8.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inch|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.5 pounds / 3.1 pounds|
This version of the Portege Z835 is, on the outside, identical to the version we tested and reviewed in late 2011. Like other ultrabooks, it's very thin, and it's even a few tenths of an ounce lighter than some, owing to its magnesium alloy casing. My general thoughts on the design and keyboard/touch-pad input remain the same, and some of the analysis below is taken from that earlier review.
The Z835 has a brushed-metal lid and slight taper toward the front, but the shiny silver plastic hinges look cheap, as do the similar plastic touch-pad buttons; the lid has a tremendous amount of flex when pressed. That gives the entire package a budget feel, which is fine when for something that's positioned as the least-expensive ultrabook, but a different story when it's more expensive than some very good ones.
The keyboard remains the laptop's single most frustrating feature. The letter keys are squeezed down a bit on the top and bottom, ending up more rectangular than square, and with a smaller surface area. The space bar is tiny, and frequently failed to register, although that may be a function of my particular typing style; you may have better luck. All of the keys are also especially shallow, which adds to the awkward feel. On the positive side, the keyboard is backlit, so it's not all bad news.
Taking a different approach than the other ultrabooks, which all mimic Apple's buttonless clickpad design, the Portege Z835 has a more traditional touch pad with a smaller surface area and separate left and right mouse buttons. It's largely a matter of taste, as the bigger clickpads on the Acer, Asus, and Lenovo ultrabooks have been average at best (especially compared with Apple's industry-leading trackpad). The smaller pad on this system was pleasingly responsive, and the biggest problem was that the mouse buttons were made of cheap, shiny plastic. I did appreciate, however, that the touch pad has a handy on-off button right above it, in case you have a mouse plugged in and don't want to accidentally hit the touch pad's surface.
The display on the Z835 has the same 1,366x768-pixel native resolution as the vast majority of 11- to 15-inch laptops. That's fine for a sub-$1,000 laptop, but some of the other thin 13-inch models offer more; the Asus Zenbook, for example, has a 1,600x900-pixel screen (and the MacBook Air is 1,440x900 pixels). Horizontal off-axis viewing was good, but the screen surface had a subtle uneven, rippled quality to it in the light; again, that's something more easily forgiven at $799 than at $1,049.
The speakers, which fire from the front edge, got loud without distorting, but like nearly all speakers in laptops of this size, they lacked bottom end.
|Toshiba Portege Z835||Average for category [13-inch]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
The Toshiba Portege Z835 has a decent selection of ports and connections, including USB 3.0 and an Ethernet jack, the latter of which is missing from some of the other ultrabooks. This more-expensive version adds Bluetooth, which we'd expect in a $1,000 laptop.
The previous model we reviewed, the Z835-P330, was a retail model sold at Best Buy. It used a slower Intel Core i3 processor to hit a very attractive $799 price. This version, the Z835-P370, has a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M CPU, which is the same chip found in many of the other ultrabooks we've tested.
Not surprisingly, its performance was nearly equal to systems such as the HP Folio 13. A similarly priced full-voltage midsize laptop, for example the Dell XPS 14z, was much quicker on the same tests, but the older Core i3 Z835-P330 was significantly slower. You're definitely getting a major performance boost from this upgraded version of the Z835.
|Toshiba Portege Z835-P370||Avg watts/hour|
|Raw kWh number||28.96|
|Annual power consumption cost||$3.29|