The Toshiba Portege Z835 is No Sliver Queen

Ignoring my godawful joke of a headline, the Toshiba Portege Z835 is initially fairly impressive to behold. Toshiba uses a brushed aluminum aesthetic for almost the entire notebook, with a matching gray plastic bottom cover. Physically, the main body of the notebook doesn't flex at all; good news given the stunningly thin 0.63" profile. It really does look like a sliver, with only a bit of tapering around the top of the lid and the front of the body to keep it from looking boxy.

Unfortunately, while the body feels pretty firm, the Z835 absolutely gives up the ghost with the screen, lid, and hinges. The screen and lid are extremely thin, and the hinges are pretty wobbly. There's a tremendous amount of flex with the screen, enough to give me real pause. Screens on laptops are always a little flexy, but on the Z835 I feel like even my dire tyrannosaurus rex arms could snap it in half. The bezel also seems unusually wide on all sides, which is a bit of a disappointment after seeing the incredibly slender one used on Dell's XPS 14z.

Other reviews have complained about the keyboard quality, but this isn't the worst keyboard I've seen from Toshiba, much less the industry. Toshiba's chiclet layout is usually pretty smart, but the one on the Z835 and its cousin, the R830, is literally an inch from greatness. Seriously, an inch on the y-axis: the keys are simply too short. When I look at the shell of the Z835, I can't help but feel like the keys could've been lengthened just a little bit. Travel also for the most part feels fine, but the keys are also fairly mushy. I don't think the keyboard is a lost cause, but it definitely needs to be revised. Layout is fine, just fix the overall size and quality. The chassis has room for both.

Thankfully the touchpad is extremely smooth and easy to use, and at least has a dedicated surface as opposed to being just part of the shell. The buttons feel a bit mushy and are made of the same cheap looking silver plastic as on the hinges, but they're definitely usable and this is far from the worst touchpad I've used. I have no problem navigating with it.

Finally, the bottom panel is held on by an embarassment of screws, and it bows a bit if you push on it. Even after removing all the screws I still couldn't remove the panel for fear of damaging the Z835, so if you're going to buy it, you'd better buy the configuration you want. There's a single vent for a fan that bubbles out a bit, but honestly I found the Z835 ran extremely cool anyhow.

Ultimately the Z835 looks pretty good and I'd dispute other reviews that call it out as looking too chintzy or cheap. The problem is that in places it does feel cheaper than you'd like, and I just don't like how much the top and bottom panels flex, especially the lid. Intel's $1,000 price point for ultrabooks is pretty pie-in-the-sky, and the sacrifices Toshiba had to make to beat it are evidence of that.

Introducing the Toshiba Portege Z835 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • retrospooty - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    "How about 1680x1050, laptop makers :3"

    Yup, my old 15 inch Lenovo T500 w/ 1680x1050 was perfect.

    Sadly, the highest sellers now are these cheap 1366x768 ones, so they keep pushing it. Laptop makers wont stop unless sales drive it. Right now they are selling to the dull masses and it's not about to change.

    At least the ASUS Ultrabook has a 1600x900 option. Pretty good for a 13 incher.
  • gorash - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    It's an ultrabook, they'd have to make it at a certain price point (under $1000).
  • name99 - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    "Why are all ultrabook makers idiots?"
    The answer is simple --- but PC heads don't want to hear it.
    As long as buyers AND sellers insist on selling by specs, they are in a commodity market. A market where the device sold is the one that hits the lowest price. These devices are sold by
    - has USB3 --- check
    - has ethernet port --- check
    - can (in theory) expand to more than 4GiB of RAM --- check.

    There's nowhere on that checklist for --- feel of the construction, quality of the keyboard, quality of the screen, delight of the user experience. No place for anything that is not a yes/no answer.
    As long as the PC world buys devices by checkbox criteria, vendors will sell devices by checkbox criteria --- it's as simple as that. If you want out of that world, I'm sorry, but your choice, today is simple --- you buy Apple and you accept the choices Apple makes. You may find your checkbox ethos upset --- what do you mean, no USB3 and no VGA port? You may whine that the price is "too high" for all the checkbox items you are getting --- ignoring the cost and the value of the non-checkbox items you are getting.
    But really, that's the breaks. You cannot expect differently from any other vendor, because that's not the way the economics works. And pretty much none of them have the credibility to insist that: "no, trust us, sure our new product costs 30% more than the competition, when compared by specs, but it really is worth the extra money". Sony certainly can't make such an argument credibly these days. The only possibility I can think of is that maybe Lenovo could.
    But, look at the comments in previous Anand reviews. If Lenovo introduced a really well made ultrabook, selling at Apple prices, I guarantee you MOST of the reviews would be along the lines of: "this is bullshit --- I can get exactly the same features from Toshiba for $300 cheaper. Lenovo screws over the public once again".
  • Visual - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Now all I want is for someone to take this thing, give it a better quality display with adequate resolution, nice multitouch layer with active digitizer, make it convertible to tablet mode, with a few programmable buttons on the bezel, and I would be willing to pay double this price.
    Are all those things actually costing the manufacturer more than that? Or why else is noone doing that?

    Add in a better GPU option without massively increasing weight (battery drain won't matter if it can switch back to the IGP, but the cooling should be adequate) and I'd be the happiest person in the world.
  • solnyshok - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Screen flex is so extreme, that me Toshiba have developed 2 cracks (one on left, one right side) in the inner plastic frame around the lcd panel. From the forums, I know that many owners have faced this problem, even those that handle device very carefully.

    Important consequence of this is, that despite low weight, Toshiba has almost killed portability of this device - I am afraid to just put it into my backpack or leave it in a luggage. The only way to handle it is to have a well protected bag and keep it on yourself at all times.

    Lastly, did you check this Toshiba, or any other ultrabooks, if they use throttling to prevent overheating? My R630 came with i450m (2.4GHz, turbo to 2.6), but only after couple of months I learned with the help of ThrottleStop, that whole thing is throttled to 50% of performane at all times. Removed it for AC profile, thing is twice faster now and still doesn't overheat.
  • e-kirill - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    SSD here is crap also
  • Filiprino - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I won't buy a shitty 768p screen.
  • solnyshok - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    and the screen is awful on R630 (guess it is the same). C'mon Toshiba, I will not be buying another one of the R series with such awful screen and flimsy shell.
  • ibtar - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    There must be some kind of running joke between OEMs about how cheap they can go on these garbage TN panels they throw in these "ultra" books and other laptops until consumers actually start to care (they won't).

    Just give me an IPS panel. I don't care if it's glossy or matte, just give me something that has decent contrast and doesn't gamma shift all over the damn place. Is that so much to ask?
  • jackpro - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    The screen resolution needs to be higher. I am sick of scrolling web pages. Please get a clue. Thats why tablets are growing market share, web pages are easier to read duh! Are we not in the web age???

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