Toshiba Portege R835 review: Toshiba Portege R835

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.7
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Battery life: 9.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good This latest version of the Toshiba Portege R835 is still a great value, packing a big hard drive, optical drive, and full-power processor into a chassis not much bigger than an ultrabook.

The Bad This 13-inch laptop once felt thin and light, but similarly priced newer laptops beat it on style and portability.

The Bottom Line This one-time favorite is still an excellent go-to 13-inch laptop, if you don't need something quite as slim as an ultrabook, and you can get it for the right price.

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Reviewing the Toshiba Portege R835-P88 is like revisiting an old friend. Previous versions of this laptop have won our coveted Editors' Choice Award, by offering excellent all-around performance in a slim, lightweight 13-inch body, for a lot less than you'd expect.

But since we reviewed the last version of the R835, a seismic shift in 13-inch laptops has occurred, thanks to the growing popularity of the ultrabook. The R835 now feels big and a little bulky compared to the 20mm-or-less 13-inch ultrabooks from Dell, HP, and even Toshiba's own Z835 , which are all available for around $899-$999 for a similar Intel Core i5 configuration, but with a 128GB SSD instead of the R835's standard platter hard drive.

But despite not being the newest or sexiest 13-inch laptop around, the Portege R835 still comes off as an excellent full-featured 13-inch laptop. This specific configuration, the R835-P88, has 6GB of RAM, a big 640GB HDD, and includes features missing from most ultrabooks, such as an optical drive and Intel's Wireless Display technology. While most retailers have this system listed at between $850 and $950, it's currently available on NewEgg for $699, which is an excellent deal.

If you're looking for the thinnest and lightest 13-inch around, take the same money and put it toward an under-$1,000 ultrabook. But if you're willing to trade some portability for features and a great price, the scrappy little Toshiba Portege R835 remains one of our go-to laptop picks.

Price as reviewed $849
Processor 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-2450M
Memory 6GB, 1333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 640GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel HM65
Graphics Intel HD3000
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.4 x 8.9 inches
Height 0.7-1.1 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.2/4.0 pounds
Category 13-inch

Physically, this version of the Toshiba Portege R835 is identical to previous models we've reviewed. Many of those earlier observations stand, but the recent ultrabook trend changes the expectations of what a slim midpriced 13-inch laptop should look and feel like, leaving the R835 looking chunky (but still feeling very light in the hand).

The R835 has a subtle dark blue tint to its brushed-metal magnesium alloy chassis. The bottom half of the body feels sturdy despite its light weight, but there's a bit of flex in the lid. This is still a smart-looking consumer/business crossover laptop, but it also keeps the one visual element we disliked last time: the chromed screen hinges, which just look cheap.

Previously, you'd have to spend a lot more on something like a MacBook Air or a Samsung Series 9 in order to get a thinner 13-inch laptop. Today, ultrabooks such as Toshiba's own Z835 offer slimmer bodies for around the same price or just a bit more.

The keyboard, like most current consumer laptop keyboards, uses flat, widely spaced island-style keys. Toshiba's keyboards typically have a vertical row of dedicated Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys along the right side. This makes them easy to find, but at the same time pushes the Enter and Right Shift keys in from where you'd instinctively expect them to be.

Media control buttons, volume, mute, and so on can also be hard to find, relegated to alternate F-key assignments and indicated in dark gray icons on black keys. The R835 still lacks a backlit keyboard, which many thinner ultrabooks have managed to work in. It would be a major plus to have in this case.

The decent-size touch pad is acceptable, and it has separate left and right mouse buttons, rather than being the all-in-one click pad style we're seeing more of these days. The mouse buttons are on the small and clacky side, but work well enough.

The 13.3-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels -- the same as most of the ultrabooks we've seen (by way of comparison, the MacBook Air's screen has a 1,440x900-pixel resolution). Though bright, the off-axis viewing angles on the R835 weren't great. Likewise, we've never been impressed with the onboard audio in the Portege laptops; the R835 speakers are audible but pretty lackluster.

Toshiba Portege R835-P88 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 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, 1 eSATA/USB 2.0, Sd card reader 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

Compared to a standard ultrabook or the MacBook Air, the Portege R835 has a generous selection of ports and connections. Bluetooth is the most obvious missing element, but the inclusion of an eSATA port is rare on a 13-inch laptop, and it's still a pretty handy way to hook up a large external hard drive.

This particular configuration of the Portege R835, called the R835-P88, is ever so slightly different from the pair of earlier versions we reviewed. Those 2011 models both had Intel Core i5-2410 CPUs and 4GB of RAM. This one has a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2450 CPU and 6GB of RAM, along with the same 640GB hard drive as before. That won't make a huge difference in everyday use, but the extra RAM is nice. At the list price of $849, it's acceptable but not a bargain. But, we've seen it for as little as $699, which is a pretty fantastic overall value, considering the big hard drive and extra RAM.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color magnesium alloy casing in blue, black keyboard
  • Weight 3.2 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (2nd Gen) 2450M / 2.5 GHz